Life sure is a balancing act!
by RajaRajeshwari Arenga
This one is for the folks who constantly strive to strike a balance between career and life.
- Have you ever battled feelings of guilt over having to compromise quality family time over a work related project that you felt personally responsible for?
- Conversely have you experienced guilt over having skipped an important meeting to attend your child’s school function?
- As a homemaker have you been plagued with multiple requests flowing in from different directions while you felt lost. All this on a day the dishwasher just stopped working, the vacuum cleaner got stuck on the rug and of course the domestic worker conveniently and spontaneously decided to take a day off.
- Do you find yourself blaming your significant other for not sharing responsibilities, your parents for not supporting you enough or for that matter countless other people or machines for bailing out on critical days…all factors that are way beyond your control leading to a sense of discontentment, lack of peace and order around you?
- Have you tossed and turned in bed as you relived the events of the day wondering if you could have done anything different to justify your role at work and at home?
- Does every weekday morning end up being an impossible race to get yourself and the kids ready, fix breakfast and host of other things to get the morning going and you find yourself drained by the time you are hardly half way through the day.
- Say you have set aside quality time to spend with your family…But to your dismay, just when you are surrounded by family all you can think about is the call that you need to get into, right after the quality time comes to an end. Have you experienced this?
Well if your answer is yes to any one of the above, then you are in a boat riding over stormy waters. Frantically rowing, hoping you had more hands as you went shore to shore…knowing that multiple destinations, goals mean having to travel in multiple directions. A boat that I used to frequently find myself in as well, till not so long ago and I still do at times.
I know now that it was not about work life balance but rather the incessant quest for perfection that had me in knots. The quest to concoct that magic formula to attain perfection in my roles as a career woman as well as a homemaker (read as perfect mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend)
After removing career from the equation I was filled with a sense of amusement and dismay to realize that I had just exchanged a specific set of challenges and dilemmas I had faced, with another set equally formidable if not more. That is when it hit me. It was never really about my career woman role juxtaposed against the role of a homemaker. But rather the challenges that stemmed from my burning need to prove to myself that I could satisfy all the parameters that would qualify me as the perfect all-rounder. It began to dawn on me then, that the answer to this burning predicament lay in finding your own personal equation. One that can balance the different aspects of life that really mattered.
Below are some guidelines that have been helping me along the way in balancing different aspects of my life.
- Stay energy, time and purpose conscious of the tasks at work and household chores
Sometimes you feel compelled, to go out of the way to take on chores for your family members which they can actually do themselves. The same might apply when it comes to your team at work and you find yourself delegating less and doing more on their behalf. Times when you go that extra mile even though the end result does not bring quantifiable benefits. Maybe this comes from a deep rooted desire to feel appreciated and needed. And what better way than getting them to depend on you. This can feel like a blessing from time to time for the people on the receiving end. But in the long run it can have unexpected and negative impact both on you and them.
As the kids grow up encourage independence rather than dependence on you for little tasks to begin with. Little tasks like helping with setting the table, ensuring their dirty clothes are dropped into laundry basket rather than on the floor. Well you get the idea… Might seem like little tasks, but at the end of the day they can add up to be time intensive if you are the one doing it all.
At work focus more on guiding and mentoring rather than hand holding your team and control yourself from stretching yourself too thin by taking on additional responsibilities that won’t add up to quantitative results.
Consciously make it a point to derive self-appreciation from this aspect of letting go.
You can channel this time and energy saved towards a multitude of activities…that contribute towards your personal or career enrichment. Read a book, learn a new skill, reconnect with friends from school or college, join a cycling or book club…
This will give an opportunity for your family members and others to take a step back to know, appreciate, admire and even be inspired by you as a person with strengths and interests that go way beyond mundane household chores or holding a job.
Pay attention and stay conscious about the amount of energy and time you are investing in an activity.
Maybe it is not all that important to iron out every crease on the bedspread or get the house rid of every speck of dust…
Maybe this will ease your daily juggling of time and you can carve this time towards quality time with family, friends or “me” time.
- This phase shall pass too.
There might be phases where you feel overwhelmed. Times when you are bombarded from all sides with things seemingly spinning out of your control as you run back and forth being reactive while trying to play catch-up. It is important to remember it is a transient phase that shall surely pass. Considering everything in the universe is in a constant state of change…this phase is just not meant to last. So just hang in there and ride the storm with your head held high even though you can’t seem to feel the ground. Keep things in perspective. Sometimes having a bad day is just that…a bad day, be it a frequent or occasional occurrence…but it is not the end of the line.
- Building and sustaining confidence and recognizing inbuilt capability
Build and grow self-awareness to understand your inbuilt capabilities. Be conscious of the activities that inspire and excite you and make you want to push the limits. Ensure you set some time aside to engage in these activities especially if they are outside the scope of your work or the chores of a typical day.
