[Motivational Intro Music]
Chelsea: As we near the end of 2023, I usually spend a lot of time reflecting on my values and priorities. The problem is I have a lot of competing priorities, and it can feel like work-life balance is impossible because too many things are genuinely important to me.
Do you feel like you have a good work-life balance? Does the dance side take over sometimes? If you feel like you have too many passions or too many things that are important to you, and it's impossible to get it all done, let's talk about why work-life balance might be impossible, but I have a better plan instead.
Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea. This is Passion for Dance, the show for passionate dance teachers and coaches. My mission is to help us create happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills. But we can't do that if we, as teachers, are burned out. So if you feel like work-life balance is hard to achieve, I want to introduce you to a new idea: I call it work-life blend.
This is actually something I discussed back in 2021, but I've had so many teachers ask me for help with it recently. So I decided to actually go back in the archives and re-release this episode. If you feel like work-life balance is impossible, please listen in. I promise you can find balance if you start looking at it a little differently. It's not about work-life balance. The goal is work-life blend.
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
Our Life and Work Shouldn’t be in Opposition – 2:01
There are so many self-help books and podcasts and influencers out there telling you how to balance your work and your life so that you never feel overwhelmed or guilty. Want to know what I think? It's impossible. But not because it's impossible to balance, but because I don't believe your life and your work should be in opposition to each other.
The phrase work-life balance implies these two things are sitting on opposite sides of a scale, and in order to be happy, we have to figure out how to keep those two things balanced every minute of every day. When the scales slightly tip one way or the other, you feel guilty or ashamed or a sense of failure.
I spent years in this trap. Every time I had to cancel on a friend because I had to spend the night choreographing, or every time I had to tell my husband I wouldn't be home in time for dinner because a practice had to go late, I always felt guilty. I felt ashamed of my work in the dance world because it was taking away from other things that I also love in life. But why do we feel shame for doing something that makes us happy?
Especially when I became a mom, the shame and guilt were pretty strong. How can I go enjoy four days at a national competition and not see my toddler that whole time? What kind of mother am I? And when I'm gone with my dancers for those few days, I really struggled to enjoy myself and have fun. I always felt like I should be home with my little ones.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve this mythical balance, and when we can't do it (because be real, we can't), then we feel like a failure. “I should be able to do this. Other people have it figured out.” Or, if you're a people pleaser like me, I constantly felt like it's always out of balance and I'm always letting someone down.
It’s About Work-Life Blend – 3:49
Here's my opinion on the matter. It's not about work-life balance, but work-life blend. They are not on opposite sides of the scale, always battling for your time. Your work is part of your life. If you feel good about what's happening in one aspect of your life, the rest is not necessarily being neglected.
Whatever you define as your work, be it a traditional day job, coaching or teaching dance, staying at home with your kids, any of that, that work is not in opposition to your life. What goes in that “life” category, anyway? When we say work-life balance, What does the “life” part mean? Self-care, time with friends, or social time with family, maybe?
But when I really think about it, I believe my work includes my life with my family as a wife and a mother (there are some aspects of that that is just work), and my life includes my passion for dance. There's some of that aspect in the dance life that is a what brings me so much joy. So it's a blend. What I do at work is a big part of my life, and it's part of what makes me who I am, and it doesn't take away from how I experience life. It's part of my life.
What Are All of the Categories That Make Up Your Life – 5:04
Okay, with that little rant out of the way, there is still a real struggle to feel balanced with how we spend our time, but rather than thinking about work and life as separate things, what are all of the different categories that make up your life and take up your time?
Here's mine, for example, in no particular order, because there is no order, right? Here are my categories: self-care, mom life, husband, professor, entrepreneur, social and friend time. And now, rather than feeling guilty, if I need to spend a little more time in my business this week because I'm traveling to two different workshops, I can embrace that. I know it's part of the balance, and when I'm home, I'll add some extra mom time, a date with my husband, and maybe make sure I call my best friend just to talk.
