Work-life balance, it’s kind of unicorn-ish isn’t it? Forget the latest designer handbag, for many women (and men) the concept of work-life balance is the “new black” in terms of status symbols, worn a bit like a medal. But is being able to perfectly balance your work and personal life really real? ‘Having it all’ seems to have become ‘doing it all’ which obviously is about as attainable for most of us as looking like an Instagram #fitspo star, cooking like Nigella, and hustling like Gary Vee all at the same time. And yet we still try, feeling a little guilty when we don’t quite get there. So, it’s time to lose the guilt and be OK with being out of balance, says Samantha McLean.
I question what people say when they talk about the balance between work, family, and let’s call it “me time”, as trends come and go in any industry, so many of us say what we think we should, or what we think our peers want to hear. However, this has consequences. Rita Brown said, “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” So if you’re struggling right now or if you’re feeling as though you’re spreading yourself too thin between work and family and tearing your hair out but feel you need to maintain a veneer of somewhat perfect, this one is for you.
A couple of months ago, I was slumped in my hairdresser’s chair with my laptop on my lap with cape on, half falling asleep and in all honesty, I wasn’t much in the mood to talk that day. I was in the middle of kicking off Transform 2017, trying to get to the gym to see a personal trainer somewhere between 3-4 times a week, feebly attempting to look after my health by eating properly and easing up on the wine at night, trying to be a good mother to a teenager, all while getting up at 4.30am to write/edit #thebrief every day, run a business, and oh yeah there was a deadline looming for the upcoming issue of the print magazine. It wasn’t always the way, but I at least I now have a supportive husband who works alongside me and is frankly a superhero, but at this time, he was pretty much in the same boat as me, and we were both feeling pretty sad and burnt out. There are many women that say it’s “great support that they have” but not everyone’s that lucky. (That may be a story for another day.)
Ironically, even at that moment in the chair, tired as I was, I was still trying to look alive and have a reasonable conversation with Nat, because I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ – that person that came in every month and sat quietly working away and not talking to anyone because I had that much to do; that I was too busy to hold a simple conversation. I just didn’t want my life to look like that, even though the truth was I didn’t really have sh*t together.
But instead of rabbiting on about the usual topics of the weather, everyone’s health and the property market I decided to be honest about how tired I was (what a relief) of trying to be all things to all people. Nodding, she said she’d heard of this article about a new-ish idea called ‘tilting’, where it’s OK to not go after the unattainable “balance”, not have to “do it all”, and simply tilt in the direction of where you feel like you most need to be. And then, when done, tilt in another direction where the next period of focus is needed.
I went and researched the article by Sarah Wilson (I Quit Sugar) she was talking about which was based on a study by Marcus Buckingham in 2009, “What happy women are doing differently”. And suddenly it made a fair bit of sense to me: happiness is really just about putting energy, when required, toward the things that matter. Temporarily ’tilting’.
So, I thought, OK I’m going to try this. I sent a message to my trainer that afternoon and told him he wasn’t going to see me for a week or so while I finished the magazine. I got online and ordered a week’s worth of Thrive dinners for everyone so the cooking was taken care of. Bunkered down and got focused on the magazine. That week was tilting to work. So with the majority of my focus on one thing, I found I was able to get through deadline without going crazy. The following weekend, with the magazine out of the way, I was free to spend quality time with husband and daughter and in the kitchen doing something I love – cooking. Tilt towards family. The following week, I called my trainer and was ready to put the gloves back on and get down to trading punches with him again without feeling exhausted before starting. Tilt towards health. Did I feel guilty about any of it? No, because the word ‘tilt’ by definition feels temporary: I’m doing what I need to be doing at any given point in time and the other parts of my world got a whole lot better when I had more brain and body power to focus on what my priority needed to be at that point in time. And I found it actually felt good.
A couple of weeks later I found myself having a similar conversation with Leanne Druery, who as one of the Transform Supersix this year, about half way through confided in me she felt somewhat guilty about the amount of time she was spending on her career. She’s lost her husband of 22 years to cancer last year and after taking a big work time out to be his full-time carer, she felt as though she needed this time for herself. Importantly, she is now the sole parent of two teenagers who also need love, care and attention. So even without Transform, she was by definition “busy”. She asked me if I had any advice on how to juggle all of it. Having just experienced a bit of hope through my recent experiment, I said to her “Try looking at it as tilting,” and explained the concept to her; especially in terms of thinking that Transform itself is just a temporary tilt towards career, and with Easter coming up it would be a good time to take a break from Transform and tilt towards the kids. All of a sudden the light bulb went on for her too (and she has mentioned it a couple of times since) and it became one of the things that possibly contributed to her success mindset throughout the competition, that permission to tilt one way, then another, without the feeling like spreading herself too thin over all parts of her life was the only option.
Publishing is not a nine-to-five job; neither is real estate (nor are most small businesses!) Sometimes the job will demand more of you, sometimes less. On the lead up to AREC, once again I had to tilt the way of work to get a magazine out and onto a truck up to the GCCEC. But once we got through those deadlines, it was time to tilt back to the family and a couple of cousin catch ups that were well overdue. Now we are home from AREC, it’s time to tilt back to thinking about what we want the next six months to look like. Calmer seas than normal – which is something to look forward to, hopefully not as many waves to tilt our way through.
The moral to the story. Enjoy those times when the seas are calm and in balance and you can comfortably spread yourself around. But when ‘life’ happens between those times, instead of attempting to be superwoman or superman (I have a feeling this works for blokes too) put down the juggling balls and give yourself permission to be out of balance, know it’s temporary, and tilt wherever you need to.
How are you feeling right now? Health and wellness in real estate is a conversation that is growing. Don’t forget to complete Jet Xavier’s wellness survey and if you want to talk about Tilting at all email me [email protected].