5 Secrets To How I Mastered Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance on 02.08.13
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Photo: Laura St. John

I have three sons, so I make up for it by being extra girly at times. I'm a born-and-raised Jersey girl living in the rugged mountains of Colorado. I run one of the largest education technology businesses for young children, but I unplug with a growing fitness business. You can say I strive for balance.

But getting here came with its challenges, and in the process I uncovered key secrets to work-life balance that most people don't know -- so here's my lowdown.

1. You Must Ditch This Definition. The definition of balance is the equal distribution of weight. Seriously, I can tell you now -- that will never, ever, ever happen. There will never be a day where your work consumes fifty percent of your day, and your family life consumes the other half. This so-called "equilbrium" is just not feasibly possible. So the first step is: Get over the idea of work-life "balance" -- because it can never truly exist.

2. Put Yourself First. Once you've understood and have ditched the definition of balance, it's time to organize your work priorities and your life priorities. Believe me, I know the mother in you wants to care for everyone's needs before your own. So stop that right now for just this minute. Think about pirorities in an order that makes you happy -- this is your list. And here's how you should do it...

3. Envision Your Life Ten Years From Now. You'll never dig out of your day-to-day work-life stress unless you stop focusing on your weekly to-do list that's sitting on your kitchen counter. (And I am a list person. I write and re-write them everywhere!) On your piece of paper, write down each year from now until 2023. My list includes my age, the age and each of our three boys will be, what grade they will be in, and then my broad goals that I'd like to reach by 2023. My list includes big milestones for my business life, family vacation plans, and house renovations. Once you have that in check, you work backwards from there so your weekly to-do lists are moving toward the bigger goals. I freak out a little when I see that my oldest son (who is now only eight) will be eighteen and going off to college by the time my list is over. It made me re-adjust when the house renovations should be done by!

4. Let the Scale Tip From Side to Side. Once you step back and look at your list, you can clearly see the big picture -- what's important to you. From there, you can start distributing the appropriate amount of weight to the more specific life events that you can -- and cannot -- control. For example, it is my top work priority to take on entrepreneurial projects rather than report to any boss, and so when I have huge project for work that may take up eighty percent of my time that week, my kids will just have to deal. Instead of freaking out that I'm not spending enough time with them, I realize they are normal, well-adjusted kids. I take a deep breath and get back to work.

But you know what happens next? A sick kid with a high fever. Knowing my highest of all priorities on my list is their well-being, I will shift back to eighty-percent back to my job as mom. I go where I'm needed most, as the pendulum swings. If it happens to all fall on the same week, then I know I am really in for working into the wee hours of the night (often with the sick kids beside me). Athough the equilibrium is never evenly distributed, it will start to give you peace of mind knowing it eventually works itself out, if you just let it. When your priorities are in check, life's curveballs don't stress you out.

5. Don't Get Torn Between Your Two Lives. Remember, the struggle began when you suddenly had two lives: One that may have happily existed before kids, and the new role you take on when you take on the job as a mother. I love my kids, but I also love working. I thrive on the energy of collaborating with adults and growing businesses. But don't get me wrong -- I love my kids and want to be there for anything and everything for them. If you let yourself be torn, then you'll never put one-hundred percent into either life. Actually, the only time I even come close to being half into my work and half into my family life is when I'm hanging with my kids but answering work emails on my phone. But that's not cool, and goes against my priorities. So I stop and kick myself every now and then, and that's ok.

Now it's taken me about three months to write this article -- and I'm finally sending it to my editor at two o'clock in the morning -- for the second night in a row. But does that fit in with my priorities of my own so-called work-life balance? You bet!

Laura's Related Articles on Entrepreneurs:
Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Mamapreneur?
Could You Work With Your Mother?
The 5 Secrets of a Happy Marriage I Learned from Working With My Spouse