Once you have identified your strengths it is important to draw upon them and use them to your advantage.
Feel proud about all that you have achieved and let yourself visualize achieving all that you have dreamt about.
Learn a new skill that is outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself by exploring or trying something new like breaking a complicated code or learning kick boxing. Aim to push the limits, be it on an intellectual level or on a physical level.
Focus on sustaining success rather than just attaining quick material success that fades away swiftly. It is about leaving a positive and lasting impression.
Remember that pursuit of joy and childlike enthusiasm and self-discovery fill you with a lasting satisfaction rather than pursuit of perfection or instant gratification or quick results.
There might be times when you find yourself at a critical junction in your life. For instance a situation that compels you to choose between continuing with your career or taking a break to be a home maker. Apart from logic, more importantly draw upon your courage to trust your inner compass to guide you in the right direction if ever you find yourself at the crossroads to choose one path over the other.
- Get the smart phone to work for you rather than against you.
You don’t need to respond to every forwarded or shared message or image across any social media apps or sites.
Set a timer for the amount of time you spend on social sites and chatting. Keep track of the time you spend on social media consuming information, chatting and socializing versus contributing and sharing meaningful content
If you are fretting over lack of time to read the newspaper or about catching up on financial or world news, then explore using your smartphone to deliver custom news updates at your fingertips when you are on the move, but are hands free.
You can use the scheduler on it apart from exploring the use of other time-saving apps.
Keep your messages succinct and crisp. If you are slow at typing or review and deliberate long before sending a message, just make a call or record a message and share. Customize it so that you receive notification only for meaningful events. These are just a few guidelines to get you thinking on these lines.
- Prioritize and streamline your activities
Create and follow a schedule of all that needs to be accomplished for the day. Don’t forget to include the time to hang-out with family, friends, or for that matter to read a book to your kids.
Build efficiency when it comes to operational and repetitive household tasks. For example ensuring the prior night, that things are in place…right from the dress for you to wear and the kids for the next day, deciding what to cook for the next one week. These will go a long way in starting off the day on a smooth and positive note. Develop a routine to streamline daily repetitive chores but at the same time dare to break the routine every now and then and experiment with a change in the schedule.
Indulge in routine activities that you love and explore alternate ways to do things that leave you drained. Like for example running grocery errands.
If the act of shopping for household needs is not something you look forward to, then look for alternate ways like getting it delivered to your door or consolidating grocery errands and deferring where possible. But if you are someone who takes delight in walking aisle after aisle marveling at the impressive range of produce and products and feel it gives you an opportunity to engage your senses of sight, smell and touch as you go about exercising your right of choice then by all means go ahead and bask in it.
- Keep your energy levels high as you cruise through the day.
Eating right and ensuring you get sufficient shut eye will naturally help. Apart from keeping healthy snacks handy it helps to listen to music of your choice or hum a tune of your choice whenever possible. Do things to keep the spirits high as you swing through the day. This especially works when you find your interest levels ebbing for activities you consider rather boring.
There are times when you get to do the work that you love and times when you find yourself doing something that does not you inspire you much.
When you are passionate about what you do, indulge and draw as much enjoyment as you can from that. As for activities that you find draining and downright boring, infuse them with excitement like maybe with a touch of music.
Dress for comfort and internal feel good factor rather than for a compulsion to look your best at all times. The catch with looking your best is that you end up putting in your best efforts to get there. Efforts that wreak havoc on your time and energy unless you already have a natural talent and passion in this space.
Know that it is not always necessary to follow the popular trend especially if it is not to your liking. You can stick to your own trend, sense of fashion and carry it with confidence and panache.
- Distance yourself from negativity
Negative vibes can flow your way in the form of juicy gossip, caustic or negative comments thinly veiled as well-meaning suggestions.
If you cannot avoid at least do not react to these. Reacting will only serve to feed the negativity and these can turn out to be energy and time guzzlers dragging you down.
- Exclusive soul enrichment time
There are certain activities that contribute towards your personal growth and is the underlying foundation to what defines your peace, happiness and well-being.
Set aside some reasonable amount of time that you absolutely do not compromise on. Time to connect with your parents, husband, kids and last but not the least yourself.
For instance dabble with nurturing, growing and tending to plants. A terrace garden, some potted plants on a balcony or a sprawling garden can all serve the same purpose. It can have a therapeutic effect.
I don’t claim these have transformed my life dramatically or for that matter that I have followed all these guidelines at all times.
But I can attest to the fact that whenever I did, they did make me feel lighter and more relaxed. They have succeeded in taking the edge off on what could have turned out to be a difficult day and instead put a smile on my face. A smile with a contagious effect on the people around me…
©2016 RajaRajeshwari Nagasigamani