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7 Steps for Life/Work Balance

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

With the ever-increasing demands on our time constantly pulling us in every direction, is it any surprise that our lives sometimes feel completely unbalanced and out of control? There are only so many hours in the day, and there never seem to be enough when we're juggling the needs of our families, our careers, our friends and ourselves. Tasks fall through the cracks, people are disappointed, and we're left feeling frustrated, exhausted and even guilty at the end of the day. So before our frazzled nerves send us over the deep end, how can we bring the balance back to our lives?

I have seven steps to attaining life/work balance that I've used successfully with hundreds of clients, but before we get to them, I want to dispel a dangerous fallacy that's floating around out there. Many people think that to have balance in their lives they need to devote equal amounts of time to each area - and that's just not true! Trying to evenly dole out your time every aspect of your life is a recipe for frustration and failure. To attain true balance, you need to understand that certain areas will demand more attention that others at certain points in time. It's been my experience that in the end everything evens out if you remember to follow these seven steps:

Step 1: Commit yourself to accomplishing something and to enjoying something every single day. Too many of us go to sleep at night feeling like all we've done during the day was for nothing, and far too many of us neglect to do even the simplest things that will bring us joy. We're far too focused on trying to keep one foot in front of the other, and we forget that our lives are finite and that there may not be a tomorrow to do the things we love.

When you review your day, acknowledge everything that you've accomplished even if it's only a small piece of a bigger project. And every day take the time to do something you enjoy, even if it's only listening to your favorite music or treating yourself to a great cup of coffee. Feeling a sense of accomplishment and joy during your day will go a long way toward achieving balance.

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Step 2: Determine your goals and what success looks like.
If you're floundering around unsure of what you want to achieve, you'll never feel that sense of accomplishment and peace that's so vital to balance in your life. You need to have a clear vision of your goals in order to put forth the actions that will help you attain them. When you know what you want, it becomes a focal point that can keep your life steady when it starts to tilt out of control.

Step 3: Evaluate your choices and how they relate to your goals. Claiming that you can't quit the job you hate or you can't control the behavior of your kids or you can't say no to a friend is a cop-out. You have choices and if your life is out of balance, maybe you're making the wrong ones. It's your responsibility to take a brutally honest look at yourself and the path you've chosen and decide what changes need to be made to get you on the path to your goals. Take some quiet time - even if it's only a few stolen minutes of peace in the bathroom! - and think hard about your life. Pinpoint what choices are leading it astray and start to look for alternative ways to get back on track.

Step 4: Find time for YOU! It's easy to get caught up in one aspect of your life and have that aspect completely take over. Balance is about making sure that YOU have what you need today as you work toward tomorrow. The word "selfish" always has so many negative connotations, but being selfish is a key element to work/life balance because you're no good to anyone or anything if you're not re-fueling and re-charging and you're neglecting your own health and well-being. You have to know when to say "Stop!" and give yourself the time to take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of everything around you.

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Step 5: COMMUNICATE! Communication usually plays a negative role in the struggle for work/life balance because lack of it often causes imbalance to begin with. Without open lines of clear communication, we tend to fall into the very stressful trap of thinking that we need to do everything ourselves so it gets done and it gets done right. Not true! If we can effectively communicate our needs to our families at home and to our colleagues at work, we can then work together as a team to fulfill them. Don't assume that everyone knows how you feel - tell them! You'll be surprised at how many people will want to help you get your life back in balance.

Step 6: Simplify and get organized. So many of my clients complain that they don't have the time to spend on getting things organized, and my response is always the same: "Well, how much time are you wasting because you're NOT organized?" The answer: TONS. If your desk is always a mess at work, how long do you spend rooting around for a particular file? If your house is a wreck, how much time do you spend searching for lost shoes and keys and important papers? Invest the time to get organized now so you have more time in the future to focus on exactly what you need to accomplish and what joyful things you want to do. You'll find that as your space gets more organized, there will be fewer distractions, less stress and a greater level of efficiency, and all of that equals better balance.

Step 7: Share the load. The media and the entertainment industry have fed us this image of the perfect wonder woman who can do it all on her own: be at the very top of her career, be a perfect wife and mother, keep a clean house, and still find time to bake award-winning cookies! Well, I don't have to tell you that the reality is there's just not enough time in the day to do all that on our own. We need support both personally and professionally, and we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to ask for it. At work, learn the strengths of each member of your team so tasks can be delegated to those whose skills are best suited to complete the tasks successfully. At home, call upon your spouse, your family and your friends to help you out when you're overloaded. And offer to do the same in return to help others achieve work/life balance as well!

Though this approach may not be the most traditional way to attain life/work balance, I've found that with my clients it has proven to be the most successful. As you work through these concepts, you'll find yourself making the choices you need to un-complicate your life or at the very least, give yourself a little bit of breathing room. And remember: because our lives are in a constant state of transition, it's important that we go back to these steps again and again to consistently maintain work/life balance no matter what changes are thrown our way.

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�It isn�t until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are � not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within � that you can begin to take control.� Oprah Winfrey