How coaches can avoid the work-life balance trap

For coaches, the goal of achieving work-life balance is a myth.

This idyllic state of having time to do everything and everything in its time is always just around the corner. Many work a few extra hours now thinking it will get them closer to the work-life balance dream. Then they do the same next week, and the next, and the next. The sought-after balance gets no closer.

The problem is that balance is not something you achieve, it’s something you either have or don’t have. When thought of as a fixed goal it represents a state of future equilibrium that is simply not attainable. So many people use balance as their goal to work towards without fully considering it.

Being pulled between work and life is natural, especially when you run your own coaching business. So rather than looking for a mythical state of ‘balance’, we should be balancing, compensating, adjusting how far and how often we get pulled back and forth between work and life.

Person walking in woods

The quest for balance never ends

Work-life balance is very appealing. Imagine having time to get everything done and still have time left over for the things you love. Notice how good that makes you feel just reading it.

Working hard to get to that point means you’ll always be working hard. Unless you change how you work you’ll perpetually be working towards ‘achieving’ balance when you should be focused on balancing along the way.

I just need to finish this

We’ve all said it. But working now to enjoy time off later is a risky strategy. One of the reasons you’re a freelance coach is so you can be in control. So if you don’t take control and make time, when do you see the benefit of being in control?

Being a coach means you will always have something on your to-do list. In the desperate attempt to ‘get more done’, to get more ticked off, items such as marketing are often pushed down the list.

Putting off ‘time off’ to squeeze in more work isn’t going to make things better, it makes them worse.

"Multitasking is an opportunity to screw more than one thing up at a time" - Steve Uzzell

Get comfortable with balancing

Author Gary Kellar tells us that nothing is ever truly in balance; it’s always being pulled one way or another. Just like running your coaching business, there is no magic, perfectly poised middle way. Sometimes you’re pulled one way, sometimes the other, and sometimes you focus on work or life to compensate and maintain your overall ongoing equilibrium.

Leading a rewarding life requires that you dedicate time to things and focus on achieving them. To maintain balance when you spend time on one it must then be counterbalanced by working on the other. The act of keeping your balance requires you to embrace being pulled in two different directions. It’s easier to do this when you’re focused on an achievable goal towards which your balance will lead you.

Person balancing on tightrope

Know where you’re going

To effectively balance your coaching work and your life, you need a goal to work towards that you can achieve. Defining a goal for what you want to achieve is the first step in getting better at balancing.

Imagine a tightrope walker. They focus on a fixed point ahead of them to help them balance. You can do the same to help you balance by setting an achievable goal at a point in the future. It is most effective to set two goals, one for life and one for business.

It’s no surprise that your life and work goals should align to some degree, otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time travelling a path that will lead to achieving both of them.

Goals are best achieved when your work goals help you realise your life goals. This motivates you in your coaching work as you can see how it progresses you towards your life goal.

Think of where you want to be in 3-5 years’ time, what does your life look like? What does your coaching business look like?

Turn this vision into your two reasonable goals, then plan how you can use your business to help you achieve them. Your coaching work should be compatible with achieving your goal, not leading you in a different direction (a situation that definitely is not balanced).

Defining compatible work and life goals enables you to work backwards from them and plan out a route that will lead you to both – a route on which you can step first to one side, then to the other, and so on – like the tightrope walker.

Having a balanced route in mind enables you to say no to things that won’t take you in the right direction. Things that you might have previously said yes to, but can now see are actually pulling you off balance.

Francine Jay

I’ve got too much to do

All coaches know the feeling of having too much to do. To resolve this you either need someone to support you or have less to do. Both take time to achieve but both are possible with focus.

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but to have less to do.” – Francine Jay

Getting help with your workload without first setting goals is a short term fix for two reasons: 1) without the goals to guide you, who’s to say your ‘helper’ is doing the right things (and not just the things you don’t like doing), and 2) lacking a clear direction, the chances are you’ll just quickly fill up your to-do list again with other tasks.

A better, long term fix is to change what work you’re doing, so you have less to do. We work with coaches, to show them how to attract better clients, who see the value in what they do, with effective marketing. By learning how to market effectively, you can save a lot of time. You won’t waste time trying to learn about what works and what doesn’t. You won’t spend time making content or posts that get no engagement. You won’t spend as much time talking to clients who are the wrong fit. Effective marketing will bring you leads who are pre-sold on what you do and the value, insights and objectives you deliver.

Future you

Defining your work and life goals will help you focus. It will enable you to manage how far and often you get pulled towards either work or life. Clear goals help you focus on doing the most important things for both work and life. If you focus on the most important things and let go of the tasks and distractions that pull you off balance, a more balanced future you will emerge.

It’s a balancing act

Don’t think of work-life balance as being a fixed state that you will one day achieve. Think of it as a balancing act that you get better at over time. We are all of us always on the high wire and it’s so much easier to walk with balance and equilibrium as we go when we have clear and compatible goals in our sights.

If this blog post has got you thinking then you’ll love the content, conversations and events we host within our community of coaches.

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