Have you ever noticed that there’s a lot of noise in the world?
Even working from home I hear the thump thump of clothes spinning in the washer and dryer and the sound of cars whooshing by the open window — somehow creating a vortex so my husband and I can hardly hear each other even while sitting in the same room.
The faint (and sometimes not so faint) notes of music play in the other room while dogs bark outside and our kitties tauntingly mew to feed them hours before their dinner time.
But noise isn’t just what’s happening in the background, it exists in the media, people, and environments we surrounds ourselves in. At work and at home.
What we are sometimes ignorant to is how much that noise in our surroundings influence us. Particularly, when we compare our lives to the lives of those around us we develop expectations measured against society’s standards.
With a world full of “reality” TV and social media, it’s easy to fall into the pretense that your life is not living up to society’s expectation.
Still single at 30? Better get some cats.
Haven’t made your big break at work yet? Better put in those extra hours.
These are societal expectations that we end up putting on ourselves and without a framework to support them can easily slip into disappointments.
Being the founders of our new business, my husband and I wear a lot of hats: Web designer, graphic designer, photographer, videographer, administrator, copy editor, marketing and advertising team, husband and wife.
Part of the dream of starting our own business was so we could have a better work-life balance. That came with the expectation of making enough money to get out of debt, have a house, and start a family where we are intricately involved in raising our kids rather than simply funding them as they grow up.
But every time something gets in the way of that expectation, frustration can build.
At the beginning of each day we meet and discuss what we want to get done: a website here, a few photos to edit there, and the typical emails and paperwork.
But then, the inevitable happens – we get some calls, some new emails pop up, we need to schedule a meeting to finish a project…
This. Is. Life.
You see, just because we planned out our day to finish what we needed to get done, doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t have stuff to get done too. All of our lives collide together at some point – sometime at opportune times (ever be in the right place at the right time?) and sometimes at the worst times imaginable (insert bad day here).
It seems like it would be so simple to jot down a few things for the day and achieve them come day’s end, but the reality is that you can only guess on what you can achieve based on your own actions.
None of us work in isolation. Even if you’re a freelancer you work with your clients. As mentioned in the preceding blog, Tomorrow is Monday, sometimes it takes a shift in perspective to see clearly.
When you’re frustrated, hurting, or in pain emotionally, you only look at what you want to see. This can be a vicious cycle where your thoughts only reaffirm your feelings and keep you trapped in a self induced prison. Staring at your navel is how my father-in-law puts it. To get out of this cycle, the first step is to redefine your expectations by evaluating your reality.
So, how to cope amidst all the noise?
Allow yourself to take a few minutes out of each day to objectively reflect on how it went, what really happened, and if you feel your life is heading the direction you want it to.
Ask yourself: What did I do today?
Although this may seem like a very simple question, it can be hard to answer honestly. To objectively answer this question, make sure you aren’t immediately comparing your answers to what you had hoped to get done that day.
Unless it’s a life or death situation, chances are it can wait and will be no different if you get it done tomorrow.
If you’re an overachiever, like my husband, it’s very easy to get discouraged and feel like you “didn’t get anything done” after a long day of work. When this repeatedly happens, it’s hard to feel productive, useful, and valued.
When my husband starts to feel frustrated because of this, I remind him to look back and actually say out loud what he did accomplish that day. Even if it’s just sending that one important email, that is still an accomplishment.
Look at the details and you can find small victories. Just because it wasn’t on your original list doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Ask yourself: Did I prioritize things appropriately? Was anyone negatively affected?
This question reveals what you value and that your choices have consequences – sometimes unforeseen.
Being a husband-wife team has its complications. Although we do love working together, we can get stuck on making the business successful and forget to spend quality time together – something we’ve already identified as being vital to the health of our relationship.
When this repeatedly happens, things don’t go as smoothly.
Now we’ve learned to purposefully set aside time for one another and to make sure we end work at a certain time each night. Work can change, but family, when handled right, lasts a lifetime.
Ask yourself: If given the opportunity, would I make the same choices I did today? Or, is there something I regret doing and wish I could change?
This question shows not only whether you’re staying true to yourself, but also if there’s something to improve upon.
Sometimes, days can feel routine, monotonous, and uninspiring.
But do they have to be?
If you say you’ve always wanted to go somewhere exotic, save up and go there!
If you always go the same route to work everyday, try a different route.
Call a friend spontaneously to have lunch.
If you try something and decide it wasn’t for you, at least you tried and learned something in the process. It’s unfulfilling to live a life of regrets, especially if there’s something you can do about it.
Although New Years is a classic time to reflect on these questions, I would challenge you to start out by giving yourself time and space to reflect on a daily basis.
Eventually, it may only need to be a few times a week, but getting into that routine will really allow you to get to know yourself intimately. You’ll then be able to more easily identify when you’re making successful or poor work-life balance decisions.
Sometimes it can be scary and daunting to open up, even to yourself, but you are really only in control of yourself – not those around you. And you alone can choose how you interact in the world.
Does life still happen? Yes. Can things still get in the way? Yes.
But the point isn’t to be perfect if you want to have a successful work-life balance.
After all, we all know what happens to best laid plans…
The point is that amidst all the noise of life, you are able to identify who you really are and be able to grow and progress into who you want to become.
The question now is: Are you willing to take this step?