Have you ever felt like you’re a hamster? Running as fast as you can, but still spinning out of control on the big wheel of LIFE? Overwhelmed with too much to do, to be, to feel, to achieve? Are you beyond tired of feeling this way but not sure how to slow the wheel? I know I am!
Here’s my story: I’ve always been a do-er, a helper, a mentor, a manager, and an advisor – it comes naturally. During my first 10 years, I departed my house at 4:30 a.m. heading to school for swim practice, classes, another practice, participation in numerous clubs and honor societies and homework (often arriving home very late). I also enjoyed a very active social life on Friday nights and throughout the weekends. This fostered the belief that I could “do it all” which I could, when life was all about me.
During my next 10 years, I completed college, started working full-time (plus a few side hustles), established a new social network after moving over 1,000 miles away from family and friends, joined a board of directors, got married, purchased a home, and earned an MBA during my “free time” at night. Yippee, I’ve got this…the wheel is turning faster now, but I’ve got this! When suddenly, life threw me a curveball: I lost my father, my best friend. My life changed in unpredictable ways.
During the following pivotal 10 years, I struggled to have my first child, lost my father in law, was blessed with a second child and… I placed myself and my own needs on a shelf. I focused all my attention on coping with loss, raising my children, and maintaining a healthy marriage. I honed my professional skills in an environment that aligned with my passion. I became reconnected with AOII. I became a volunteer, serving in several roles: “colony” advisor, chapter advisor, NS-D for two chapters, the Human Resources committee.
I was picking up speed on that hamster wheel, so proud of my ability to “do everything” and failing to realize that’s not possible.
Over the last 5 years, a conversation began playing over and over in my head. Stop. Just stop. No really, you need to STOP! But I forged on. Hey, I’m not a quitter! I was exhausted, my patience running thin while the to-do list kept growing. I noticed I was beginning to dislike everything and everyone, which was deeply disturbing for a lifelong optimist. So, I stopped, took a look at myself: at my health (gaining weight, skipping workouts, drinking too much, and not eating healthy), my work (putting in longer and longer hours), my family (my husband’s request I volunteer less, my son’s excessive sports obligations and my daughter’s need for more attention), and finally AOII (taking on not good-fit roles as a volunteer).
In short, my life was unbalanced. I needed to slow down the wheel to a speed that worked for me and all my priorities. Thankfully, I found that it is never too late to make choices to reclaim your balance. So, take a deep breath and step off the hamster wheel.
Seven steps to achieve better balance:
- Drop things. Consider eliminating activities that drain your time or energy. It is so easy to get sucked in, especially for high performers who love to help. Learning to say “NO” is difficult but necessary. Learning to let go of the guilt is difficult, but necessary. Begin by making a list of all the activities you’re involved in that don’t enhance your life or career. Then, eliminate them.
- Rethink errand running and chores. Life is too short to stress about dust bunnies. If it’s feasible to pay someone else to complete essential but time-heavy tasks, do it. Are there errands you can outsource to someone else? Could you order groceries online, hire a dog walker, or a housecleaner? Check out Lisa Woodruff’s guide for 10 ways to outsource your household tasks. Another option is to trade services with friends. Brainstorm then do it!
- I like to move-it, move-it. Finding time to hit the gym is hard when you have a busy schedule, but it will give you a much-needed boost. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins, ramps up energy and increases your ability to concentrate. Don’t like the gym? Me neither. I do like to walk and run so I invested in a treadmill, reminding myself that I am worth 30 minutes a day. Do I always meet my exercise goal? Nope, but I am mindful of goals. Instead of feeling guilty when you get off track, simply re-commit. Set aside time to exercise and look forward to it. Choose an activity you love, or at least like, enough to do consistently.
- There will always be another email or fire that needs tending, so it’s important to know when to step away. Sleep is key to overall productivity, health and well-being. Many of us do not get enough sleep. Best practices include powering down one hour prior to bedtime, setting “do not disturb” on your phone, and reading or thinking about something you enjoy prior to falling asleep.
- Find time for yourself. Seriously! Even if it’s just a few minutes of “me time” per day, make it a priority. Read a book, shop online, call a friend, binge-watch your favorite show, or relax (outside, in the tub, or listening to music).
- Communicate your needs. Don’t assume your manager or you family are aware of your concerns. If you need to adjust your schedule to find a better work-life balance, then you must voice those needs. Remember; Don’t ask, don’t get. Take a deep breath – you’ve got this – and express your needs out loud.
- Pace Yourself. New habits take time. If you find yourself sneaking your iPhone into bed and working late, give yourself a break. The next day, put your phone down and leave work on time. Know your boundaries and what works best for you. Then you can decide what really matters in order to prioritize the actions you take.
Source: Ireland, Joanna. “8 Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance.” www.topresume.com Accessed April 5, 2020.
Pick a Quiz (or all three) to discover more about your own work-life balance.
Is Your Work-Life Balance Healthy?
Life, Work, Sleep Balance
Want to learn more? Check out these additional resources:
- How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today
- 6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance
- Career Advice: Work-Life Balance
- 37 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance
For Alumnae Chapters
Build an event around this topic either as part of an alumnae chapter meeting or partner with a nearby collegiate chapter to work on this together.
We all know how busy collegiate chapter women are today. Your experience could help them establish healthy work-life balance when they need it the most!
It is important to accept that there is no “perfect” work-life balance. What matters is that you feel balanced. Don’t be afraid to request flexible workplace options from your manager (or consider offering them to your employees). Remember to make time for yourself and your loved ones, including AOII sisters!
We are all bound by one thing: time. No matter what we choose to do with our 24 hours per day, that’s all we get, just 24 hours per day.
Remember to TAKE A VACATION.
Amy Simonini is an alumna of Beta Phi (Indiana U) and a member of the Education Committee.