BALANCE IS A FARCE – GET OVER IT.

14217203949_1cf083a0ba_bIs anyone else guilty of spending countless hours on the Harvard Business Review website? You know it always starts with one article and next thing you know, an hour has passed and a dozen articles have been scrolled through on your computer screen. You feel slightly more intelligent than before but know the real genius is the person who added the “what to read next” link in the top right corner.

My most recent binge session was ironically about being busy – one click later I was learning how to prioritize my life and after a few more clicks and 50 minutes I had gone full circle. I was now being enlightened with the concept of the “humble brag” and how people like talking about being busy.

With every click, I was reminded of all the times I heard “busy but good” when inquiring how a friend or colleague was doing. I acknowledge that society has programmed us to believe that if we say we are busy there is a direct correlation to doing something important but that doesn’t mean I have to understand it or believe it to be true.

No one can deny that we, as a civilization, fight so hard for balance but the term varies from person-to-person so finding a clear definition is like nailing jello to a tree – it won’t happen.

To me, balance is like the care bears or the tooth fairy – something we want in theory but in reality does not exist. It is impossible for all aspects of life to align and to be equal. I believe we coined the term balance because we needed something to blame every time we are unhappy, overwhelmed, tired, or confused.

Think of it this way – balance assumes that everything in our lives remains constant. Imagine you are a juggler with three balls in the air. All of a sudden, another one is tossed at you, then another, and another. Oh, and did I mention the last ball was on fire – because sometimes that happens. We are constantly peppered with changing circumstances whether it is health conditions, work conditions, family issues, relationships, age, or finances. We can never achieve balance because life happens, things change. More balls are added or removed but we juggle, we don’t balance.We need to accept that we are constantly searching for equilibrium and spend our time discovering what works for us in the moment, a continual cycle of changes to adjust to the current environment because those uncontrollable external and internal variables are forever present.

I recognize that preaching this to our readers is easier said than done. I was reminded of how hard this actually is over a 78-day period. Like many of our Blitz Community, I was involved in a federal election campaign. It reminded me of my previous profession in politics and how my life was consumed by work, putting my social life and fitness on the backburner.

Like many high intensity environments, an election campaign becomes the first thing you think about when you wake up, the last thing you think about before you go to sleep, and the place where most of your waking hours are spent. You can be present elsewhere but somehow your mind always wanders back to that place. This is not balance; this is a shift in your equilibrium and like anything that takes up a large portion of time and effort – other items fall by the wayside. As the juggler, you have dropped some balls because there are only a few you can focus on.

When I reflect on those 78 days I know I compromised parts of my life. I am sure many would argue my social life but I noticed my fitness, more specifically my motivation substantially decreased. I watched my RCR Crew members train hard, demonstrate a level of dedication foreign to most, and reach their peak fitness right before my eyes. I even watched many of them (from afar) end the season with a new personal best. Even though I wanted to be a part of their experience – I no longer had the motivation to get up at 5:15am to join them for a run. It was an odd feeling of being proud and envious. Not just of their results and the time they got to spend together but of their ability to be multi-dimensional in their lives, while accomplishing some audacious goals.

I still got workouts in but it took a lot to muster up the energy and half the time I was showing up to teach rather than doing the workout for myself – I was tired and my mind was elsewhere.

Now that it is over, I can proudly say that I am currently juggling at least half a dozen balls and couldn’t be happier. I am back into running with the crew and able to keep up. I am focused on some really exciting initiatives we are working on at Blitz (stay tuned). I see my friends on a regular basis. I am currently, pretty content with my juggling skills.

Ok, time to shift gears and relate this back to business and how learning to be a really good juggler is an ideal asset in any industry. First, learn how to prioritize in the moment. Know exactly what you are juggling, how long you will be juggling it, and what are the consequences if you all of a sudden drop that ball. Next, learn to pass off a ball or two so you can focus on the ones you can’t afford to drop – find the right people to juggle with. Lastly, communicate your juggling abilities. That means the good, the bad, and the ugly. People know when you are juggling too much so don’t try and hide it.

I have learned that as an entrepreneur, especially a relatively new one, downtime and balance are synonymous – they are both farces. Your brain is permanently thinking about business, weekends are a thing of the past, sick days are now longer work days full of coughs and a bunch of Kleenex, and you now see everything through an ROI (return on investment) lens.

If that sounds familiar – knowing how to juggle is very helpful and necessary.

How do you do it? Lets revisit my new favourite word – prioritize, especially when thinking about time spent on the business. If you are efficient and effective with your business time, you can have playtime without the guilt or wandering mind – equally important.

A good friend, also an entrepreneur, shared how he prioritizes tasks within his business. He created a list of things he wants to accomplish for his business and focuses on one a week. That is 52 tasks completed every year and 52 weekly satisfactory moments when you know you can check that box off your list.

The old me thought having 10 things going on at once and never get anything fully accomplished was effective because I was “busy but good”. This small piece of advice shared over a cup of coffee in his kitchen has allowed me to create my own list, be a better juggler, and celebrate those successes with people I care about.

Ideally, work and life intersect but that isn’t always the case. We need to shift our world view away from the negative statements like “I am busy” that are self-fulfilling prophecies of stressful lives, punching time sheets, and a sheer lack of enjoyment of the moment. We need to look at the bigger picture – we do these things because we are passionate about what we do and whom we share our time with. Celebrate that.

We need to be positive and understand what is the most important thing this week, this month, this year and go for it. That “thing” will continually change but those that recognize the importance of finding equilibrium, will be far better off than those living in an idealistic world where balance is an obtainable concept.

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