Tag Archives: balance

Balance Isn’t About More Time

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

timeAs a teacher and speaker on the topic of imbalance, I often hear people express their desires to have more time. Time to do more things – work things, personal things and relaxing things. People are often disappointed when I tell them balance has very little to do with quantity of time and more to do with quality of time.

The quantity perspective is simple math. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep eight hours a night, you have about 130 hours each week to spend on work and personal things. Generally, that splits into about 40 hours of work and 90 hours of non-work time each week. The question then becomes: How do you spend this time you have? Or, what’s the quality of your time?

Each of us can find more time in our day if we are willing to examine quality of time. And this requires the skill of awareness, which is our ability to see the world and how we show up in it. As it relates to time, awareness means observing without judgement how we actually spend our time. Just as we might eat empty calories that offer no nutritional value, most of us spend empty time on actions that don’t support our values or move us toward desired outcomes.

Empty time is not be confused with down time, which is intentional and serves to help us unwind and just be. It’s also not flow time, when time seems to stop because we are connected to our passions. Rather, empty time is when there’s no intention or awareness around why we do what we do when we do it.

For example, if you ask me if I watch television, I will tell you I do not. In reality, I spend a couple hours each night watching shows, about 14 hours a week. I don’t identity with spending my time this way, but I do. The same might be true for you, whether it’s television, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Candy Crush, or gossip magazines. We all experience empty time, at least occasionally.

This isn’t to say don’t watch television or disengage from social media. Rather, ask yourself why you do what you do when you do it. Consider if what you do supports your values – or if it’s empty time. Most of the shows I watch are about music, which is something I value, so I understand why I do what I do. At the same, I’m aware of my desire to spend more time watching live music and less time watching it on television. With this awareness, I have more information to make a different choice.

By asking yourself why you spend time the way you do, you can begin to create awareness and seek opportunities to shift your relationship with time. When people act without awareness they tend to feel a lack of time to do things they wish to do. It is through living with awareness that people begin to gain time to spend on things that invite more joy into their lives.

If you seek more time, examine how you spend the time you have and where you can dedicate more time to doing activities that support your values and bring you more joy.

The choice is yours. You can choose how to spend your 168 hours each week.


Is it Possible to Have Balance and Success?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

success and balanceWhen people talk about balance, it’s very common the word success enters into the discussion. People often describe balance as feeling like they are successful at honoring their commitments. Yet, at the same time, many people believe it’s a tradeoff — that you can have either a successful life or a balanced life, but not both. This belief is simply not true.

It’s possible to have both success and balance because the desired outcomes are similar for most people: To create easy joy and meaningful engagement between the interconnected relationships, roles and responsibilities that make up life. As with balance, success means different things to different to people, and the definition changes over time as one’s life circumstances shift and evolve.

Success is personal, and each person has his or her own idea of what is desirable, acceptable and comfortable. There is no right or wrong idea of success. No television show, magazine, motivational speaker, or guru can tell you what success means for you. It is defined by you and you alone, because you are unique.

Like balance, success has many layers that are measured in different ways depending on various factors, like where you grew up in the world, who you grew up with and who you are today, in this moment.

Individual success is often described and measured by physical, emotional and spiritual elements. For example, it could be measured by someone’s size or how they look. It could be a feeling or state of being, such as enlightenment or Maslow’s concept of self-actualization.

Social success is commonly discussed and measured in terms of wealth, education and community status. Examples are where a person lives, where they went to school, the extent and value of their philanthropic efforts.

Many elements of social success are connected to cultural values and vary from country to country and house to house, as each culture and family honors different values. All of these variables makes it impossible to have a unified definition of social success.

And don’t forget the workplace and our professional lives, where we most commonly associate and glamorize ideas of success. Professional success is often defined and measured by recognition, as in a title, salary or level, the number of likes or followers on social media, or one’s level of power, respect and influence.

Many of these layers lend to the creation of a certain desired perception. The definition of success can include both how you want to be perceived by others and how you want to feel each morning when you wake up.

Think about what success means to you right now in this moment. What is your motivation for that — a feeling or a desired perception or both? For many, the meaning of success combines both: a feeling and a desired perception, and it’s super hard to decipher which comes first. Does perception drive feeling or does feeling drive perception? Many people who are perceived to be successful don’t necessarily feel successful. And others who feel successful wouldn’t traditionally be labeled as such. It’s all relative, and it follows the same logic as for balance because we are all unique.

Both how you want to feel and how you want to be perceived are part of your definitions of success and balance. Most people are more in touch with what it feels like to not have either balance or success than knowing when they are experiencing balance or feeling successful. Yet, the two are so closely intermingled, it’s hard to have one without the other.

The secret to living a successful and balanced life is nested within knowing what motivates you and having intentional conversations about that with the people that matter in your life.


