THE ISSUE: Managing stress; OUR OPINION: Author offers insight on avoiding balance myth, setting priorities
With the continuing news about the suicide death of comedian Robin Williams and the problems he had in his personal life, many ponder and compare their daily existences and come to the conclusion that someone such as the celebrity does not really relate to many of life’s problems.
Without debating the seriousness of Williams’ depression and addiction and reasons for them, let’s acknowledge that both are major factors in the lives of millions of “ordinary” people. And even for those not clinically depressed or addicted, there is the big issue of managing stress in everyday life.
The stress factor is huge in today’s world: trying to manage competing responsibilities of work, kids, a spouse, housework, volunteering and maybe caring for aging relatives.
One study found that work-life balance, more than money, recognition and autonomy, is how more than half of men and women measure success. Yet author of a new book, “52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work,” Anne Grady says work-life balance is a “mirage” people chase to their detriment.
Grady is an entrepreneur, author and expert in personal and organizational transformation. She grew her business as a nationally recognized speaker and consultant while raising a severely mentally ill son. The lessons she learned are worth sharing.
First, Grady dismisses the idea of being able to juggle life and do everything well. She says a major flaw in the search for balance is that lives are not supposed to be balanced with equal time for everything.
“Can you be the executive who thrives at business, the mother who volunteers at her child’s school, the friend who maintains an active social life, and yet still remain sexy, fit, and fun? Maybe for a short time, but it certainly isn’t sustainable.”
No one can consistently balance everything. Instead of getting stressed, Grady recommends:
* Find your priorities: Look at the areas of your life that matter to you (possible areas include career, finance, family, health, relationships, social life, attitude and personal growth). Realize that some areas should take priority over others. Focus on one priority at a time.
* Set priorities: Rank how you feel you are doing in each area that’s important to you, from 1 to 10 (poor to perfect). Look at where you can make slight changes. “Your goal isn’t necessarily going from a 2 to 10. The goal is making slight edge changes, like going from a 2 to a 4,” Grady says.
* Devote yourself to what matters: “Identify your top three to five priorities and spend 80 percent of your time on them without apologizing for it,” Grady says. “Schedule time for your priorities. If necessary, save money for them. Make sure you have emotional and physical energy for them.”
Grady uses a “Balance Wheel” approach to decide what areas of life are most important and how to prioritize. She says brutal honesty is required.
“There are lots of tools and tips for managing the onslaught of information and tasks we have to deal with,” she says. “One of the most important is just making sure that the priorities in your life aren’t passing by while you’re reacting in stress mode.”
Remember, as he says, “There’s no such thing as balance. As long as the bulk of your attention is on what’s really important, that’s okay.”