The “Work/Life Balance” Myth

Today’s title is a bit misleading, dear reader. I’m sorry. It was a good hook, though, right? The truth is I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘work/life balance’. I believe there is work. I believe there is life. And I believe the two must learn to play well together. The idea of a work/life balance is as foreign as the idea that relationships are 50/50. When, if ever, have relationships been 50/50? Someone is always giving, at minimum, 51%.

So, recently, I was asked to speak to a group about how to make work more simple. If I’ve learned anything on my simplicity journey, it is that the lessons must span across all aspects of one’s life or true freedom, joy and contentment cannot be reached. This includes letting go of the myth that one can ‘find balance’. You can not simply ‘find balance’. One must set (and vigilantly guard) boundaries.

Boundaries create balance. No seeking, searching, or finding is necessary.

What are some of the boundaries I recommend for achieving the goal of keeping work and life playing nicely together? There are many but these are my top five to get you started:

Fire bad clients. “But she tips so well!” – not if she doesn’t regularly show up or cancels on you at the last minute. I don’t care how big the tip is, she does not value what you do. Make room for someone who does. (This can also be applied to your personal life. I regularly ‘fire’ people from my social circle for many energy-draining reasons. I recently met with someone I had considered a long-time friend. After the meeting I realized “Wow. I really don’t like him” and vowed that I wouldn’t waste another afternoon meeting with him.)

Stop working so much. If you are working the weekends I have three truths for you that you need to face: 1) You have too much work. Delegate. (This is RARELY the case, by the way). 2) You don’t set boundaries on your time therefore you work at being busy, but you are rarely productive (Am I getting warmer?) and 3) You are avoiding something. Something at home, something you need to do (Exercise, meditate, relax…?); something that would raise your productivity level instead of your ‘busy’ level.

Stop the Social Media Cycle. If you own a small business, I have something to tell you: No one gives a crap about your business’ Facebook page. And the political drama and cat photos you’ve been posting on your personal page? Well, they’ve blocked those too. Stop telling yourself that the hour you spend on Facebook (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. etc. etc.) is ‘effective marketing’. It is not.

Stop spending more than you earn. If you stop spending more than you earn you can stop working so much. This entire blog started for me because I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Read my history and know that it is okay to downsize.

Have clear direction (For your career…business…life…relationship…). It is easy to make decisions when you know, without a doubt, what values you hold dear. If you want to be the best massage therapist in town, for example, then stop wasting time with body wraps, sugar scrubs, and the newest fads. Study massage therapy. Study how you can fix someone’s problem with massage therapy. Stay true to your noble path and stop chasing rainbows (unless those rainbows happen to be on your path then by all means frolic your heart away.)

I’ve been there. I’ve had jobs dangled in front of me that I’m qualified to do, but that I have no interest in because it would mean I’d have less time to hang out with my kiddo. I’ve been there, struggling to find the point in the which all aspects of my life met in the middle, never tipping on end or the other. So, yeah. I sought balance and tried every silly thing under the sun to ‘find’ it. It wasn’t until I set my boundaries and started following the advice above did peace reveal itself. If you need help with this…I’m here for you. I’m rooting for you. I know it is hard, but I believe you can do it.

Enjoy your week. I hope the team you are rooting for wins tonight. Here’s your song for the week. Time flies, for sure. Slow down, smell the whiskey.

Five Ways To Clear Distractions

True to form, months ago, I bookmarked the ‘upcoming’ documentary from The Minialmists on Netflix, anxiously awaiting its arrival. The DAY it was released, I watched it and was again inspired to get back to simplifying life. I’ll be honest, though: There was NOTHING in this documentary that was ‘new’ to me. Living a clutter-free life has been an ongoing process for over a decade now. But, I was reminded

And so, we continue – you and me – toward a simple life and so on. A significant part of being ‘clutter-free’ includes keeping your internal environment free of distractions. I’m not talking about your living room or that junk drawer. I’m talking about your Self. 

I’ve written so much about Busy’s Glorification and how ‘Busy’ is the new ‘Fine’ I’m not sure it is worth repeating. Except…it is. It absolutely is worth repeating because I asked six people last week how they were, and each of them stated, “Busy. So busy.”

