Attaining and Sustaining a Balanced Life
By Dr. Michael Barber
According to a recent study published by the American Sociological Review, over 70% of Americans struggle with finding a balanced-life system that works for them. For many, achieving any type of work life-family balance can seem like a myth—especially when technology has made us accessible around the clock. Quality time free from distractions and obligations seems to be ever more elusive. People who are successful in obtaining and sustaining a balanced lifestyle generally follow several very simple rules. As a practicing physician, I feel incorporating the following principles into the everyday routine can help you attain the balance of a healthy personal and professional life.
1. First and foremost, you need to know what it is you want out of your life. Work with professional partners, spouses, family members, and others who are important to you to create a goals-focused road map outlining how you want and need to spend your time. Once this map is created, commit to following it. Check in regularly to assess what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments when necessary.
2. Prioritize! I use a very simple classification system to prioritize my tasks. I take a moment to decide whether a to-do item is:
a. urgent and important
b. important but not urgent
c. urgent but not important and
d. neither urgent nor important.
You will be surprised when you apply this systematic approach at how quickly much of the “important” stuff—professional or personal—becomes less so; allowing you to focus on the things that really need to be achieved.
3. When faced with a daunting schedule, analyze and play to your strengths. Know your daily “peaks and troughs” and assign yourself tough, high-concentration tasks at the times when you are at your peak. This allows you to be more efficient and productive, ultimately giving you the ability to do other things. Creating a work/task schedule and sticking to it can be of tremendous value.
4. Possibly even more important than prioritizing the things you need to do is allowing yourself the courtesy of some personal time. Making time to unplug and remove distractions is essential to a healthy, balanced life. This may be as simple as taking a 5-15-minute break to stretch, meditate, do simple yoga, take a walk, or just shut down. Everyone also needs to set aside time for family, friends, and important personal interests—all of which often suffer. Scheduling these proactively into your day is a simple way to carve out this time.
5. So many people I know over-schedule and find themselves frustrated at the end of the day because they couldn’t accomplish everything they had planned. Be realistic with what it is you plan to accomplish. It’s easy to get sucked into habits that make you less efficient and do not enhance either your life or your career. Drop activities that drain you of your time or energy but add nothing to your productivity or creativity (Facebook, Twitter, frivolous emails, etc.). Multiple studies have shown that we aren’t as good at multitasking as we think we are. Being reasonable with your goals and to-do lists will have you feeling more calm and accomplished.
6. Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do. It’s easy to cancel the gym, morning run, or yoga class because of work or family. Ensuring exercise is given priority means you will function better both personally and professionally and ultimately become more efficient with your time. Afterall, a healthy body means a fresh mind.
7. Finally, accept that there may be no such thing as a “perfect” work-life balance. Don’t strive for a perfect schedule, strive for a realistic one and remember that balance is achieved over time. To have the goal of a daily balance is great but recognize that it’s important to remain fluid and constantly reevaluate where you are with personal, professional, and life goals. Make a point of planning and booking time off to spend outside of work and guard this time.
Here at Strata, we offer multiple options for helping you find the life balance you want. Our board-certified physicians and clinicians in the areas of functional medicine, hormonal balancing, chiropractic care, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), therapeutic and medical massage, meditation, energetic healing, mindfulness training, behavioral and emotional coping skills, and counseling in fitness and diet optimization will work with you to create a holistic care plan designed to help you achieve your life balance goals.
By MICHAEL J. BARBER, MD, PHD, FACC, FAHA, FHRS