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Finding Balance

There are so many different aspects of our current lives that require balance, but finding it can be rough, since it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where that tipping point really is. This month, I wanted to share some of my own balance challenges, and how I’m managing them, and I would love to hear about your balance-challenged solutions too!

Work vs Personal
This is perhaps the most talked-about balance issue most of us face. With technology making it so darn easy to take work with us everywhere these days, where do you draw the line? I know this is one I struggle with daily. My phone is very nearly surgically attached to me, and I can’t resist checking my work accounts, and responding to client emails. I’ve even been known to go boot up the computer at 9 or 10 at night to go work on something, even though I know the client doesn’t expect a response – much less the actual work – until the following day.

For me, having my office at home has only exacerbated the problem, since it’s so easy to just walk in and go to work. The phone alerts me to a message, and the computer beckons me to come take care of it. The fact that my office is it’s own room of the house, with a door I can close – either physically or mentally – when I’m ready to end the day does help, but I’m never really unplugged from work. Heck, I’ve even done interviews and taken client calls in the middle of theme parks, I’ve logged into the exorbitantly-priced WiFi on cruises to check in and I can’t remember the last vacation I took where I wasn’t available if I was needed.

The solution, for me, has been to try and stick to a “work schedule” as much as I can. I start the day at the same time daily, with time built in to enjoy a cup of coffee first. And I try to end at the same time every evening, shutting down the computer and mentally marking the door as “closed”. It doesn’t always work, and if there are deadlines, all bets are off, but for the most part, I have found that glancing at the incoming messages, and snoozing anything that isn’t urgent until the next day has helped, but admittedly, it’s an area of balance I still struggle to find.

News vs Social
Part of my job is to be social. I manage social media accounts for some clients, I keep up with the news for industries I cover, and I try to keep my own accounts at as current as I can, since it’s hard to make a case for being a good social media person when your own accounts are dead. But where is the line between keeping current for my clients, and just surfing the Internet for fun?

And it’s not as cut and dry as you might think – it’s not necessarily just “news is work and cat pictures are play”. For one, one of the best sites for keeping a broad eye on topics is Reddit, and if you’ve ever browsed there, you know you have to wade through a lot of cat pictures and random stuff to find the good information. And that information is often buried in the comment sections, rather than in whatever the primary link is, so using the site requires doing a bit of surfing to find the gems. Twitter is another culprit – it’s hard sometimes to draw the line between work and play, when your “work” accounts post non-related information at times, and your “play” accounts sometimes come up with gems that are relevant to work.

This is one I find a hard time balancing, since so many of the lines are so blurred. So for me, it’s about time. I set aside time in the morning to go through the feeds, then I go work on other projects that need to get done. Then I take time in the afternoon and evening to do the same thing, browsing through any new headlines or information to pull out what’s relevant, before returning to my other projects. I’ve found that limiting the time spent, rather than the sites visited, helps keep it balanced, but I would love to hear about strategies others are using successfully!

Plugged in vs Unplugged
Finally, it’s the technology itself. While it contributes in a huge way to the other balance issues, the technology itself can be a problem. There are numerous studies out there that say screen time at night will disrupt your sleep cycle, and admittedly, I have a hard time putting it down. If it’s not my phone, it’s probably my Kindle Fire, sitting on the couch listening to whatever random television show is on in the background. Sometimes I’m reading at night, but a lot of times I’m playing mindless games that keep my hands and eyes busy, but don’t require much thought.

I also take the phone with me everywhere, and I feel a bit lost if I don’t have it close at hand, which is probably not a good thing, at all. While the tech geek in me loves the ability to stay connected and entertained no matter where I am or what I’m doing, the rest of me needs to take a break sometimes.

I have started forcing myself to walk away from the phone sometimes. I’ll leave it sitting on the couch at night and go to another part of the house. I’ll shove it in my purse on silent and refuse to take it out while I’m out doing something. Those types of strategies force me to take a break from my electronic security blanket, but I know that’s probably still not really balanced, as much as it is slightly less lopsided. It’s the one piece that, if I can bring it more in line, the rest will likely fall into place much easier.

So what about you? Like I mentioned at the start, I want to hear about your balance challenges, and your strategies for bringing them into line. What tips or tricks have you found really help, and what advice have you been given that just didn’t work at all? Let me know here, or find me on social media and share your thoughts!

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