You know how this goes, right? “How are you?” they ask. “Busy,” you reply, rolling your eyes with a tone of exaggeration. “Busy” has become a badge of honor, as if being busier than the next person wins you some kind of prize or something.

Honestly? How can you be so busy? The fucking world is shut down because of Covid-19. So much has changed to reduce time constraints. You can have someone else shop for and deliver your groceries. There are people at the ready to arrive on your doorstep with prepared meals. If you’re lucky enough (yes…lucky enough.) to work from home you can wash, dry, and fold that laundry (dishes, etc.) on your breaks. (Ahem. Yes. Breaks. WFH doesn’t require 9 hours of desk time.)

There are a lot of reasons why people get so busy. We take too much on, refuse to set boundaries, can’t accept failure as an option, blah, blah, blah. But what if one of the real reasons we are all so damn busy is that we let too many distractions into our life? I guess, if you think about it, it is a bit like not setting boundaries, but here are five of the ways I find myself getting distracted from the things that really matter.

1. My Smart Phone Made Me Do It. Yes, I really did just compare my smartphone to Satan. (Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit?) That darn thing is nothing more than a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. I finally had to set up a Do Not Disturb auto-turn on at 9 pm because I’m so darn undisciplined with that gadget.

“Our phones live not just in our pockets, but in front of our eyes. The influence of the Internet and its constant stream of information is accessible from nearly every corner of our world. Breaking news breaks into our day at breakneck speed. And we are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements on nearly every flat surface. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources.” – Josh Becker.

2. Getting bogged down by the “C” List.  I keep a running “Priority C” list (‘C’ stands for Crap That Bugs Me). C-list items are the tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete. I designate a time each day to knock out as many as I can in a half-hour. If I don’t do this, I get distracted by those items and forget to do the essential things. Also, my Priority C list includes personal stuff, too, not just something at work. I find it hard to focus if I have too many “C’s” buzzing around. Because, folks, I don’t believe in a work/life balance. It’s just life…and it has to work. David Allen writes about this practice in his best-seller “Getting Things Done.” Here is a summary.

3. Kill the clutter. My desk usually looks like a tornado blew over it. At least once a day, I take two-three minutes to reduce unnecessary clutter from my desk and my office. On one of my breaks, I take a loop around the house and straighten up any thing that is quick to fix or clean. I battle Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have learned that unnecessary clutter creates anxiety for me. If things are messy, I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I cannot focus. 

4. Get rid of digital clutter. I recently revealed my ‘email inbox’ while conducting a remote desktop share with a client. They gasped and I felt like an email master. I had something crazy, like, five emails in the ‘inbox.’ The key is that I have rules set up so all the ‘unimportant’ stuff filters into folders. (I get to determine what the difference between unimportant and important. They don’t.) I designate a time each hour, day, or week to read what needs to be read and either delete it or file it immediately. I don’t have a lot of unnecessary communication distracting me from what really needs to happen that day. Also, I am not a significant “IM” participant (Is it IM, PM, DM? I get so confused.)  “Instant Messenging” of any sort is simply the Evil Satan-Spawn Child of the Smart Phone. I. Loathe. It.

And my favorite? First, a disclaimer. I can’t take credit for this. I stole this one word-for-word from Josh Becker because, well, I owe my minimalist lifestyle to him. So, he wrote this, I didn’t. I just try to implement it daily:

5. Care less about what other people think. “The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand: There is much value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who loves you. But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.”

I once heard a someone say “The Devil has three main ways of getting to you. He’ll distract you, disappoint you, and disorganize you.” I’ve experienced all three lately, so I’m thankful for good counsel (like Josh) and others who have their priorities straight. So, what about you? What is your biggest distraction? (If you say “Pinterest,” I’ll give you a big AMEN and possibly a sticker!!!)

As always, I leave you with a song. This one is by The Weepies. Who doesn’t love The Weepies, right??

Self-Love: Surround Yourself With Good

Egads. It never fails. I plan to post every Sunday and Wednesday, and yet, here we are: Thursday. Forgive my lack of social boundaries and utter disregard for organization. I try. I really do try.

