As an Independent Freight Agent, your days (and nights) are full. It is a popular notion you should be striving for “work-life balance”. But is that even possible? Some professionals believe it is a myth. Googling “work-life balance tips” yields an abundance of resources that add to the pressure you are already under. Let’s take a step back and approach “balance” as a whole and then we’ll look at just three actionable steps you can take immediately.
Redefining Work-Life Balance
The word “balance” is often tied to an image of a scale. In terms of work-life balance, a perfectly balanced scale would have half work on one side and half personal life on the other. While this is impossible for almost everyone, we still strive for that elusive feeling of “balance”. What if instead, we altered our perspective and used the word “harmony”? Harmony is tied to images of fluidity instead of rigidity and progress instead of unattainable perfection. In music, harmony is the combination of various notes together in a pleasing way. And that is what we want. A pleasing harmonious life, with all the various unexpected interruptions and changes and details of both work and personal life all coming together in a pleasing way. Even as an Independent Freight Agent, this is possible…and the answer begins by being like a child!
Step 1: Notice and be present.
When you think of your children, or children you know, you probably picture laughing, playing, and smiling. Children find ways to enjoy life in the moment. Granted, being an Independent Freight Agent is not the same as being a child, but like a child, you can begin to be aware of your surroundings! Notice the changing colors of leaves or a flower that just bloomed, look up at the clouds and breathe. Verbalize your gratitude for even little things you notice. If something makes you laugh…laugh! Being present and noticing does not make your to do list go away; but, over time these moments add up and help build that “balance”, or as we are calling it “harmony”, we all crave. Noticing helps us be present and aware of life.
The most actionable step you can take immediately without altering anything at all in your schedule is to make a conscious decision to be aware of what you are doing.
Take a moment to breathe and commit to the task at hand. Instead of rigidly defining walls around “work” and “life”, it’s okay if one area mixes into the other, but choose to be aware of that.
For example, when you are playing with your son after dinner, choose to be present instead of thinking about work tasks; however, if you are having a hard time switching gears, perhaps have a notepad on your phone where you jot down ideas or reminders as you think of them so you can focus on them later. You can even tell your son what you are doing, by saying: “I had an idea about a customer I’m working with, so I’m going to quickly write it down to remember it later! Then I can focus on what we’re doing.” Or, perhaps if you have a work project and your family is home, consider if there is a way you can include them. There are times when work and family could intertwine.
Conversely, if you are about to make an important business phone call, instead of thinking about how you wish you could be done working for the day, pause, take a breath, and verbalize something you are grateful for. Gratitude brings your focus into the present. If you are present, you will be thinking more clearly and creatively. How you go about this or make this happen can involve other elements, but you can begin by being present.
Remind yourself that harmony is not about perfection and that quality time (being present) is more valuable than quantity time.
Step 2: Define your values.
When you start to notice like a child, which helps you be present, you will become more aware of how you are spending your time. If you highly value physical fitness and yet day after day you don’t “make time” to work out, even if you are productive at work, something won’t feel right to you. If you value your family but not devoting quality time to them each day, you could be making more money than ever before and yet still not be content. It’s critical to define your values!
You feel less harmony in life when your time and your values are not aligned.
Open up your favorite notepad on your phone or your trusty stack of sticky notes and write them down. Your top 3-5 values should come to you very quickly if they are truly your values. What do you enjoy doing most? Do certain activities feel life-giving to you? When do you most often feel fulfilled?
- providing for my family
- my spouse
- my kids
- being in nature
- reading fiction novels
For more ideas, read this blog post in which we defined 5 ways to become more balanced. These “ways” can be thought of as “values”.
Step 3: Schedule your values first!
After reflecting on your values, make your calendar reflect them. In researching for his book 15 Things Successful People Know About Time Management, Kevin Kruse interviewed over 300 successful people including entrepreneurs, olympians and straight-A students. Interestingly, he found while there were many commonalities among them, there was one that topped the list. Even higher than rest, drinking water, and exercise, the most common practice of successful people was to “schedule everything”. As Benjamin Franklin once said,
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
To do lists are simply that, lists. They are not necessarily plans. It is important to remember your calendar is the plan for your time. Scheduling looks different for everyone, but the goal is the same: a life well-lived!
Traditionally, calendars are used to schedule specifically timed events such as meetings and appointments. However, a calendar can also be a way to provide the work-life balance, or harmony, you desire. Your calendar needs to reflect your values in order for your life to be harmonious!
Schedule your values as blocks of time first. Create recurring time blocks on your calendar. For example, if you value fitness schedule “workout” from 6-7am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with no end date. If one of your top values is time with your spouse, schedule “spouse time” to repeat daily from 9-10pm! This may seem silly at first, but as Dennis van der Heijden, CEO of convert.com said,
“There will always be something urgent, interesting and cool in the life of an entrepreneur, but children grow up and leave and so do spouses. So make time to see the growth of your children and invest time to add ‘project spouse’ to your important task manager list.”
After these values have repeated time blocks on your calendar, go through your to do list for the next day, week, month, or however you like to plan and set aside time for those tasks. Ways of doing this is varied, and different methods work for different people. But, if you do schedule those things you value first, you just might begin to feel more satisfaction and contentment in your life as work tasks and life values intertwine into a beautiful harmony.
So, Independent Freight Agents, if you desire “harmony” aim to be present in whatever you are doing by noticing yourself and your surroundings like a child. As you notice, pause to consider your top 3-5 values. Then, schedule recurring blocks of time to make sure your schedule reflects your values. You may never achieve “work-life balance” but you can have a more harmonious life, a life you enjoy, by the choices you make today.
Progress…not perfection! Your life matters!
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