This beginning of 2019 I have become aware of growing concern in most people around me, either on a personal or professional level: how to achieve an adequate life balance? Although this question is not alien to my particular situation, I have suggested providing support and tools so that each day more people feel in control of their lives and release a bit of stress.
2018 was a year full of new experiences for me, a lot of learning and many responsibilities that made me realize the impact it has on my physical and emotional state not knowing how to adequately balance my activities and my priorities. As the year progressed, I became clearer about those areas in my life that required more attention and I began to make adjustments to relieve stress and prioritize better. Since then, I have researched the best practices or keys to having a balanced life. As follows I will share some of my learnings:
1.There’s no such thing as the balanced life we imagine, where we have time for everything and everyone. A “balanced life”, will depend on the level of priority that each area of your life has according to your personal goals and the moment of life in which you find yourself. For example, if you’re starting a business, maybe that’s your # 1 priority and will be the area that requires more attention and energy from you; which leaves a second or third place to other areas such as your social life or entertainment. The key is that you have clarity about how much time and energy you want to devote to each thing and that you seek the means to do so. That will make you feel satisfied as you reach your goals and avoid feeling frustrated or angry about not being able to party or travel as you used to.
2. First things first: Find something that gives you the personal tools to deal with everything else and make it your main priority. It can be a healthy and energetic diet, meditation or mindfulness, playing sports, spending time with your family, etc. Whatever fills you and helps you handle the rest, that’s what you can’t leave out. Think that if you neglect your health or your inner peace, the results you hope to obtain in other areas will be reduced by stress, lack of concentration, exhaustion, among other moods that will only sabotage your goals.
3. Be productive and stop being busy. When we understand the difference between these two premises, we realize that we really want to be productive, since this allows us to get to where we want faster and in order to have time for other important things. Knowing how to plan, delegate, organize, say “no” and prioritize are some of the skills that productivity implies, if we exercise them constantly, we can acquire them. Don’t forget to also block any distractions, including social networks which take away so much time and fill our minds with unnecessary things.
4. Mexico’s not the best country to have a balanced life (sorry to disappoint you …) According to figures from the OECD, in its section “Balance of life and work”, 30% of employees in Mexico work more than 50 hours a week. In addition, Mexico City occupies the first place in vehicular traffic, making a large percentage of employees take up to 2 hours on average to travel to their workplace and back home. These factors imply that usually a Mexican devotes much more time to their work than to other activities, so talking about balance becomes a luxury in most cases. If we also consider that in Mexico there are very few companies that have flexible work schemes and that there’s not a strong system that supports childcare, the elderly, or people with a disability, it’s no surprise that the demand to fulfill the responsibilities related to both family and work are a great factor in the high-stress levels affecting Mexicans.
5. Being a woman in a ‘macho’ society doesn’t help to find a balance either. In a study carried out by Mexican organizations ‘Inmujeres’ and ‘INEGI’ in 2014, it was found that Mexican women work an average of 30 hours more than men in unpaid domestic work, even if they have a full-time job, while men work an average of 20 hours more than a woman in a paid job and devote only 12 hours a week to housework. These figures indicate that neither men nor women still have the conditions to be able to balance work and family responsibilities equally. However, the woman’s still the one who plays a “double role” because, due to the social stereotype, she must be the one who takes care of the domestic chores and taking care of the children when she comes back from work. A change of mentality and culture is needed so that both men and women can aspire to a greater work-life balance.
6. Not everything’s lost. There are still many tools that can help us when we’re searching for a life balance, and that will maintain us before reaching burn out. The secret’s to set your priorities and make conscious decisions about the way you use your time and energy to fulfill your activities. People who have achieved a certain balance in their lives and who live in more peace and satisfaction than most of us, are people who are very clear about where they invest their time and with whom. To achieve this, it’s necessary that you take the time to clarify your priorities, review the responsibilities that you currently have and decide what changes or adjustments you should make to feel more in control of your life and your time. No radical change is necessary, but certain adjustments can help us focus on the things that are really important to each one of us. I advise you to double-check how much time you dedicate to your family, your health, your finances, your work, your spiritual life, your life as a couple, etc. and decide if you are satisfied with the way you’re doing it. If you’re not satisfied or an area is taking you off balance, then evaluate what you can do to make everything work a little better and you feel calmer.
Finally, I want to share that you’re not alone in this daily struggle to “have a balanced life”; Most people around you experience the same thing as you and suffer in silence just like you. So, share your difficulties, but also your achievements and you’ll see how you get nourished by new ideas, learn new ways to cope with the day to day and feel more accompanied in this way. I suggest you review ‘The Balance Project’ where hundreds of women share their secrets and challenges in the search for greater “balance” and you’ll see that their days are not very different from yours.
So, balance can be a myth, but it can also become a reality depending on the decisions you make and the adjustments you make to your everyday.
About the author:
Cristina Menchaca holds a Pedagogy Degree from ‘Universidad Panamericana’ Mexico, has a Specialty in Educational Pedagogy from the National University of Córdoba in Argentina, and has developed as a Leadership Coach and an Educational Coach with the ‘Growth Coaching International’ methodology, which is based on helping people achieve their goals.
She’s been a facilitator, workshops manager, and lecturer on various topics for more than 10 years. Currently, she’s an Educational Consultant at Dalia Empower and collaborates in other private initiatives promoting innovative environments and with a human approach.