When people ask me about juggling obligations or “work life balance”, I often feel they see me as the half-time show acrobat I once saw at a Mavericks game. She was this tiny woman on a tall unicycle balancing a growing stack of bowls. She would toss them up, one or five at a time, with her free foot while the other peddled. We all held our breaths and stared in amazement fully expecting it all to come crashing down, little acrobat included. (Click here to watch a YouTube video of her – she’s amazing!)
The question I received from a leader friend this week went something like this:
“So, how in the world do you balance all you do? You have non-traditional work hours and kids at busy ages and a husband you still go on dates with. How in the world do you squeeze it all in?”
1. Toss in some space.
Dr. Richard Swenson, the author of Overload Syndrome and Margin, defines margin as “the difference between our load and our limits.” I know how to schedule my priorities and plan my week. It’s the situations or people that don’t call for an appointment that can throw me for a loop. You need margin for the mundane. You know, the unexpected realities of life like an AC repair or a sick kid. Intentionally NOT scheduling every second to the max and allowing for some space, or margin, in my day is critical. For example, during my workday I plan 30 minute “breathers” between scheduled meetings to allow for people running late or to catch up. A little breathing room leaves me feeling like I can handle the inevitable crisis, instead of feeling like I’m spinning out of control.
2. Toss in something to savor.
What refreshes you? What brings back the pep in your step when you’ve had an intense season? Two things that restore my reserves are being in nature and being alone. Because I know this about myself, I plan activities that will breathe life back into me when I see a tremendous load that could leave me breathless.
3. Toss to someone else.
While the one-woman-show is exciting, it’s also crazy. I have found the best stunts I have ever accomplished have been feats of teamwork. Some simple examples of sharing the load from my world include delegating non-essential tasks to team members and sharing household responsibilities with my family. Giving up control of every move in your act is smart, so surround yourself with people you can toss to and catch from.
4. Toss out the scale.
I heard author and Bible teacher Jill Briscoe answer the “how do you balance family and ministry life” question with this golden nugget: “I don’t.” She went on to share how she didn’t believe there really was such a thing as having the scale perfectly balanced with family on one side and work on the other. It’s just not realistic: one day a child will need to be priority and another day a project will need more time. I’ve felt tremendous freedom in throwing out my ideal of the perfectly balanced life scale and just going to God and asking “what needs my energy, focus and time today?”
Now, just to be clear, I don’t have this “work/life balance” thing all figured out. Some days I can juggle the demands of marriage, parenting, work, and friendships with one arm tied behind my back while other days I can barely get out the door in one try. I guess I’m just an acrobat in training…
What’s your best tip for balancing life’s opportunities?