Yes, time spent in one area of your life is time away from another, but they are all part of your life, and trying to battle for this perfect percent balance is impossible, stressful, and doesn't do you any good. Instead, here's how I have come to peace with work-life balance and feel no more shame about how I spend my time. (Well, most days. I'm a work in progress, okay?
Using a Planner – 6:14
I'm a big fan of a physical planner, but recently, I will say, I have moved to a different digital calendar method based on what I learned from a time management expert, Kelly Nolan. (I will link up her information in the show notes here. Check her out.) You can do this however you want; whatever planning method works in your life.
When I put things in my planner (and I put everything in there), it gets a color code based on those categories I was talking about: professor stuff, mom, me time, social time, dance work.
Then every month, I visually stop and take stock and what that month looked like. If there's a whole week with no blue, which is my social and friend time, then I make a point to text a friend and set up a date for the next week. If there's a week with a lot of purple, which is my business, then I make sure to add in a one-on-one date with my son to the trampoline park, because it probably means I've been working nights a lot.
It's a great visual representation of the balance that I hope to achieve, keeping in mind what's really happening is a blend. I can easily see where things might be off and make corrections right away, rather than waiting until I feel guilty or burned out. It also reminds me that every aspect of my life has phases of time where I need to be more focused in that area, and that's okay. I'm not going for a perfect percent splits every week. Things are going to be more in one category, less than the other, and it changes up. Instead, the goal is more of a global picture of how I spend my time and adjusting it when it feels off.
But here's the important part. There is no perfect balance to be achieved. It's an ever-evolving process, and what matters is that I check up on it and pay attention weekly and monthly. Sometimes there will be a lot of orange, which is my professor work, like finals week. But I don't feel guilty about the relatively less social and friend time. Instead, I accept that week for what it is. It's a necessary part of the job. I make sure my time is distributed differently the next week.
Work and life are not opposite things. They are part of who you are, and likely not the only part of who you are. Especially if you're in the dance industry because you love it, I argue what you do in dance is part of your life. It's not that coaching and teaching needs to be in better balance with the rest of your life. It's one category in your life, and when we view it as this thing that means I don't have time for anything else, then we start to harbor those negative emotions about our dance life.
Evaluate How You Spend Your Time – 8:43
Now, I'm sure some people may be thinking, “But my dance life does take away from time with my family or my sleep or my other job,” and maybe it does. I encourage you to evaluate how you spend your time. Monitor it for a week or a month. See how the different circles in your life balance out or don't. Make adjustments as needed. But know that there are likely more than two categories.
Work is part of life and life is part of work, and the challenge to stay balanced never ends, so that shouldn't be your goal. Instead, it never truly ends, honestly, and every week will shift and look a little different. But if you're aware of how your time is spent between the things that matter to you, and you make choices about how to spend your time rather than letting your calendar run your life, then the guilt and overwhelm will start to fade.
You are in control of your calendar. It may not feel like it, but in truth, you decide. If you need to say no to a coffee date you only kinda sorta want to go on, or no to sitting on a committee you don't really want to for work, but you feel like you should, those are choices. Ultimately, you choose how to spend your time. You choose what to say yes to and what to say no to, and if you are purposeful about those choices, there's no reason to feel guilty about whatever your choice is.
There’s No Shame in Failing at Work-Life Balance – 10:01
Here's my take-home message for today. There is no shame in failing at work-life balance because that balance doesn't exist. You only fail when you let others control your calendar and don't make clear choices about how you spend your time.
If coaching and teaching is part of your life, it's one category. Give it the time it deserves when it makes you happy. Don't feel guilty when it takes time away from other things, if it's intentional and you still enjoy it. It's your life and your choice to spend time in the dance world. But I also encourage you to step back and see the big picture. If you're unhappy with how you spent your time lately, take control and make new choices, that way you feel a better blend between all aspects of work and life, and you're able to continue to share your passion for dance with the world.
[Motivational Outro Music]