Don’t Quit Your Job to Find Balance

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

quit my jobSome people leave their jobs to find better balance and end up right where they started, only sitting at a different desk. You don’t have to quit your job to find better balance. In fact, please don’t do that. Rather, find balance in the job you currently have. Quit only if you realize your career is not supporting you in living or expressing your values.

Finding balance has very little to do with your career. Balance also has very little to do with the company where you work, or the people with or for whom you work. Balance has everything to do with getting clear on what you need and effectively expressing those needs.

Creating balance starts with a choice, an intention to create balance however you define it. Balance is different for each of us. It is not something that any CEO, manager or executive coach can give you or define for you.

Define balance for yourself, then make the choice to create it through daily actions. Actions that may be small, simple and so subtle that others around you barely notice. Actions like eating lunch away from your desk, drinking more water, getting enough sleep, setting down your mobile device when someone is talking to you.

Or bigger actions like mapping out your career path, learning new skills, putting energy into a hobby, or volunteering. Importantly, creating balance requires actions like saying what you mean, communicating your boundaries and requesting what you need to create a life of balance.

If you feel so out of balance that you’re thinking about leaving your job, stay until you are clear what it is you really need. Ask yourself if what you need is something your company or manager can reasonably provide. It might be that you already have everything you need, and the path to balance is small simple actions each day. No company, manager or person can create balance for you. The choice is yours.


Portrait of a Perfectly Balanced Working Family

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

balanceTo working parents across the country, the portrait that emerged from a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month is no surprise. According to the survey, in nearly half of two-parent families today, both parents work full-time. And these families aren’t just busy; as Claire Cain Miller describes in a follow-up report, today’s modern family is stressed, tired and rushed.

According the survey, 56 percent of all working parents say balancing work and family is difficult. Nearly a third say parenting is stressful all or most of the time. And 40 percent of all moms who work full-time say they always feel rushed.

Given today’s highly-competitive, 24/7 work cultures, this data isn’t surprising. It fuels a long and active discussion on work-life balance, and looks to public policies and workplace structures for solutions.

But let’s view the data in a different way. Let’s see a portrait of those working parents among the survey’s 44 percent who say balancing work and family is “not too, or not at all difficult.” Building on our philosophy of personal choice and intention, our picture is one of working parents who:

  • Know and prioritize their values
  • Know and maintain their boundaries
  • Fearlessly share their values and boundaries with the important people in their lives

In reality, “balance” means something different to every working family. But at its core is a shared awareness and regard of personal values. “Balanced” working parents know their values and make intentional choices that support them. They value family, so purposefully prioritize time with their kids. They value work, but make choices around their work that don’t compromise their family time.

They also know that values change with life’s circumstances. While their kids are small, for example, they may set aside values around community or personal growth. And they’re OK with it because they know it’s not a forever choice. Creating balance around what we most value at the present moment gives space and acceptance to reserve other priorities for another day.

Closely linked to values is boundaries. Balanced families intentionally set and honor boundaries around their time and various roles. At work, they know when and where “office hours” begin and end, what meetings they can skip or delegate, how to say “no” to demands outside their scope. Increasingly, families are setting digital boundaries around their devices in an attempt to create more balance.

Finally, it’s not enough for working parents to know just for themselves their values and boundaries. Balance requires broader awareness among those with whom we work and live: the boss, clients, friends, and family. Communicating our values and boundaries appropriately sets others’ expectations and creates a layer of balance in the support we receive.

Of course there’s no such thing as a perfectly balanced working family. We are in and out of balance daily, weekly, yearly. But through our choices, we can gain an acceptable level of balance that minimizes the stress and exhaustion felt today by too many working families.


Mindfulness and Work-life Balance: What’s the Difference?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

worklifebalanceIs mindfulness the new way to talk about “work-life balance”? Has work-life balance been a conversation about mindfulness all along?

As with other conversations around the topic of mindfulness and balance, it’s complicated. In fact, the answer is yes and no, because with both mindfulness and work-life balance, we desire the same outcome: easy joy and meaningful engagement with the roles, responsibilities and relationships that make up life – including the relationships we have with ourselves and those with whom we work.

Some believe that mindfulness is just meditation. It’s true, mediation is one of many tools and skills we can develop to cultivate mindful living, which broadly means living with greater presence, being in each moment you are in, regardless of where or with whom that moment occurs – at home with your children, alone in your car, at work among colleagues.

But at its core, mindfulness is much more than meditation. It starts with choosing to see how we show up in life, and making conscious choices about what our presence looks and feels like in each moment. That choice can comprise meditation, but it doesn’t have to. I’ve met many people who live very mindfully but don’t have a traditional mediation practice. Rather, their “quiet” moments look a bit differently: running, cooking, playing music, taking a bath, slowly sipping their morning tea.

Some believe that work-life balance is something granted by employers. It’s true, a company can create a culture that promotes balance. But company support is a small part of the work-life balance equation; individual accountability is another factor, and that includes a host of choices: aligning work with core values; setting and communicating boundaries; managing stress; knowing the difference between urgent, important and excitement; and paying attention to what we are doing while we are doing it.

