Time management is a constant battle. It’s one of those things where I feel like some weeks I’m winning and some weeks I’m losing. In periods when I feel like my schedule is running me, versus the other way around, I have to determine how I’m getting off this crazy train. What I’ve come to find is that so often the tasks that feel as though they are overloading my calendar are self-imposed and not always that necessary. When I default back to my “natural state” I tend to want to plan out everything and as a result I feel like my schedule is packed. I feel busy, but I don’t really feel all that successful.
This made me ponder the relationship between busyness and success. I think we tend to believe that when we are busy, we are functioning at peak performance, and therefore succeeding. But is that ever the case? Rather, I’ve determined that there are quite a few other indicators of success that have nothing to do with busyness and everything to do with margin. Here’s what they are.
Indicators of a Successful Work-Life Balance
Feeling confident to say no.
When I was first building my business, I felt as though I needed to say yes to every opportunity that came my way. To some degree this is a smart approach to take because it teaches you to keep an open mind, stay humble, and hustle. The trouble is if you never shift past this mindset as your business grows. Not only are there simply not enough hours in a day to take on every opportunity available to you, it won’t get you any further ahead than someone who is strategic about only saying yes to the right opportunities.
I know I am starting to lose my work-life balance when I lack the confidence to say no to work opportunities that are not the right fit for my business. This could be work that is outside my area of expertise or that pays below my market rate. Or it could be a project that doesn’t fit my current bandwidth, causing me to overload my schedule and work frantically, not passionately. Through such experiences I have learned that busyness is not a measure of success, but being able to confidently turn down work that I don’t want to take on right now shows me I’m working because I want to – not out of the insecurity that I have to chase every dollar.
Valuing my time even if it is not directly adding to my income.
So often we feel the need to keep ourselves busy because we don’t value our time unless we are doing something that is generating income or resulting in something else that is tangible. This will quickly lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Another critical measure of success is giving ourselves permission to spend our time doing things that don’t directly add to our income or status. Sure, you could then use this time for some R&R on the couch, but the real thought is to use this time to do something good for the soul – or better yet, something good for someone else.
When you think of measuring someone’s success by income, those who are making enough money that they can give away a portion of it are deemed financially successful. The same is true of our time. If we measure our success by the amount of time we have available for non-work activities, then those who pursue hobbies, volunteer and relax are successfully managing their work-life balance.
Doing nothing when nothing needs to be done.
When we are so focused on staying busy, we will create work for ourselves even when no real work needs to be accomplished. Working becomes not only a habit, but a security blanket, and a default state. How sad is that? I know I’m guilty of spinning off emails on a Saturday for things that are by no means urgent or necessary. It’s simply become a habit. Whenever I check my phone I look at my emails. Whenever I’m drinking my morning coffee, I open my computer. I now try to be more intentional, especially on the weekends, about only diving into work if it’s absolutely necessary. And when it’s not necessary, I am learning to be okay with being “unproductive.”
Having margin to rest.
The final true measure of success, at least in my book, is having the margin to allow yourself to rest when you need it. If you are working at maximum capacity every day, there is no room to slow down. Tasks that needed to get done today can’t roll into tomorrow or everything will come crashing down. This means that sick days, or even mental health days simply aren’t in the cards. You’re on a hamster wheel and though you’re running faster to try to get ahead, you’re really just setting a pace that is unsustainable.
Lately I’ve had a few days when I’ve felt rundown or under the weather. Through better management of my work schedule, and being intentional about creating margin, I’ve been able to make my workload lighter on those days, enjoy a nap or just work a little slower without the pressure to work at a pace faster than what I could manage on those days. And that to me….is success.
Do you find it challenging to break the mindset that busyness is a measure of success? How are you choosing to be more intentional about making margin in your life to maintain your work-life balance?
I’d love to hear some of your own success stories in the comment section below!