time management

Defining Balance on Your Terms: 5 Methods to Own Your Time and Energy

May 13, 2024

Reading Time: 8 minutes

How to set boundaries

Defining Balance on Your Terms: 5 Methods to Own Your Time and Energy

There are a ton of outside voices telling you what your work/life balance should look like, from your family and friends to your boss to social media. So how do you quiet the noise and define a version of balance that actually works for you and your unique life?

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When you think about defining balance, whose voice do you hear? Is it yours, or someone else’s? How do you figure out what work/life balance even looks like with all the noise out there telling us how we should juggle it all?

Let’s start by thinking about all the different places we get our ideas of defining balance from. You’ve got your family, right? Maybe your mom thinks you should be home more, or your dad wonders why on earth you would leave work before 7 PM. And then there’s your boss, who casually sends emails at midnight, kind of implying that’s the norm.

Oh, and don’t get me started on social media. Everyone looks like they’re killing it—perfect job, perfect family, and they’re all doing yoga at sunrise. It’s enough to make you wonder if you’re the only one feeling like you’re just scraping by sometimes. These influences are super strong, and let’s be honest, they can push us towards a version of defining balance that might look great on paper but feels pretty lousy in real life. So today, we’re going to talk about how to tune into what you really need, not just what everyone else says you should want.

That’s why In this episode, I’m covering:

  • How all the outside noise—from family, bosses, and those picture-perfect social media posts— shapes what we think balance should look like
  • What it means to carve out your own version of balance, considering everything unique about your life
  • When to spot that you’re living someone else’s idea of balance and what that feels like
  • How you can start to build a work-life balance that genuinely suits you, using some simple and straightforward steps to get your balance feeling just right

So refill your coffee cup and be sure to read all the way to the end of this episode to figure out how to make your work life balance actually feel like it belongs to you.

Defining Balance Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

From our parents and bosses to our Instagram feeds with all of those perfect snapshots and creative reels, and let’s not forget about all of those productivity and work/life balance experts, right? Yes, I recognize that I might be one of those experts, but it seems like they all claim to have the secret formula, their own special recipe for perfectly defining balance and if we can just follow their step-by-step guide then everything will work out perfectly for us.  

But even if you’ve learned about my HEART method for time management inside the It’s About Time Academy, you know that it’s not meant to be one size fits all.

Here’s the thing you have to remember when it comes to work life balance advice: No matter who it’s coming from, what works for them might not work for us. And that’s exactly what this episode is about: Figuring out how you can tune into your own needs and design a version of balance that’s uniquely yours… because when it comes down to it, YOU are the best equipped, most qualified person to decide what balance means to you.

Defining Balance: Reflect on Your Week

So look back for just a sec and think about the last week in your life. When did you feel on top of the world? When did you feel your best? Maybe it was during a quiet morning coffee before the house woke up, or maybe it was during midweek movie night with your family. When you pay attention to when you feel joy throughout your week you’ve got huge clues to what your ideal balance might include.

And what about the tougher moments during the week? When did you feel frustrated? When did you feel tension? Maybe you were clocking out late yet again, or maybe those back-to-back Zoom meetings left you no time to catch your breath and process what was just discussed. Maybe it was staring down the pile of laundry or the sink full of dirty dishes when all you wanted to do was sit down for a minute and chat with your husband. These are signs too, signals that some things are off in your current setup.

So I encourage you to take a moment to jot down what truly matters. When you think about what truly matters most to you, is it quality time with loved ones? Is it advancing in your career? Or is it fitting in that Thursday night yoga class? Remember there are no wrong answers here, just your personal truth.

And speaking of truth: the truth is, life is always shifting. New jobs, new cities, kids growing up, and your balance will need to shift to ride along with it. In order to grow you have to stay flexible and tweak your definition of balance as you go

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: work-life balance is a feeling, not a formula. You know when you’ve got it, and you know what it feels like when life is off balance. The formula isn’t set in stone, it’s as dynamic as we are. Adjustable, changeable, and ready to evolve with our lives.

How to Tell When Outside Influences Are Shaping Your Work/Life Balance

So we’ve talked a little bit about figuring out what your own version of balance looks like, so now we’ve got to step into some waters that are a little bit uncomfortable, and that’s how to tell when outside influences are starting to call the shots a little too much. As in, how to know when the way that you are approaching work-life balance isn’t what you truly want and instead it’s just a combination of what you think you should be doing based on outside voices. This can feel like you’re living a script that someone else has written for you, and suddenly, it doesn’t really feel like your life anymore.

How Are You Feeling?

First up, let’s talk about that feeling of friction… like you’re wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit. You know when Sunday evening rolls around and you’ve got that heavy feeling in your stomach about the week ahead? Hello, Sunday Scaries! That could be a sign that the balance you’re striving for isn’t really yours.

And then there’s resentment. Picture this: you’re staying late at the office again because that’s what ‘good employees’ do, but deep down, you’re feeling bitter because this isn’t what you want. Resentment can be a big red flag that you’re living by someone else’s rules, not your own.

