Can you do it all? Can you have the body you want, the energy you need, the clarity and focus you depend on to be a good hairdresser, spouse, parent, businessperson, and friend?
Balance happens when we are achieving and enjoying something every day in all the important areas in our lives. As a result, a good working definition of work/life balance is, “Meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in work, family, friends, and self.”
Achievement and Enjoyment
Achievement and enjoyment beg the big question, “Why?” Why do you want more money, more time, more space… why do you want to do a good job at work – or go to work at all?
Achievement and enjoyment are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have achievement without enjoyment; a one-sided life is why so many “successful” people feel that something is missing.
Enjoyment does not just mean having fun. It means pride, satisfaction, happiness, celebration, love, well-being – all the joys of life. Focusing on achievement with enjoyment helps you avoid procrastinating your own satisfaction, or getting around to it “as soon as ___________ happens.”
Create balance at work by choosing not only to achieve but also to experience the joy of the job. If nobody pats you on the back, pat yourself on the back, and help others to do the same. When you get things done and enjoy the doing, it attracts people to you and your team.
Body and Mind
Haircolor entrepreneur Beth Minardi has this advice for stylists, especially women: “Be good to yourself and focus on your health – rest enough to work with focus. Women CAN do everything, just not all at the same time. Eat veggies, take hot baths, and take good care of your skin and hair! Enjoy being a woman as well as a working woman!”
A healthy lifestyle is essential to coping with stress and achieving balance. Stress adversely affects the immune system and can aggravate medical conditions and increase the risk of substance abuse. So:
Eat well. The Mediterranean diet – though there is no one diet for everybody – emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein that enhance knowledge retention, stamina, and well-being.
Sleep well. When you’re tired, your productivity and clarity suffer, tarnishing your professional reputation or leading to costly mistakes. Sleeplessness increases stress. One suggestion: Avoid using personal electronic devices just before bedtime. The blue light they emit decreases your level of melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep.
Have fun and relax. Reserve daily time for something you enjoy – even better if it includes exercise, or creates time with a partner, family or friends.
Bolster your support system. Join forces with co-workers who can cover for you – and vice versa – when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist allies to pitch in when work or travel commitments arise.
Exercise. Reams of articles suggest ways to start your day and have the perfect morning routine. But if you did them all, your day would start at about noon. Prioritize your exercise: Most people find that if they don’t do yoga or work out in the morning, it’s harder and harder to fit it in. Start with one small change (hitting snooze only once?) and watch it impact your day in a big way.
You can’t create time where there is none, but you can set limits on the time you do have.
Manage your time. Cut what you don’t enjoy or can’t handle. Organize household tasks efficiently; run errands in batches or do a load of laundry every day rather than saving it all for your day off. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
Make lists. Put family events on a weekly calendar, and keep daily to-do lists both at home and at work. A plan helps you maintain focus; without one, it’s easy to be distracted by other people’s priorities.
Learn to say no. Spearhead an extra project? Organize a school event? Feed a neighbor’s pet? it’s OK to respectfully say no. Quit accepting tasks out of guilt or obligation to create more time for you.
Leave work at work. Boundaries won’t happen unless you create them. On the way home at the end of a day, spend the first half revisiting your work day, and at a certain point (it could be a physical landmark or a time limit) shift into thinking about what awaits you at home (hopefully, not more stress). Arrive mentally “there” when you walk through the door.
Reduce email access. Limit checking emails to three times a day (easier for hairdressers than others) so that you are less likely to respond to other people’s issues rather than being proactive about your own.
Shorten commitments, minimize interruptions. Most people can’t sustain optimal concentration for more than 90 minutes, after which, the ability to retain information decreases dramatically. When interrupted during a task, it takes up to triple the time of the interruption to regain full concentration.
Skills and Goals
Over a decade of research by the Ford Foundation and others shows a “dual agenda” to be successful for both improving organizational effectiveness and enabling individuals to more fully integrate work and personal life. In other words, developing skills at work for dealing with customer-, project-, and time-management are transferable to accomplishing family, personal and community objectives as well.
Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding – and unrealistic.
There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance! The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow, different when you are single than when married, different when you are starting a career or nearing retirement. It’s a continuous process as life changes. Periodically examine your priorities – and make changes, if necessary – to make sure you’re on track.
Case Study: Henry Graham, Hairdresser, Los Angeles
Henry works from a small boutique salon in East L.A. “Moving away from corporate salon world after years of being in it was a big push for me to create my own version of ‘salon life.’”
The business of hair was where he needed to find balance. His solution: “As an independent stylist, and managing my own business, I give myself one day a week to set myself up and make sure everything is in order. That one day allows me to be present for my clients and not think about everything else.”
