This is the final installment in our series on leadership development for fitness professionals. This segment will show you how to prioritize your time so you can work toward balancing your personal life and your professional life. Finding the right work–life balance will reduce stress and improve productivity.
We hear about it all the time: work–life balance. First used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, “work–life balance” describes the balance between an individual’s work and personal life. With today’s instant access to technology, is it actually attainable? For many of us, our professional lives bleed into our personal lives, and the boundaries between them blur. Technology provides flexibility by keeping us connected, but it also increases the likelihood that our work does not end when we punch the time clock at the end of the workday.
Motivation, passion and focus are essential to getting things done. But without some level of balance, our stress levels rise—resulting in poorly made decisions, increased frustration and diminished gratification. Headaches, chest pain, depression and overeating are also common effects of stress. Stepping back and looking at where you spend your time can help you assess what is off balance and identify areas that need more attention. Prioritizing your time and working to maintain balance can increase your satisfaction and improve your performance in all areas of your life.
As fitness professionals, we have many roles in life: personal trainer, team member, leader, friend, spouse, parent, daughter and more. It is normal for one or two roles to require the majority of your time. Achieving balance is not about spending equal time in all areas of your life. Work may require up to 50% of the hours in your day. However, dissatisfaction and frustration can creep in when you are not spending adequate time in roles that are important to you. Once you know how you are spending your time, you can determine where to make changes to decrease your stress and increase your sense of fulfillment.
Start with this: Write down six to eight roles in your personal and professional lives. Consider the roles that are important to you, such as career, education, family and finance. Next, write down the approximate number of hours you devote to each area each week, bearing in mind that your time is not unlimited. Now, write the number of hours each week that you would like to spend focused on each role. Where do you see a discrepancy in actual hours versus desired hours? Inevitably, you will need to make some choices. If you want to spend more time working on your personal relationships, you may need to scale back some of your revenue-generating hours. There may be areas where you are putting in more effort than you’d like. If you are working toward a particular goal, consider sacrificing time in other areas until you achieve success. See the sidebar “Set Goals” for tips on setting goals and learning how much you are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve them.
If not properly managed, multitasking can produce self-sabotaging behavior. You may get an emotional high from doing a lot all at once, but it can also cause you to make mistakes or miss subtle cues. Reduce your multitasking by zoning in on the task at hand. For example, be fully present and focused with each client, participate during meetings and avoid taking phone calls or texting while you’re playing with your children. This can be a challenge, with the demands that are placed on our time. Everyone has the same amount of time in any given day; manage your own time to help you achieve personal balance.
Once you’ve prioritized how and where to spend your time, manage your schedule to safeguard that time. Try these tips:
- Structure. Use a day planner, smartphone or calendar app to plan your week. Include personal appointments, workouts and social events, as well as client meetings, training and personal time. Once you have created a structure, follow it.
- Prevention. Procrastination is the act of replacing high-priority tasks with lower-priority ones. Putting things off until the last minute, and then having to respond to them, produces an emotional high similar to the one you get with multitasking—with the same potential for self-sabotage. Take control of your schedule, and prevent procrastination by eliminating distractions.
- Order. Make a list of up to 10 tasks that you need to complete today. Rank them, starting with most important or non-negotiable. (Whenever possible, limit your big tasks to one a day.) Address the tasks in order of priority, and cross them off your list as you complete them. When you complete your big tasks first, your fun—or easy—tasks become a reward you can look forward to.
- Control. Distractions such as phone calls and text messages are often within our control. Turn devices off so that you can focus on the task at hand. Put a note on your door or send an email notifying your team that you’re on deadline and will be offline and unavailable for the afternoon.
- Privacy. Keep your personal time personal. When I am on a date with my husband, we leave our phones in the car so we are not distracted by phone calls, text messages, emails or Facebook. Protecting our time together is a priority for us because it is limited and valuable.
Keep a Daily Checklist
Managing how you spend your time each day is one step toward achieving balance. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Review your priorities, goals and daily task list. A few items on your list may need to wait, even though you really want to work on them first.
Follow these tips to stay in touch with your priorities:
- Learn to say no without feeling guilty. Planning to leave work at 5 o’clock today to celebrate your best friend’s birthday? When a co-worker runs in to ask for 30 minutes of your time, consider the situation and your priorities. If you always say no, you may regret not having help when you need it most. However, if you don’t respect yourself and your friendships, you may not have friends you can count on either.
- Have adequate support, and be flexible. Did your child wake up with a fever? Have a backup plan for your classes and clients and know what your childcare options are.
- Protect your family time, and be present. It may not be possible to completely disconnect from work after you walk out the door. Make small efforts to enjoy your time away from work (e.g., by turning off your phone for an hour once you get home). Be honest with yourself about how many times a day you’re on Facebook. It’s easy to miss out on socializing with the people in front of us when you’re engaged with social media.
- Before your day ends, review your schedule for the following day.
Own Your Business
If you think that owning your own business guarantees you a flexible schedule and greater work–life balance, think again. According to an interview conducted by Forbes, the majority of entrepreneurs work between 60 and 100 hours each week.
Fitness professionals often romanticize about how hard their company jobs are; they think that entrepreneurship offers a way out. Be forewarned: Going from a 40-hour workweek with a guaranteed paycheck to 80 hours a week with the potential for little or no financial stability can increase your stress level significantly. Most entrepreneurs will tell you that running a business is very hard work and that their workday rarely ends at 5 o’clock. However, with the right combination of motivation, passion and focus, owning your business—instead of your business owning you—can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
My own experience? After 12 years of building my company, I now own my schedule; it doesn’t own me. I certainly don’t work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, but I followed my passion, I stayed focused and I remain motivated. I strive daily to achieve balance with my work, family, friends, fitness and professional development. Every day is not perfect, but my priorities are clear.
Balancing your personal life and professional life will be an ongoing challenge, because life is dynamic. Harness your motivation and passion for work to positively impact your personal life. It’s easy to get out of balance when your energy is focused on one project. When you find yourself very stressed, step back and focus on the things that are most important to you.
SIDEBAR: Set Goals
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or own your own business to achieve balance. Take time to consider what you want out of life. Set formal goals. Think about your ideal future and turn your vision into a reality.
Use S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting for your own life, just as you help your clients set goals.
SIDEBAR: Recommended Reading
Dyer, D.W. 2006. Being in Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Kelly, M. 2011. Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction. New York: Hudson Street Press.
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