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The 7 secrets to achieving work-life balance

Aug 24, 2023

At Bloom, we talk a lot about having “one life” and not the commonly quipped “work-life balance.” Why is that? Is that even possible? Trust that many of us had the same knee-jerk reaction like a mama bear would have protecting her cub the first time we heard that. But being faced with a perspective that challenged our own encouraged us to explore how someone could believe that. The conclusion that we’ve come to is that it is possible, but there are secrets to making it work.

1. Accept that you aren’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Unless you turn into someone new at the end of your workday, then you may want to re-think this idea that you can separate your work life and home life. Just hang in there—we know you’re ready to be dismissive. Some of us were, too. The reality is that our life is continuous, from the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep. You are who you are whether you’re at work or at home. And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that what happens at work affects how we feel at home, and vice versa. But that’s no excuse for not living a balanced life.

To encourage you to consider this perspective, think of “one life” as something that is accomplished by a work- and home-life balance. Mae West said this: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Do you believe that, or do you only believe that perspective after you’re done working for the day?

2. Reflect on your life.

Okay, that sounds really ominous. We’re not asking for you to burn sage and sit in a yoga pose while you watch the sun set (you can absolutely do that, though.) This part of the secret formula is essential for shifting your mindset. Keep this reflection as simple (or complex) as you want it to be. Notice how you feel after you’re done with work at the end of the day. Ask yourself how you feel before you start work and while you’re working. See what other trusted friends and colleagues assume about the balance you hold in your life. Consider the wishes and goals you have—what is standing in the way of you reaching them? If you’re willing to take a deeper dive into self-reflection, you may discover something about yourself that you never knew.

We’d be pretty naive to pretend that work doesn’t stop us from doing things that we want to do sometimes. Furthermore, home absolutely affects how we show up at work. Anyone who has ever experienced a loss can speak to that. What this confirms is that work affects us at home, and home follows us into work. You know where this is heading, right? One life. Personal fulfillment isn’t siloed to home or work, so take your reflections and turn them into boundaries.

3. Set boundaries and keep them.

Believing that you have one life comes with the responsibility to set healthy boundaries. Ironically, the lack of boundaries at work is what pushed the majority of us to the work-life balance conversation. Anna Lundstrom, Nespresso’s UK CEO, doesn’t believe work-life balance is possible for her. She said, “I think when you have this kind of responsibility, of course, you have to always be on. But I quite enjoy that.” If you’re a CEO like Anna, executive, entrepreneur, or manager, you may feel like balance is impossible to achieve. That’s okay. The beautiful thing about balance is that it can look different every day, and adjustments can usually be made to achieve it.

Balance through fluid boundaries

Balance may look like starting your work day at 5 AM, then taking a break from 7:00–8:00 am to get your kids ready for school. Then, you go back to work for a few more hours, running meetings, brainstorming, strategizing for the upcoming quarter, and documenting new processes. Midday hits, and there’s a decent stopping point—maybe you take a walk, go to lunch with your friend (furry friends included), or call your mom. After your break, work sets in again, but before you know it, the kids are home from school, and you’re making dinner. You read them their favorite bedtime story, then hop back online to finish up that last proposal before sitting down with your partner with a hot cup of tea. The phone rings after 10:00, and you answer it to solve an emergency, but because you have a document process in place, you tell them where to find it. Problem solved, and now you can sleep peacefully.

Balance through rigid boundaries

Balance may also look like clocking in at 9:00 am, being 100 percent on and available, taking lunch from 12:00–12:30 pm, then clocking out at 5:00 pm.

The gist here is that balance and boundaries are co-dependent, and they look different on everyone. There’s no generic balance that you have to strike. Isn’t that a relief? Only you can decide what an acceptable balance in your life looks like. You are responsible for the boundaries you set to achieve that balance. Even if you have boundaries, floundering on them (e.g., working late when it’s not necessary and missing a date with your spouse) won’t help you achieve balance. Remember, balance is achieved through boundaries.

4. Prioritize your tasks.

Keeping yourself on-task is the unsung hero of adhering to boundaries. When we have a clear picture of what needs to be done and the order in which they should be done, our path forward is clear. Without a prioritized task list, we inevitably get distracted or work on the wrong things first. No matter which task manager you use, leverage it! And please hear this—it doesn’t have to be fancy. We’re talking sticky-notes on a wall to let everyone know what’s most important. Isaiah Nolte, a dynamic leader at Bloom, sat down with his four kids to discuss what their family goals were for the next quarter. They used giant sticky-notes to lay out the goals—even the youngest one, at four years old, participated in the process by drawing pictures. One of the goals was to “buy the biggest balloon we could find and fill it with water until it explodes!” That’s a goal his whole family got behind and made happen—and no, you didn’t need a task manager, other than “Dad” and some sticky notes.

When your priorities are in line, it’s much easier to stick to your boundaries. And, you guessed it…achieve balance in your life. Even if you’re balancing on a weather balloon filled to the max with water, ready to burst, balance is possible. 

5. Define your process.

We’re unashamed of our obsession with process. Our team uses it every day to get consistent results, from onboarding excellence to internal processes. In theory, completing a task or goal doesn’t have to be complicated, but when you don’t know exactly how to complete it, you’re bound to run into frustration and inconsistent results. Process is the foundational element of a task or goal. Some are simple, others are complex. Both require repeatable steps so that you hit your goals again and again. Think big or small with this one. Whether it’s a process that the family follows at home or a process that every employee at your company follows—both yield results. If you have no idea where to start in defining your process, start with your goal and work backwards from it. Brainstorm with your key players, and document all of the people who contribute plus the materials, training, or steps needed to get there. You can always revisit and refine this process over time. The key here is to have a process in place so that your tasks don’t get neglected. 

6.Optimize your time.

Once your process is defined, you’re left with how well it’s carried out. After all, what good is a process if no one is using it? Some things are difficult to optimize, like people and relationships. Other things have room to be improved, like running effective meetings, document sharing protocols, and better communication platforms. We at Bloom are passionate and downright nerdy when it comes to optimization. It’s our secret sauce and what gets us buzzing behind the scenes. We help everyone run better meetings, measure success, optimize workflows, and promote transparency. So, we’d encourage you to find ways to optimize the steps of your process. Doing this typically opens more time in your day, creates new possibilities, and drives greater success. That’s a win-win-win we’re interested in.

7. Live your life.

If you’re not convinced that there’s a way to live one life, we understand. Really, we do. The world is filled with double-agents, Marvel superheroes, and Disney princesses that transform at pivotal times. The idea of turning one life “off” and the other “on” at a moment’s notice feels tidier than managing one life. It feels safer. But we’re quickly reminded that big risks yield big rewards. Choosing to live “one life” doesn’t mean selling your soul to your career and neglecting your family and friends. It’s a way for you to show up authentically in every area of your life. That said, it’s a perspective shift that starts with you. You’ve got to be all-in. We encourage it at Bloom because we want to see our people create new possibilities in their own lives. Our people are readers like you, our partners, coaches, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, family, friends—the list goes on. When our people win, we celebrate. A “one-life” mentality is really just a work-life balance nuanced by realizing and accepting that you are who you are at work and at home. Lean into that. Celebrate that. Find a way to win. Regardless of your job title, work hours, boundaries—you name it—we want to help you create new possibilities in your life.

Want to live one life? Start by seeing where Bloom can help.


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