It’s a topic that’s been around for years, brought on by the many challenges faced by high-achieving professionals.
- Expectations of being “Always On.”
- Back-to-back meetings
- Time constraints due to an overloaded amount of work
- Constant distractions
- Efforts to multi-task to “Get It All Done.”
These are just a few of the challenges that cause pressure, stress, and burnout.
Creating a balanced life is possible if you know what it means and how to implement it. A common definition of work-life balance is “equal time or priority to personal and professional activities”.
I view this in a different way. I think work-life balance is unique for everyone depending on the season of life they are in. For example, there are critical factors if a person must have clarity of thought to do their work. This takes optimal brain function and optimal brain function depends on both physical and emotional well-being.
Fresh perspectives are needed, and you can’t have this if you are totally immersed all the time in your work. Taking time away from work allows you to engage in activities to improve the function of your brain, such as sleep, exercise, spiritual practices, and time for friends and family. You need time to engage in activities that stimulate creativity – travel, dining, reading, and other hobbies. Work productivity increases when physical and emotional well-being and creativity are at optimal levels.
Balance is not “Equal Time for Everything”.
The key is to prioritize where you spend your time based on your values and goals. What’s important for one person may be less important for someone else. For example, a baby boomer may be in a different season of their life with different values, goals and dreams when compared to a millennial.
Here’s an exercise to gain clarity on where you are right now.
It’s called the “Wheel of Life”. It is powerful because it gives you a vivid visual of the way your life is currently, compared with the way you’d ideally like it to be. It is called the “Wheel of Life” because each area of your life is mapped on a circle, like the spokes of a wheel. This concept was originally created by Paul J Meyer, founder of Success Motivation Institute, Inc.
Start this exercise by assessing each area of on the wheel on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). Write down the amount of attention you’re devoting to each wheel spoke using the scale. Do you have more 1s than 5s or all 3s? Take a minute to think about the differences between the numbers you wrote down for each spoke.
Next, consider the ideal level of attention you would like to have for each of these areas of your life.
Remember that a balanced life doesn’t mean getting 5 in each life area: some areas need more attention and focus than others at any given time in life. Inevitably you need to make choices and compromises, as your time and energy is not unlimited! Remember we are all in different seasons of life and you get to choose where you want your focused energy to be spent.
Now that you have a visual in your mind of your current life balance. Where do you feel you have gaps? These are the areas of your life that need attention.
Remember the gaps can go both ways. Some areas are not getting as much attention as you’d like. However, there may be other areas where you’re putting in more effort than you’d like.
Once you have identified the areas that need attention, it’s time to work on what you view as unbalanced.
This exercise is simplistic but, I found it to be powerful when I was at a point in my life when I was experiencing burn out.
It Happened to Me
Five years ago, I found myself yearning for more from my life. I was successful. I had a great marriage, two thriving adult sons, a magnificent granddaughter, and had a successful career with a Fortune 500 company that I loved until I didn’t.
That was because I became burned out from living an unbalanced life that was not serving my true self. I was striving to climb the corporate ladder. I put my heart, my soul and all my energy into my career and became a workaholic. I was busy trying to prove my worth. It left me feeling totally exhausted and burned out. I had no balance. My career became my entire life’s purpose.
The Power of Kaizen
Ironically, one of the main roles of my job is to teach management teams the concept of Kaizen. I work for a Japanese automotive company, and Kaizen is a Japanese word that means Continuous Improvement.
After World War II, Japan’s automotive industry adopted the Kaizen concept to rebuild the economy, leading to the success they enjoy today.
Throughout my 20-year career, I’ve been privileged to travel to Japan several times, experiencing their culture firsthand, and I’ve had several Japanese mentors. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is how the Kaizen mindset is in everything the people in Japan do, not just in the workplace. It is small continuous improvements over the span of one’s life and it is a never-ending quest. It is done by Everyone, Everywhere, Every day.
The beauty of implementing Kaizen is that it tricks your brain! You don’t have the same fear as you might experience when trying to make huge life changes, because these small changes build up to lifelong habit changes. Even though I knew this concept inside and out, I was not applying it in my own life.
I was at the lowest point of my life when I attended a personal development seminar. Up to that point, I had been living my life by default for years. I had a huge breakthrough and decided to begin developing my own Kaizen mindset to improve my life. I also recognized that I had a choice for the stories I was telling myself about my past, my potential, my identity, and my future.
I realized that I had a divine purpose outside of my career that I wasn’t even tapping into. This purpose is to serve others in a big way, especially other women.
You see, I’ve been in a man’s working world for decades. It’s a rare occurrence if there is even one other woman in the meetings I attend daily. To get clear about my purpose to serve other women, I had to address my own state of burnout first. I knew I couldn’t do it without going on my own journey and taking care of myself, so that’s what I did.
