Every time I talk to friends these days, I hear the same story: the struggle for balance between work, kids, obligations, and the dream of a full night’s sleep. Being pulled in several directions at once can be exhausting. I promise, though, there are ways to survive (even thrive!).
Take it from Rebecca Smith, an independent agent for Aflac, wife, and mom of two teenage daughters (and three dogs), who lives by her planner. “I always have my planner to write things down, and the calendar in my phone. I can look at the open book and see everything that’s there,” she says.
Of course, maintaining an organized calendar is just the beginning. Here are three simple strategies that can help anyone achieve sanity-saving balance:
1. Schedule In Both Family and “Me” Time
Clint Weight, an Alfac agent for eight years, watched his construction worker dad work tirelessly to support his large family, which inspired him to approach his career in a different way.
“You have to put in the time and effort to achieve your goals, but you also want to have control of that,” says Weight.
2. Rely On a Support Network
It’s one thing to want to find more time for yourself and your family, but making it happen often requires the realization that you can’t do it all by yourself. Since Smith and her husband both work independently in insurance, they have some flexibility as to how they can set their schedules.
“We work together as a unit. If I’m tied up, he can pick up the slack,” she says. And now that their oldest daughter drives, they have another set of hands on deck, along with a carpool they’ve organized with friends to help transport their younger daughter around.
It also helps that after 10 years in the business, Smith can set meetings well in advance with her established clients. “If I have a conflict, I can call on other agents I have trained to take care of things,” she says.
For Weight and his wife, keeping priorities in perspective is key. “We keep a dream board in our bedroom, and if tasks don’t directly align with achieving our future goals we try to outsource them,” he says. As a result, they’ve hired a full-time family assistant and a house cleaner, which have helped tremendously.
Support doesn’t always have to come in the form of other people. Embracing technology can help you manage annoying tasks as well, whether it’s setting your bills on auto pay or utilizing scheduling apps that gamify family chores (OurHome is a cool one to try!).
Make it happen: There’s no shame in asking for help from your spouse, kids, or community. And if you have the means, consider outsourcing the time-sucking tasks you dread.
For him, that means taking advantage of the early morning hours to work out. “That’s my time just for me and helps me clear my mind and start the day right,” he says. He also tries to get in at least one lunch date per week with his wife, who runs her own business.
And for this dad of three boys, that means “punching out” when he gets home from work. “I never walk in the house on my phone. Sometimes work comes home with me, but never in the first few minutes,” he says.
Smith is also a big proponent of family dinners without distractions. “We turn off all the media stuff, and we talk,” she says.
Smith also makes time to enjoy her personal passions—gardening and improv comedy, which she calls her therapy. “For those hours, I’m not mom, I’m not a business owner, I’m just Becky,” she says.
Make it happen: Add family time and personal projects to the calendar just as you would your business meetings and dentist appointments. And when the family is together, make it a habit to turn off the tech.
3. Embrace the Busy
Although everyone needs the occasional “mental health day,” falling into a pattern of blowing off work or other responsibilities will cause a backlog that’s harder to deal with later on.
In fact, staying consistently busy and maintaining a positive outlook (even on hard days) is what keeps Smith focused. “I’ve seen people fail in business because it’s easy to get distracted with too much free time,” she says.
On the other hand, there will be times when you’re drowning in work, and you’ll have to remind yourself to keep your eye on the proverbial prize. Smith recommends celebrating smaller achievements along the way to stay motivated. “It helps keep me going,” she says.
Make it happen: There will be those days when you have to find the grit to get through a tough project, or when it seems everything is aligned against you (a sick kid, a major traffic jam, computer trouble, etc.). By envisioning your long-term goals, and finding ways to reward yourself, you can find the strength to power through.
Give these strategies a try, and over time, you’ll see that your tone will change from “I’m so swamped” to “I got this!” By making family time sacred, building a support network, and accepting that some sacrifices are required along the way, you can avoid burnout and achieve that elusive balance once and for all.
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