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Achieving Balance Through the Ups and Downs

See SawAchieving balance with your work is a difficult task. There are busy periods and slow periods. Many times we seek to make the busy ones less busy and the slow ones busier by adding work. If that approach isn’t working for you, perhaps it’s time to embrace the highs and lows.

Sometimes life is frenetic. Sometimes it’s slow. We all want to achieve “balance” in our lives but it’s difficult to do so through all those ups and downs.

We falsely believe “balance” is a Goldilocks thing – not too busy, not too bored, but juuuust right. We try to manage the busy periods to make them less busy. We make the slow periods busier. We do all this in a futile effort to get our lives into that range of “just right” but it never seems to play out. Why?

It doesn’t play out because we mistakenly believe we have control over our lives. Control is an illusion. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to achieve a sane sense of balance. But it’s not balance as you might be thinking about it. It won’t be in that “comfortable range” every day. To achieve the balance I’m talking about, you have to look at balance differently and therefore approach it differently.

First, the busy periods will always be busy.

Second, the slow periods will always be slow.

Third, control is an illusion and you can only do so much to manage those busy and slow periods.

Once you accept these points as axiomatic, you can unlock the secret to balance. It’s a pretty simple method.

Embrace the ups and downs.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

When things are busy as all get out, go heads down and knock things out. Take distractions off your plate to the extent you can but accept you’ll only be able to reduce the chaos on the margins.

When things are slow, don’t spin up a bunch of activity so you feel busy. Embrace the slow. Let your mind and body recharge because inevitably one of those busy periods is right around the corner.

Sure, this approach means you can feel a bit whipsawed from busy to bored but if you expect it and go with it instead of resisting it, you’ll adapt to it more easily than you might think.

In my business, things can get crazy. I can be on the road for many weeks in a row. Add to it writing a ton of proposals, creating new courses, forging new partnerships, writing new books, writing this blog, and dealing with all the administrative things that come with a busy period. When my workload spikes, I cut out the simpler or less important work (which is why I missed writing a blog post last week – in the grand scheme of things, many other priorities were ahead of it and I needed a little bit of workload relief). I then embrace the busy period. I go full tilt toward getting things done and doing great work. My performance peaks during those periods.

Then the slow period hits. No travel, books are completed, blogs are caught up, and the inbox is slow. Do you know what I do during the slow times?

I nap.

Seriously. Naps. I take it easy. I binge watch Netflix (by the way, The Flash, Arrow, and Jessica Jones are all awesome series – check them out during your next slow period). I enjoy the quiet as much as I can knowing full well another burst of work is around the corner.

During the slow period I also try to take care of the lower priority work I might have to cut during the next busy spike. I’ll write a ton of blog posts and slate them to publish over the period of a few months. I’ll fight back the inbox to the smallest number possible (I got to Inbox 7 the other day). I’ll sow the seeds of future busy periods by catching up on correspondence with clients and prospects.

But I enjoy the slow periods as long as I can without losing my mind. For me, I can go about 4.5 weeks before I get “itchy” to get busy again. I think this mostly happens because I’m an entrepreneur and eventually I need to make some money so maybe I’m just feeling the heat of a mortgage payment. The slow periods are my respite. I relax to the best of my ability and I prep for the next sprint knowing full well it’s coming.

Over the long haul, I have balance but not in the traditional sense. When you net out all my busy and slow periods, it’s a manageable average. I simply operate well in the extremes of it.

If you’re struggling to find that daily balance, perhaps it’s time to abandon that approach and ride the highs and lows. You might be better suited to that approach than you think.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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Photo: she saw by Hiroh Satoh

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