Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about finding balance in life.
It turns out that motherhood and self-employment are great teachers. With both come seemingly endless demands and it can feel impossible to keep up. There never seems to be enough time, energy, or money…or at least, that’s the story I’m often tempted to tell myself.
But is it the truth?
I don’t think so. The older I get, the more I believe that we can make time for the things that matter. The problem is that most of us are going about it all wrong.
Here are three important lessons I’ve learned about finding balance. Hopefully, if the weight of the world feels heavy on your shoulders, something here will help to lighten your load.
Lesson #1: Balance Doesn’t Look Like “Balance”
When I was younger, I used to think that finding balance meant being able to devote myself to all the things that were important to me, in somewhat equal measure, every day.
Picture an old fashioned scale with weights that represent all my “should do’s” on either side. These include things like:
- Finding time for self-care
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Doing productive work
- Keeping my house clean
- And so on and so on…
I expected myself to get all of these things done every day and if I did, the scale stayed level and my life was “balanced”.
Conversely, if I didn’t manage to check everything off (which was almost always), the scale would tip to one side and balance would be lost. I’d go to bed feeling like a failure. Another day was done and I’d dropped the ball again.
But this was my first mistake.
The framework with which I judged myself made no sense. It was too short-sighted. After all, my goal is to live a balanced life—so why was I so focused on what I could accomplish in a mere 24 hours?
I needed to take a step back and look at the big picture.
What was I doing over the course of a week or even a month?
What I realised is that in order to find balance, sometimes important things need to sit on the backburner for a while. You don’t have to keep all of your balls in the air at once. It’s OK to put some of them down for a while.
Practically speaking, this means that sometimes I work 14 hours days in order to meet a deadline while dirty dishes pile in the sink. Other times, I enjoy long lunches with friends and completely ignore my inbox.
On a daily level, life might look chaotic and messy—but when you step back and reflect on the big picture, you might find the balance you’re searching for is already there. You just need to be a little kinder to yourself.
TIP: It’s OK to put things down for a while, as long as you don’t forget to come back for them later. This is why I highly recommend creating a system of checking in with yourself on either a weekly or monthly basis.
If you need help with this, I teach a step-by-step system for doing quarterly life audits and weekly reviews in my course Values + Vision.
Lesson #2: Balance is a State of Mind
A lot of people think that balance is about finding a way of “doing it all” and they approach life like it’s a giant jigsaw puzzle. If you just keep fiddling with the pieces, you’ll eventually find the right combination of productivity hacks and time management tips, and everything will fall into place.
But life doesn’t work that way.
We all have limited time, money and energy and at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do. No productivity hack is going to save you if you’re trying to do more than you’re physically capable of doing. That’s the hard truth.
Balance is what happens when you accept this reality.
It’s not about how much you do. Instead, it’s how you feel about what you’re doing. You must make peace with your limits if you want to have any hope of finding balance.
In a sense, it’s about making a decision. You must give yourself permission to make tough choices.
For example, I’m currently four months pregnant with my second child and for whatever reason, this pregnancy has been incredibly challenging. I have never been so tired in my entire life.
Realistically, I can no longer keep up with everything I used to do. My daily routines went out the window and at first, it felt like the balance I had worked so hard to achieve evaporated overnight.
I struggled until I realised that I had a choice to make. I could keep beating myself up or I could adjust my expectations. I choose the latter.
My house is messier than ever, I’ve had to hire additional help to run my business, and some days my daughter has more screen time than I’d like. I’m doing less but instead of feeling constantly stressed or anxious about it, my life feels balanced because I gave myself permission to let go.
Lesson #3: Balance Comes From Being True to Yourself
Deep down, on some level, you know what you need most right now—and if you’re able to align your life with those priorities, you’ll feel balanced.
The problem is that your true priorities (the ones that come from within) are probably competing with a lot of noise. I can almost guarantee you that right now, you’re feeling guilty or stressed about something you think you “should” be doing, and not because it’s important to you.
Instead, it’s because you feel pressure from the outside world. Consider these examples:
- Are you trying to make it to a pilates class because you enjoy it? Or because it’s what all the other women in your social group do?
- Are you stressing about holiday decorating because it’s an important tradition? Or because you’re worried about what the neighbours will think?
- Are you working late because your career is important to you? Or because you want other people to think you’re successful?
These are obviously made-up examples but think about what’s weighing on your own mind right now. Are you trying to juggle balls that don’t really belong to you?
Only you can answer this question but please remember—if you’re trying to find space in your life for what matters to you AND what matters to everyone else, then you’re going to run out of room.
In order to find balance in life, you need to learn how to tune out the noise. I genuinely believe that there will always be time for the things that matter most but you need to be honest about what that is. As the saying goes, you can do anything but you can’t do everything.
Final Thoughts on Finding Balance
To be clear, I think that productivity hacks and good time management are important for living a balanced life—but they are tools that can only help you if you start with the right mindset.
You must first:
- Make sure you’re looking at the big picture. Don’t judge yourself by what you accomplish in a day. Instead, scale-up—look at how you spend your weeks or even months.
- Set realistic expectations. We all have limits and the sooner you accept yours, the easier it will be to find balance.
- Tune out the noise. Stop trying to please everyone and instead, focus on what you need most from your life right now.
These steps will help you get clear about what a balanced life means to you and then, once you have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve, you can do the work to make it happen.
More Resources on Living a Balanced Life
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:
- Finding the Balance Between Rest + Hustle
- Doing Less + A Lesson in Self-Worth
- 4 Tips to Minimise Your To-Do List
What’s been your experience with finding balance? Are you able to make time for the things that matter most? Or do you struggle to keep all your balls in the air? Let us know how you’re doing in the comments! x