As I was thinking of things to share with you this week, I remembered – vaguely – that we aren’t quite finished with our journey through the Rules of Self-Love. It seems appropriate, though, since I’ve been beating myself up for not staying the course with my writing.

I vowed to get back to my novel. Delaney and Jake need me to figure out their future. But with an imbecile still in public office (take your pick…I’m not speaking of just one…) and goofy-ass ‘Mericans doing the thing they do best (cause dissent), I just can’t focus on a torrid love story between a young man and a woman old enough to be his mother. Nonetheless…stay tuned. I’ll get revved up at some point and start rewriting the smut that makes me who I am.

So. Self-Love. Where were we?

Ah. Yes. Surround yourself with good. Hmmm. How appropriate. Let me take a swig of the goodness in this glass and enlighten you on this.

“Surround yourself with the dreams and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” – Edmund Lee

In my journey, I realized I had been consumed by non-stop long term commitments. Even then, I was lonely, closed off, anxious, and never quite sure when the other shoe was going to drop. Some of my hippie friends would say that I was the cause of my own relationships ending because of these feelings and emotions. I agree, but picking the wrong partners in the first place might have had a significant bearing on the outcome.

So, in August, I took a break for a while. I’m not really sure when I mustered the strength to say ‘Fuck it,’ but I did. I spent 90 days with no relationship, and I spent those days finding out what good things brought my heart joy. It turns out I’m not really that complicated, and I’m easily amused, so there is that.

I’ll share today with you, dear reader, six ‘things’ I did to surround myself with good during that time.

  1. I spent as much time around water as I possibly could. It started with a 9-day trip alone, landing on the beaches of the Gulf Coast. I got sunburned as hell but managed to make time every day to get near the waves. Once back home, I was at a lake, beside a creek, or seeking out waterfalls any chance I got. For me, large bodies of water are as close to Heaven as I can imagine.
  2. I chucked the past. I can’t do much about all those memories in my brain except ‘pivot’ when I start thinking about the past. But, I did spend some time learning to build a fire, and with that new skill…well…I emptied boxes of memories dating back to 1989, including two wedding albums and a shit ton of crap I shouldn’t have been carrying around anymore anyway.
  3. I made new friends. You know, it’s a hard thing to face – but sometimes, the people you hang around with are people that don’t always have your best interests in mind. Some of them aren’t even really all that nice. And me, doing nothing half-assed, I just cut, cut, cut. And it was glorious.
  4. I kept my best old friends. I made a list of the ten people who always raise my vibration levels when I’m in their presence, and I vowed to spend more time with them. If they lived too far to see regularly, I scheduled Face Time / Zoom sessions with them. My life is so much richer because of these people, and I love seeing their faces.
  5. I lowered my expectations. Please note…I did not lower my standards. Standards and expectations are completely different. I lowered my expectations and allowed myself to go to bed sometimes with dirty dishes in the sink. I don’t expect everyone I work with to give 100% all the time; I’m only responsible for my work ethic and standards. I stopped coloring my hair and decided to see what I looked like with naturally greyish hair (still not sold on this, by the way). I decided to cut myself some slack in so many ways. And I am so much more relaxed and content.
  6. I stopped attending church. I can conveniently thank COVID for this, but in reality, I realized that the only ‘good’ I was getting out of church was the message – and we’ve proven as a nation that sermons can be effectively delivered via the internet. As an introvert, I don’t really enjoy the ‘seen and be seen’ aspect of attending services in person anyway. Additionally, I can’t explain it, but every time I would leave the church building, I felt like there was this ‘ick’ I needed to wash off. I started to hate the bigotry (How ironic, huh?), the subtle forms of manipulation, and dare I say: the outright disregard for human life (“Hey…save the babies…but don’t adhere to the mask-wearing mandates.”) Anyway, my pastor and I meet each week while I listen to his sermon as I’m working my ticket queue. He may not know that, but then again, it’s not really about him, is it?

I hope these six things can help you. One I didn’t mention is: I put on my favorite playlist to begin feeling better. No sad songs allowed. If you have other suggestions for surrounding yourself with good, please do share them. In light of the shitshow America faced yesterday at our Capitol building, I could use some good ideas.

As always, here’s your song. I wish you peace, happiness, and above all else…I wish you joy. Until next time: Go out. Do good.