When asked about what he enjoys outside of work, he answers, “To be honest, I’m one of those stylists who really love what they do. Luckily, my hobbies don’t allow me to have a phone or scissors in my hands to create an instant disconnect from work.”
On maintaining a balance between stress and health: “15 years in the industry has taught me to be kind to myself. I respect time off and allow myself to recover from ‘salon time’. Even finding moments in a taxi or a plane to take some breaths and clear my head are cherished times. My mental state is very connected to my body, so being aware of burnout is part of staying healthy.”
Relationally, Henry supports the “put your oxygen mask on first” rule: “Finding my own balance takes work on its own. Outside influences and other people’s imbalances can distract me. Staying focused on my own life and work is easier than take on someone else’s. Supporting another’s dream is different from figuring it out for them.”
Case Study: Steven Peterson, Hairdresser, Salt Lake City, Utah
Steven is working to balancing being the owner of two salons and spending time with two children aged 8 and 3. But he is realistic about those demands: “Balance is a worthy pursuit, but it’s important to understand that holding ourselves to a particular standard can set us up for disappointment because it may not be realistic.”
“I spent the last few years developing new businesses, and I definitely fell out of balance during that time,” he says. But he knows why he made that choice. “When I evaluate what I'm currently doing, is it supporting my core set of values? I wanted the businesses because they are ultimately going to support my goal of creating flexibility in my work life so I can have more choices about how I spend my time.”
“I can say, ‘I just had an 80-hour week managing employees or doing clients,’ and that’s okay. But I can’t get into the trap of doing it all the time when it is not supporting my core goals. I haven’t perfected it yet, but I recognize how valuable setting a solid schedule is, including the things that you wouldn’t think you need to schedule. Those seemingly no-big-deal things end up chipping away at parts of my life that they shouldn't interrupt. Having very deliberate times to manage the minutiae has been really helpful.”
A challenge that threatens Steven’s balance is something we all need to be mindful of: “Simply comparing myself to somebody else’s version of balance, or to their life in general. We communicate so quickly and freely with social media and it has heightened that sense of comparing. This idea of a perfect life without sadness, strife, or challenges is not reality.”
I feel I have entered a moment of steady progress, as opposed to the sweeping change over the last four years. I’m learning to recognize that ‘one foot in front of the other’ is all I really need, and that creates more harmony in other parts of my life. There are things I would like to do with my business, but I miss out on so much if I spend too much focus there.”
Steven’s current goal is to try to be at the salon less. “My wife is currently staying home, and she would love less kid time while I would love some more. We might try and work on that.”
Case Study: Kara Field, Hairdresser, Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
Kara has found the ultimate life/work balance by building a studio to work where she lives – a situation requiring crystal-clear boundaries. “I just recently got to the point where I can say ‘yes, I have found balance!’” she reports.
“A home studio allows me to create my own hours that work for our family. I used to believe that hairdressers are destined to work on Saturdays for the rest of their careers, and I am so happy to finally break free from that belief. With the help of my business coach Britt Seva and the Thrivers Society program, I am learning how to create the business of my dreams!”
Kara has a multi-faceted practice doing what she loves – hair, Reiki, and card readings. “However, I don’t want to do it all every day and burn myself out,” she cautions. “I used to work 8 to 12 hours a day; now I work 5 to 6 hours and I feel that I am far more creative. I get more time to spend with my family, reading, moon-gazing, and gardening.”
Kara practices what she preaches. “I focus on a mind/body/soul approach to wellness. I have extended my passion for healing to offer holistic services in addition to hair. I have never felt truer to myself and the gifts I am able to give through my hands.”
The rituals that balance her own body and mind include yoga, meditation, Reiki, and reading cards. “I like to think I am fairly in tune with what’s going on in my mind and body,” she says. “I’ll cleanse, ground, and connect with myself whenever I feel a bit off.”
Threats to her carefully-calibrated balance come in the form of “self-limiting beliefs, shifts in the family schedule, or illness moving through the house. It’s so easy to get bumped off-track and lose focus when things get crazy.”
Kara realizes that one can’t do this kind of work without help. Aside from business coaching, she claims “The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins changed my life! I listened to the audiobook this past winter and it really helped to shift my mindset. Action is the key to success! I use it constantly to get motivated when I am feeling the opposite or when those self-limiting beliefs creep in.”
Like Henry and Steven, Kara has become more organized and uses her time efficiently when sitting down to work on business as crucial to overall work/life balance.
Kara’s experience is proof that balance isn’t mythical, or even elusive. “It takes a serious mind shift,” she says. “Work smarter, set healthy boundaries with people, and don’t be afraid to say no to others – and yes to yourself.” We say yes to that.
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