I love daily routines. They provide a rhythm of important habits that help me as a person and as a leader. These include prayer, meditation, exercise, journaling, writing and yes, even flossing. Most of these happen in the morning and require that I get a good night’s sleep.
But sometimes life gets in the way. For example, one week I was supposed to pick my mom up at the airport at 5:05pm. Her flight was delayed and I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 1:00am, way past my bedtime. The next morning, I cut short my routine, knowing that I could grind through the day, go to bed early, get a good night’s sleep and get back on track. Wrong.
That night, we had to take my father-in-law to the emergency room. Nothing life threatening, but medical attention was required. He got great care and we got to bed a little before 2:00 am.
No big deal. I would get back on track the next morning by sleeping in until 8:00, then do my routine, except for exercising. Wrong.
I was in the middle of morning prayer when I found out my brother-in-law (and next door neighbor) had badly rolled his ankle and it was likely broken (it was). So, back to the same emergency room for x-rays and treatment.
Here’s the good news. Everyone was OK, even if there was some inconvenience and some pain.
But this got me thinking about work-life balance.
Most people I know feel overwhelmed about something. Whether it’s work, family, volunteer commitments or social obligations, there doesn’t seem to be enough time.
Here is what I learned.
Work-life balance is not a noun.
It’s not something to be achieved. It’s not a goal. You can’t ever achieve balance because life is fluid, dynamic, ever-changing.
Instead of balance, think of balancing. The image I like is a unicycle rider. There is constant motion. Back and forth. The rider may occasionally achieve a state of equilibrium, but it doesn’t last long.
Balancing is something you do, not something you achieve.
I learned this concept from the book, The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They write, “Seen as something we ultimately attain, balance is actually something we constantly do. A ‘balanced life’ is a myth — a misleading concept most accept as a worthy and attainable goal without ever stopping to truly consider it.”
Instead of balance the authors use the term “counter-balancing” to describe balancing as a verb. When you counter-balance, you focus on your most important task at hand, whether it’s family, work, your health or your spiritual life.
There are times when your family needs you. Don’t ignore it. There are times when work is intense. That’s OK, but it can’t last forever. If it does, something has to give. Your spiritual life, physical health or important relationships will eventually suffer if you don’t balance things out.
When you focus on counter-balancing, instead of achieving a balanced life, you can give yourself completely to the moment, knowing that you will be balancing things out. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that everything has a season. When we remember this we can live more fully.
So, when my sleep schedule, morning routines and work days got wrecked because my family needed me, there was no need to stress about it. It was a part of life. And the balancing act continues. I pray it can for you, too.