By Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”                         – C.S. Lewis Working in any business, you hear the phrase “work-life balance” a lot.  We all know it’s important to both work hard yet spend time with our family, friends and have time for ourselves.  Although, how often do we truly find this perfect line between work and personal life.  Do we still send out emails to our co-workers long after we’ve gone home?  Do we work all day without a break, or agree to a meeting at 5:30 when we promised to be home by 6?  We don’t consider these things to be necessarily bad, but without boundaries, it’s easy to let work take over and encroach on other areas of our lives where it doesn’t belong.  We want to share with you a few things we found helpful to find balance in our own lives.

Line Up Your Priorities

To create balance in our lives, we need to remember balance and equality are not synonyms in this case.  There are some things in life that will matter more than others, but the trick is to know what matters most and what really shouldn’t matter at all.  As women, we tend to put more and more on ourselves than we can possibly accomplish.  Here is an analogy we have found helpful to finding which areas in our lives we need to guard and which we need to let go. Imagine you are a juggler, throwing up ball after ball with perfect precision. You have five different types of balls that represent different elements in your life. The Crystal Balls represent the most precious things in your life, such as your family and your closest friends. These are the balls you guard closely because they are irreplaceable. Glass Balls are the things that matter a lot to you, but aren’t quite as valuable as crystal. This might be your work or volunteering. If these break, it will be easier to replace or fix them than crystal. Rubber Balls are some things you would like to keep in your routine, but if they drop, they will bounce back quickly, such as a clean house. Plastic Balls, like the rubber balls, are things you might like to do, but you can set them down and they will be ready for you to pick it back up later. Personal hobbies might be something you can set down for awhile until the rest of life’s craziness dies down. Lead Balls These are balls that you should drop and never pick up again. When we over commit ourselves, or do things out of guilt, we can start to juggle lead balls. We encourage you to write these categories on paper and then take time to examine your life to see what matters most and what simply doesn’t matter.

Ask for Help When You Need It

With a full life comes a full calendar.  We like to think we can handle it by ourselves all the time, but eventually we will overcommit, and we will need help.  That is okay.  It’s important to know that we have people in our corner who love us and are willing to help us when we need it, especially our family.  When an unexpected, unavoidable meeting gets scheduled, we call our spouse or a nearby relative to pick the kids up from school, then do our best to be there for dinner.  Also, don’t be afraid to let the kids get involved.  Let them pack their school lunches or do chores after school to get the house in order.  Then when the family is all together, we can truly spend quality time as a family instead of worrying about the tasks that did not get done that day.

Relieve the guilt by setting realistic expectations

It’s important to know that we cannot do everything and we should not feel guilty.  We experience true guilt when we do something that does not align with our priorities, which is why we say it’s important to know what your priorities are.  False guilt, on the other hand, occurs when we blame ourselves for things that are out of our control.  This also can happen when guilt is placed upon us by someone else.  For example, another mom gives us a condescending look for showing up to our child’s soccer game at half time instead of at kick-off.  If we communicated with our child beforehand that we would be late, then there’s no reason to feel guilty.  Learn to give realistic expectations.  That way, if we exceed expectations, we will feel even more accomplished rather than feeling guilting for completing something late because we gave an unrealistic deadline.  If we promise to be home for dinner at 6:30 instead of 6:00, then our family will be thrilled during the times we show up at 6:15.  Set expectations we can meet and stop feeling guilty for things we can’t control. In our book “Remember Who YOU Are,” we have dedicated three chapters to creating balance in our lives.  Finding balance is never an easy task, but it becomes easier when we have a clear understanding of what matters most in our life, and are not afraid to ask for help.