“There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
—Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric.
A few weeks ago I had a rare opportunity to visit my old stomping ground in Pittsburgh, PA. It was an incredible three-week trip and I want to share how I balanced productivity and fun, and why this trip was so important to me.
I lived in Pittsburgh for most of my adult life until I moved to Israel seven years ago. It was there that I received my academic training, had my first job, started my coaching business, fell in and out of love, won business awards, made life-long friends, bought my first home, and created unforgettable memories. Pittsburgh is the place that I am proud to call home and my to-do list there is always exciting and overwhelming.
I am someone that loves to get things done. I thrive on checking things off my list and I could easily be accused of getting things done prematurely because I ran out of patience. Each time I come to Pittsburgh (or to Bielefeld, my hometown in Germany) I am torn between spending time with my friends and getting things done. This year the list was extremely long since I hadn’t been for quite some time.
Among the things I planned were to renew my driver’s license, get a new Social Security card, complete my taxes, meet my financial planner, meet current and old clients, officiate a wedding, go to the symphony, kayak on the river, see the Pirates, have fun with friends, empty of the attic in my house, repair and stain the deck and fence, etc. And, as it always is the case, meetings lead to new meetings and new tasks.
So, how did I get it all done in such a small period of time and still have time for some r&r? Here are my best tips for you.
Have a clear intention.
I am big on setting intentions. The more I do it the more I see their value. While on the plane I took some time to think about what the intentions were for this trip. How did I want to feel while I was getting the impossible list done? Who did I want to be and how did I want to experience my universe or the people around me? For a moment I was entertaining my fears. Feelings of rejection, failure and sadness were coming up. What if nobody was excited to see me or if I was going to do a terrible job officiating the wedding? “Well”, I told myself, “fears are part of our humanness but I decide where I want to focus. SO, I decided that I wanted to feel excited, be open to my intuition, be flexible, loving, generous with myself and others.
Set reasonable and realistic goals.
One of the deciding differences between success and failure is a realistic set of goals. If I wanted to be successful I needed to have realistic expectations and not pretend that I am Brunhilde (an amazon-like queen from the Nibelungen Saga), and I needed to have a clear list and not something vague in my head. Before I arrived in Pittsburgh I made sure that I had a clear list of goals that were specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-able. I wrote them all down on my cell phone so it was easy for me to access them. I also took the time to identify steps to make them happen. Early on, I wrote a text message to all my friends saying: “These are the things I would like to do. Who would like to join me for what?”
Of course there are a few things that fell off the list or changed but this was fine because I was able to accomplish all of my priorities.
Trust your intuition and let go.
Intuition is a funny quality as I can bring with it both upset and delight. Early on I realized that trusting my intuition was going to be a key for me. Being a co-creator with God is something that I aspire to and trusting my intuition and letting go are two actionable items that I can practise daily. I know from experience that goals can morph into better goals or that ways to achieve goals can change when the Universe gets involved. On this trip I would closely listen to my intuition and when I would hear a voice telling me to do something, I would do it.
One afternoon I needed a break from dealing with my house so I invited a friend for coffee out of the blue. During our conversation I mentioned that I needed to get my driver’s license renewed. She told me that she too had to go to the DMV and what if we did it right now. We finished our coffee and jumped into the car. A task that was stressing me out was easily accomplished with grace and joy.
Plan your time with friends
Steven Covey in his famous book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, teaches us about time management. He makes it abundantly clear that we need to schedule the important things first. If we wait for them to happen by accident, they will never happen. If you want to exercise or meditate you need to schedule it in. I know that this is true for me and therefore I made sure that I had time to be with my friends. We went to the symphony together, kayaked on the river, had meals together and went for walks. I am so blessed to have all of these wonderful people in my life. And because I planned well, I got to see people multiple times.
One of the unexpected gifts I received on this trip was falling in love again with things I used to love. People change and I have changed and our habits and loves change. It was so wonderful when I got to do the things I used to love and realize that I love them just as much or even more so because I don’t have the opportunity to do them in the same way here in Israel. Rekindling old relationships and seeing people I haven’t seen for many years brought joy to my heart. Seeing former clients soar brings out the best in me and I am deeply grateful to have witnessed the changes in those I love and in myself as well.
Next time you go on a big trip or embark on a big project, take a moment to think about the end. How do you want to feel when you have completed the trip and structure it accordingly.