I’ll never forget this one boss I had, she had previously been in my role before she was promoted and I was hired.  When I shared with her that the workload seemed a bit unrealistic, she blankly said – it is.  When I did your job, I got to work at 6AM every morning and stayed late most days to stay on top of it all. You should consider doing the same.

And so I did… I wanted to be a good team member. But it was pure misery.  It wasn’t what I wanted at all, and I definitely wasn’t being compensated for all of the extra time I spent working. Needless to say, I didn’t last long in that job – and it was the last full time position I held before going out on my own.

Physical and emotional exhaustion are also huge indicators. If you’re constantly stressed, not sleeping well, or just feeling run down all the time, it might be time to ask yourself: Is this workload or this hectic social calendar really what I want, or am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations?

How to Adjust When Life is Off-Balance

So, what can you do when you spot these signs? First, give yourself a moment to pause and reflect. It’s okay to take a step back and ask yourself, ‘Is this really what I want?’ Sometimes, just acknowledging these feelings can be a huge relief.

Next, think about small changes you can make. Maybe it’s setting clearer boundaries at work or with your social commitments. Or maybe it’s prioritizing what truly brings you joy, even if it’s as simple as blocking out time for a walk in the park once a week. And maybe, just maybe small changes aren’t enough to right the ship and you’ve got to take drastic measures to get your life back. I know exactly what that feels like because once I finally realized that sitting down at my desk at 6 AM and giving all of my free time to work wasn’t how I wanted to live my life, I quit. 

And finally, don’t go at it alone—talk about what you’re going through. Whether it’s with a trusted friend, a mentor, or a coach, getting an outside perspective can help you see if you’ve veered off your own path and how you can steer back towards what really matters to you.

How to Create Your Own Version of Balance

Now that we’ve talked through the signs to watch out for, if there’s one thing I want you to walk away with from this episode, it’s this: Creating a work-life balance that truly fits isn’t about copying someone else’s homework. It’s about writing your own story, one that fits your life and your dreams. 

Trying to copy and paste sounds simple, but it’s not a path to success.

So, what is the path? Let’s break it down.

1. Look Inward

First off, look inward. Take a quiet moment to really think about what you need more of, and what you need less of in your life. Are you craving more time with family? More focus on health? Or maybe you need to dial back the overtime at work? Write these down. These are your balance pillars.

2. Set Boundaries

Next up, setting boundaries. This is key. It’s about protecting your time and your energy. If you’ve noticed you’re checking emails at all hours, maybe it’s time to set a rule—no work email after 7 PM. Or if you’re skipping meals to meet deadlines, how about blocking lunchtime in your calendar as non-negotiable?

3. Experiment

Then, let’s talk about experimentation. Life isn’t static, and neither should our approach to balance be. Trial and error is a really important part of defining balance. It just takes being comfortable with the fact that everything won’t go perfectly the first time. That’s why it’s called trial and error, not trial and perfection.

Try out new routines or tweak your schedule. Maybe a work-from-home day in the week could help, or shifting your hours to start earlier and finish earlier might give you that afternoon time you’ve been missing. And if you’re looking for some inspiration to revamp your routines, check out Episode 17 all about the five essential routines. It’s a great refresher anytime your routines could use an update. 

Incorporate mindfulness and reflection. This can be as simple as taking five minutes before bed to reflect on your day. What felt good? What didn’t? Use this insight to adjust as you go along. So often we get so caught up on the action we’re taking and the changes we’re making that we don’t set aside time to actually stop and reflect on what those changes are doing. Without intentional time to survey the landscape and see how you’re feeling as a result of some of the changes that you’re making, it’s hard to know if what you’re doing is even working.  

This can look like something as simple as keeping a sentence a day journal, and I’ve encouraged some of my clients to set up a Google form with one to two reflection questions that they can answer at the end of each day or each week to keep a log of how they’re doing. Sometimes it’s amazing to look back on how far you’ve come and how much has changed in a positive direction when you have past thoughts and feelings captured to reflect on.

4. Embrace Your Personality

Finally, don’t forget to embrace your unique personality in this process. If you’re a morning person, take advantage of that energy for your most challenging tasks. If you thrive on social interaction, maybe spending a day or two a week in a co-working space beats the solitude of working from a home office. 

There’s so many facets to understanding your personality and what makes you unique, from how you get your energy to the activities that drain you, from the type of information that you need to feel comfortable making decisions to your unique thought process in making those decisions. 

This is exactly why I invite all of my coaching clients to take an in-depth personality assessment because it gives us a shortcut to the strategies that are going to work best to help them create their version of work-life balance. If you want a place to start, take my free time management personality quiz!

When you implement these strategies, whether you test drive one at a time or look at all five, these strategies don’t just help with defining balance. They help create your balance. So tailor them, tweak them, make them work for you. 

Because remember, this is about you. There will be days when everything clicks and there will be days when it doesn’t and that’s perfectly okay. Remember this is trial and error, not trial and perfection.

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