One of my favorite things in the world is spending time with my daughter at the beach. It’s something I do regularly, and it’s time that is priceless to both of us. While I’m there, I am totally present with her, not worried about anything else.
A few years ago, taking the time and energy to go the beach would have seemed impossible. I was too overwhelmed with crazy hours going after my business goals. Completely consumed. After getting up at 4am and spending a 12 or 14 hour day at work in my own business, by the time I got home, I had virtually nothing left for my daughter. It was like an inside joke but also a sad reality that she would point out my “bad-itude” most nights. I’m not making that up – I was exhausted and had nothing left to give her in the little time we did have together.
At some point, I had to ask: why am I choosing to show up like this for the most precious person in the world to me? If I can’t create the space to be my best for my family, what am I doing? Isn’t the point of owning my own business to be able to have more freedom to do the things I want? Who was in charge of this schedule, anyway? Me. I was. Yet, ironically, I didn’t schedule any time for myself. This is not who I wanted to be.
What Do I Want, Really?
I hear the term “work/life balance” a lot these days, and while I respect the concept of not being consumed by one area of life, I think work/life balance is completely unrealistic. What’s balance, anyway? I think of someone on a balance beam, where if they tip too hard in one direction, they have to exactly counterbalance on the other. It feels like some kind of perfect distribution where the hours you spend on all parts of your life must be equal. Is that achievable by anyone? And am I working on being perfect in all parts of life or do I want my life to feel fulfilling to me, regardless of the balance?
I prefer the idea of “work/life harmony” – the philosophy that all aspects of my life can co-exist and enhance each other. But this is only achievable if I’m really clear on what I want.
So to get from my “bad-itude” to work/life harmony, first, I had to understand what my ideal day would look like. Here it is: I wake up early, meditate, do a visualization and work on a big picture project for business. From there, I walk to my daily yoga practice, walk back, have client meetings and calls, have lunch or a drink with a friend, spend time with my daughter and go to bed. Now I could go into a lot more detail here, but this gives me a great idea of how I want to tailor my days. It also shows me what I don’t want to spend time on by the mere fact of all the things that aren’t part of my ideal day.
Second, I needed to remember my big picture vision. As in: what is my ideal life? My ideal day is actually a reflection of my ideal life. The ideal life is different for everyone, but for me—I want a close relationship with my daughter, family and friends, awesome trips around the world, a successful business doing what I do best, a close-knit Los Angeles community and time for myself. Once I got this clarity, I had a map for creating the life I wanted to live.
Creating Work/Life Harmony
In order to actually bring work/life harmony into my life, I needed to schedule little things I could do everyday to fulfill my larger vision. I found that if I don’t schedule my personal time, then I don’t GET personal time. And if I don’t get personal time, I have nothing left to give other people, including my daughter. Scheduling “me” into my own calendar keeps my vision important and on track.
Boundaries around my schedule gives me freedom! The awesome result of scheduling ALL my needs around my vision is that I am present, no matter what I am doing. If I’m working, I’m not distracted by email or something from home. If I’m at lunch with a friend, I am completely present, not checking my phone. I decide when other people can reach me. When I’m with my daughter, the last thing I’m worried about is what’s going on at work. I have faith that my schedule has taken care of my top priorities.
I’m not trying to find balance in this life, just harmony in the big picture and enjoyment of as many moments as possible. And what I’ve found, is that when I spend time with people and in activities that are a meaningful part of the life I envision, when I create harmony in my life, presence is one of the greatest privileges I could possibly imagine– with my friends, family, and colleagues, I’m present while we’re together. I am focused on them and looking them in the eye. It’s an amazing feeling. And I relish that feeling on Monday evenings – that’s reserved especially for me and for my sweet daughter at the beach.