There’s a popular phrase that states “It’s not my circus and these are not my monkeys.” But do you ever feel like your life IS a circus and the monkeys are actually the least of your worries? Do you bring work home regularly or go in early to “catch up”? Do you fall into bed at night thinking, “I’d give anything to just do NOTHING for a day”? Do you long for the chance to sleep in or just go to bed before midnight? Or wish you could read more than the first three to five pages of a book?
The first thing to do is to admit that your life IS actually a circus and not only are the monkeys yours, so are the tigers, the acrobats, the dancing bears, elephants, and the clowns! The good news is that like any circus, all it takes is a good ringleader to put all the acts in their place so that everything runs smoothly.
The most important concept for attaining work/life balance is to identify pending tasks and activities and then relegate them to their proper ring or in this case, the proper time period. When you have clear boundaries or rings for each focus (act) in your life, it’s much easier to take charge and be the ringleader so that you can have multiple acts in one day but they all run smoothly.
Ring 1 for most people will be their work activities. Ring 2 is probably your family. Part of the reason most people feel they are constantly on the go is that these may have overrun their ring and are now showing up and stealing the spotlight or disrupting other rings. It may help to spend a week or two documenting how you spend your time at any given moment of the day and evening.
Tracking what you actually are doing during each hour of the day will give you a pretty clear idea which acts are taking up most of your day. Most people have two or three big top acts, typically work, family, and friends. After you do your time tracking, decide which focus is your center ring right now. Which focus takes up the most time in your day on a regular basis? Is it work, family, school, friends?
Does this fit with how you thought you were allotting your time? Do you want to have a different main focus or center ring? If work is your center ring and it’s taking up 10 or more hours per day on a regular basis, you may need to set some boundaries to keep it contained. Everyone should also have a ring for personal or time for self. This is the time you spend doing things you enjoy, things that renew your spirit.
A good ringleader is able to keep each focus or act contained within their “ring” so that focus transitions smoothly from one ring to the next without just one act hogging the spotlight (your attention). If you like visual representations, go ahead and trace circles on a sheet of paper and label them Ring 1 (center ring), Ring 2 (left), Ring 3 (right), etc. You can even write in blocks of time in each circle if that helps you.
The one other important thing to keep in mind are the monkeys and the clowns. These are the everyday distractions and the time wasters. They will run into your center ring, demand the spotlight, and wreak havoc if you let them.
Make a list of what these are for you during the day. It could be social media, email, non-stop phone calls, co-workers or friends that drop by your home or office without warning, calls from your kids after school while you’re at work, just about anything that pulls your attention away from your focus.
So, to be a good ringleader, include time for yourself daily and that includes sufficient time for sleep so you can be rejuvenated. Let each act run as autonomously as possible within their ring when your focus is elsewhere, by putting systems in place. Set boundaries to keep those monkeys and clowns in their ring or think of a way to appease them quickly and send them on their way before they disrupt your show.
Is this overwhelming? Need help in recognizing exactly what you need and want? Maybe it’s time to look into partnering with a life coach. Together the two of you will devise a plan in order to reach your goals. Sometimes we all need that unbiased person that we are accountable to.