Mindfulness usually starts with personal awareness and skill development that radiates out into our relationships, including the relationships we have at and with work. Work-life balance usually starts at a company level and expands to include reflection and action among teams and individuals. It’s the same conversation, just a different starting point.

Mindfulness is not better than work-life balance, or the other way around. There is no good, better, best, right or wrong way to learn skills to create easy joy and meaningful engagement with the roles, responsibilities and relationships that make up our lives.

And it doesn’t matter what companies, practitioners, publishers, journalists, or teachers call it. What matters is people willing to make the choice to live more mindfully and balanced, and having resources and environments available to develop mindful living skills.

Let’s ditch the discussion around the labels and focus instead on creating these environments where we can make the choice for mindful and balanced, as individuals and employees.


Why Talking About Balance Matters

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

I’d never talked about balance until I was well into my 30s, and then the topic came up only after I collapsed at work in front of my colleagues from adrenal fatigue. My first real conversation about balance was with my doctor, who told me I needed to quit my job as an executive producer at a Fortune 50 software company.

Yup, that was the first conversation I’d ever had about balance. And it left me with few options: I didn’t want to quit my job – I loved my job. Deep down I knew it wasn’t my job or the company that made me collapse. I had a role in it, too, but I wasn’t sure what role I played. I also knew I wasn’t alone in this experience, because after I collapsed many people approached me wanting to talk or introduce a loved one who had also collapsed, if not at work, then at the mall, the gym or in the kitchen.

Thankfully, I’m stubborn and I didn’t listen to my doctor. I kept working, but began to create awareness around why I was doing what I was doing. Like a scientist, I made myself a research subject. I spent a year learning to set boundaries, owning my yes’s and no’s, meeting with people who shared similar stories, and studying all I could on the topic – from brain and body science to mindfulness – to help me understand why I and many others around the world were doing what we were doing.

What I discovered during that year of research inspired me to start my own business seven years ago with the purpose of helping others make talking about balance a habit. I learned most people don’t know what balance means for them, so talking about it often happens too late – when a balance crisis hits.

I envisioned what could happen if talking about balance was a proactive, ongoing conversation in our homes, schools and especially at work. I made it my calling and career to promote talking about balance in workplaces across the globe.

To talk about balance is to express who we are and what we need as our lives shift and change, as circumstances, events and personal growth take place. In talking about balance we tell others what we need to feel supported and to sustain ourselves so we can thrive at whatever we choose to do.

To talk about balance is to be human. And we do not stop being human when we walk into our workplaces.

Talk about balance – especially at work – is a conversation many of us avoid. It’s not because we don’t want to share our feelings and experiences; rather, for most people, it’s a conversation we’re not in the habit of having. Moreover, it comes with a mix of fear and shame of being perceived as weak if we dare set a boundary around our human capacity.

But if we can’t talk about balance, then how can we expect to create sustainable environments – at home, school or work – where humans thrive and prosper, rather than repeat the burnout-recover-burnout cycle?

If we don’t talk about balance, we can never hope to attain it. Let’s get talking.


Work-life balance is up to us

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

Wow, what a week it’s been for the topic of work-life balance. For me, it started with a report in my inbox titled, “Why work-life balance is dead.” It’s not about balance, but rather integration, asserts the report, which was co-created by the corporate wellness company Limeaid and Dr. Tracy Brower.

Its key message: The effort to balance work and life can be an exercise in trade-offs, where either work or life gains the upper hand. Shift the mindset to integration and we see the potential to blend work with life. In other words, you can bring who you are and what you need in life to work.

I shared this report with my colleague and founder of Simple Intentions, Jae Ellard, who jumped at the opportunity to share her wisdom in a blog post, “Can we stop talking about what to call work-life balance?

Ellard’s message: There’s no such thing as work-life balance – because balance means something different to each one of us. What’s more important is waking up to our own definitions of balance and making choices that support it.

Three days later, the bomb to level any and all conversations of work-life balance fell. Of course I’m talking about the New York Times exposé of Amazon and its reportedly punishing workplace culture that “stoke[s] [employees’] willingness to erode work-life boundaries” and at times drove employees to tears and worse.

Coming out of this work-life whirlwind I’m reminded of the classic TedxSydney talk by Nigel Marsh, How to make work-life balance work. Considering Marsh delivered this talk five years ago, the effort remains an ongoing battle.

What’s ominous is that corporations are leading the charge while we – the employees and individuals – sit on the sidelines enduring the fall out. Marsh states quite clearly: “Never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation.” For they are “inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with.”

The message is clear, but let’s make it louder: Work-life balance is up to us. We need to make the choice, set the boundaries, take the accountability for what work-life balance means, looks and feels to us as individuals. We cannot argue that imbalance yields innovation or success. All of life thrives on balance, and it’s up to us to define and claim it, both in work and life.