I have a short list of confessions to make as I write this article on work/life balance.
- I believe balance is overrated and rather boring. A perfectly balanced see-saw doesn’t go anywhere. We are incomplete without the ups and downs of circumstances. We learn to lean in, to share strength with others, to trust, to breathe. God reveals Himself fully in the ups and downs. He is our balance.
- I know there are seasons in every life that are “all-in” moments where extra amounts of grace are extended, extra reserves of energy are discovered, and extra helpings of caffeine are welcomed.
- I am a workaholic who comes from a long line of workaholics. My grandfather neglected time with his family because “things just needed tending.” My dad found solace in alcohol and prescription drugs to deal with the stress of “never enough time to do it all.” I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder almost two decades ago, in the midst of one of the most successful chapters of my career. For me, every season was an “all-in” out-of-control rodeo ride on that see-saw.
- I’m writing this while sitting in a recliner in my flannel pajamas. I no longer work in a traditional office setting, and working from home definitely has its benefits. But leaving work at work becomes even more challenging when it lives with you.
Search Google for “time management tips” and you’ll see 365 MILLION possibilities. No matter the vocation, finding ways of doing good with our lives while we do good with our hands is something we all long for. Mind you, I’m still learning. But there are a few things I’ve discovered along the way—including the key to keeping work at work.
Time. It can be such a threatening word in a world that never seems to have enough of it. One of my favorite ways to make the most of the days I’ve been given is to use my calendar for more than scheduling meetings and project deadlines. I make appointments with myself, blocking time for strategizing and goal-setting, reading and research, and tackling administrative tasks. I even block time to simply enjoy time with others—to catch up with colleagues over coffee or to serve someone in need. I’ve found that the task list seems to get done when it’s transformed into bite-sized chunks on a calendar. The focus moves from “there’s so much to do” to “this is what I’m going to focus on right now.”
Focus. It’s a great word, and it’s something thwarted by things like anxiety and stress. The calendar is one way to help with the focus. But there’s something else I’ve found that helps me rightly focus the day before that calendar chirps its first appointment. My day begins with worship. Most mornings I’ll read scripture, journal my thoughts, and spend time in honest, gut-level prayer. I’ll admit, there are some days the prayers are happening in the shower and the scripture is a Bethel Music song on the radio. Quiet time isn’t a revolutionary thought at all, I know. But it’s often the first thing that’s pushed to the side when the days are full—and all those around us feel the impact of that sacrifice.
Sacrifice. It was that word that jarred me to my core as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard the words, “You are not okay.” I thought about my husband and son, about my family and friends. I thought about the staff that trusted me to lead them, about people who trusted me to serve them. And I thought about God—the very One I had said was my Lord and my Guide. For every “what” I was willing to sacrifice to do everything well while never having enough time to get it all done, there was a “who.” My own unwillingness to leave work at work caused everyone around me to carry the load. My own all-in, out-of-control rodeo ride revealed my disregard for others. I thought about my heritage, and the history I didn’t want to repeat.
So I learned—and am learning—to invite others to ride on that see-saw with me, to help me lean in and share strength and trust and breathe. I have a trusted group of souls who ask the hard questions about my focus and my time. I ask permission rather than forgiveness of those who are closest to me in the necessary seasons of all-in. And I’m embracing the power of confession from James 5:16: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”