Let me give you some advice about achieving balance. Stop. Seriously, this is the best professional wisdom I can give you. It's free, no prep, and it will make your life so much better.

Around this time of year, back to school, I see a lot of posts on social media asking how to balance work and life. I don't see a lot of real answers. There are the usual eat right, exercise, meditate, self-care comments. Those people mean well. And those are good things to do in our lives.

Here's the real answer - stop searching for balance.

I'm not kidding.

I mean, I can barely physically balance my toppling paperwork pile, much less my life. Once I stopped trying to achieve balance, I focused on priorities and responsibilities. That sounds really boring. But it's why I get paid, and it's part of adulting. My days aren't balanced between work and family and healthy habits. They are organized by priority.

Here are 3 reasons to change your perspective about searching for balance.

1) Life happens

Carefully balancing a day doesn't allow for life, you know that unpredictable thing where safety drills interrupt therapy, my personal kids get sick, or my car breaks down on the way to work. I know. I used to craft my days minute by minute. Anything that threw off my carefully planned and balanced day threw me off. When a student bolted, when I got 5 referrals in one day, when my computer showed The Blue Screen of Death, that planned balance was gone. All I wanted to do was veg on the couch (does anyone say that anymore?) and stuff my face in a half-gallon of Blue Bell's chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream.

Now if I get thrown off, I can still hit the must-dos and priorities. I don't have to worry that my timeline for the day goes out the window. There are days when I spend longer than 8 hours working or when some of my personal ventures and hobbies don't get touched for weeks. It's okay. Remember, I'm not searching for balance. I'm getting what I have to do done, and I will get to what I want to do. Just maybe not today or this week or month.

2) The pressure of social media

I'm mostly an empty nester with a super supportive husband. I realize I may be in a different life stage than some of you. To those of you who have young kids now, you have it tougher than I did. Social media used to be fun. Pinterest didn't come around until my kids were in middle and high school.

The pressure has been upped.

The first time I saw a Pinterest picture about a mom who blocked her kids' doorways with balloons and streamers on their birthdays so that they could burst out in celebration made me want to crawl back in bed under the covers. Guess what? I've asked my grown kids, and they both said they feel loved and don't feel slighted that their birthdays didn't go viral.

Remember that what you see on social media is what the poster wants you to see. Maybe those streamers fell down three times before staying up for the picture, or maybe the tape used to attach them peeled off some paint.Maybe the post is sponsored by a party supplier. The social media world is not your real world.

3) You really don't want balance

Think back to summer - how many times did you see posts complaining about too much pool time or wondering about balance? Zero. Not once over summer break did I think, "I'm not working enough. How do I get back into balance? Maybe I should build some time into my summer schedule for work."

We think we want balance when we are doing things we don't like. For me, and probably for a lot of you, that's paperwork. That is not why I became an SLP. Staring the pile and lists only makes me anxious and turns me into an even bigger procrastinator than I usually am.  I break the pile down into - what do I have to do today? Crossing off the list or crumpling a sticky note with an accomplished task makes me giddy. So I focus on that feeling.

You know what balance is? Guilt. Straight-up pile-it-on-ourselves guilt that we aren't spending time with our families or that we drive through McDonald's instead of grilling chicken and steaming broccoli or that we played Uno in therapy instead of making that elaborate lesson our well-meaning non-SLP friend shared with us on social media. No one needs more guilt in their lives. Give yourself grace.

Stop trying to achieve balance. Do your job. Address your must-dos and priorities. At the end of the day, ask yourself, "Did I do the best today with what I know?" If it's yes, that's great. If it's no, decide what you want to change. Don't dwell. Move forward.

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SLPs often feel stressed, and searching for work life balance doesn't help. Here are three 3 reasons to stop trying to achieve balance and still get the job done!
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