Over the past few years, I’ve studied work-life balance and how to break free from burnout.
What is Burnout?
First, let’s talk about what burnout is. A study done in 2020 reported that 9.8 million working women are suffering from burnout. Burnout is defined as suffering from mental and physical exhaustion accompanied by demotivation, low performance and a negative attitude toward oneself and others.
That pretty much described me…. And where I was in my life. But thankfully, through my journey I’ve learned three powerful steps that helped me free myself from burnout.
Step 1 – Clear Your Plate
There are two parts to this step. First and most importantly, clear your mind. I began doing this by using quiet time in the morning and evenings, I got still and practiced meditation. I noticed this gave me more energy. It was re-energizing and it gave me clarity in my thoughts, so I could plan my next small kaizen step.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I first heard about this “quiet time”, I was like… yeah that’s a luxury for somebody who’s got free time, not me. I’m working 60 plus hours a week and on weekends. I’m bringing work home to catch up on what didn’t get done during the week and I’m working split shifts.
Well, that was my excuse because I did have time to get quiet with myself. I was just using that time for things like scrolling social media or watching TV. But once I got intentional about my time, I noticed that magically pockets of time started showing up and I started using those times to do reflection and to ask questions to myself. Taking this time helped me realize what I do want and what I don’t want in my life and enabled me to discover my passion.
The second part of clearing your plate is clearing your schedule of the things that do not serve your goals. Until I did that, I felt like I was on the hamster wheel going nowhere fast. I started focusing on my schedule and planning my time with my goals in mind.
Ask yourself: are you moving the needle toward your goals a little each day or week? Or are you living by default without a plan for how you spend your time? When I wasn’t planning my time wisely it left me feeling drained and unproductive.
I also decided what non-essential tasks I could delegate to somebody else. That was huge for me because like many high achievers, I’m a perfectionist.
I walked around feeling like I must do all the things myself because I’m the only one that can do them as well as I can. Well, that didn’t work! It was not serving me, and it wasn’t serving the team that reported to me. I wasn’t giving them a chance to grow. So, I worked to change myself and started delegating tasks and I still do, and we are a much better team because of it.
Now that I’ve freed up more time on my schedule, I use that time to get clear on the things that I want. I’m 60 years old and I now have a 10-year, 5-year, 3-year, 1-year and a 90-day plan for my life and I’m looking forward and excited about seeing all the milestones for my goals come to fruition.
It’s never too late! I encourage you to decide on the goals you want to achieve and create an action plan.
I have a plaque that sits on my desk so I can see it every day that says, “Work on the vital few and not the trivial many”. I hope that quote can also serve as a reminder for you when you’re making decisions about scheduling your time.
Step 2 – Fill Your Cup
One part of filling your cup is to fill your mind with new ideas and information. I became a continuous learner about the things I was passionate about, serving women that were like me and suffering from burnout.
I took another small step and invested in a successful personal Wellness coach, whose specialty is overcoming burnout. I made this investment not only for myself, but because I want to learn how to bring more value to the clients I serve.
I also started using my 90-minute work commute to listen to audiobooks and podcasts about work-life balance and overcoming burnout instead of mindlessly listening to the radio.
Another part of filling your cup is filling your soul. It means getting still and receiving from your Creator. What lights you up and What fills you up? If we are running on empty and trying to fill each other’s cups we are not going to be effective. I know I wasn’t. I was trying to fill others cup from an empty cup and that didn’t work. When I learned how to fill my own cup, I began having an abundance of things that I could offer the people around me.
Step 3 – Pour It Out
Pour yourself out by serving others. How can you use your gifts?
When you identify your dreams and what you care most deeply about during quiet time it will help you to seek to serve in ways that will reveal your gifts. I find that by pouring out my efforts in service to others, I get so much back in return and that leaves me feeling joyful and fulfilled.
Those are the 3 Powerful steps that helped me turn my burnout into breakthrough. One of the most surprising differences implementing these steps has made in my life, is that I have fallen in love with my job again! I’m still there, but my perspective has changed. I no longer look to my job to validate my worth. Instead, I know I’m there for a season and a reason, and I’m excited to be building my next chapter of life as a Personal Empowerment Coach.
I want you to know that these steps are not one and done. These 3 steps are ongoing. It’s about Kaizen! Daily, small incremental changes, that over time, make a huge difference in your life.
I encourage you to choose to make the time for those daily, continuous improvements, remembering that we’re all still works in progress. I’m still a work in progress! And implementing this concept of Kaizen, of continuous improvement into my personal life has encouraged me to always move forward.
If you’re ready to invest in yourself – your Greatest Asset – schedule a complementary strategy call with me today. I’d love to share the tools I have to maximize your life.