You Ask. I Answer: Balancing Personal and Professional Lives

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Last week I was feeling a little desperate for content and I asked folks what I should blog about.

Here was @jrforasteros’ suggestion:

“How do you recommend a person seek out balance between personal and professional life and circles? Especially when one works for a ‘Christian’ organization, when ministry and vocation can be so closely intertwined.”

It is a great question.

But candidly this is not something I have spent too much thinking about. I guess in this arena of my life, I just do, without a whole lot of thought.

Last year I read Marcus Buckingham’s Find Your Strongest Life and this really resonated:

“Having it all” doesn’t mean having everything, all at once, all the time. “Having it all” means taking yourself seriously. It means knowing yourself well enough to find your purpose in life. It means knowing what needs to change when you sense that you’ve lost that purpose. It means having the faith to believe that change is possible and having the courage to make those changes. It means drawing strength from the relationships in your life, and, if there’s no strength to be drawn, knowing when to cut those relationships out of your life.

It means mastering the skill of using life to fill you up. That is all you can do, and it is everything you need to do.

The conventional image of a successful woman today is that she’s a virtuoso juggler, somehow moving fast enough to keep all the many aspects of her busy life in the air at the same time. Conventional it may be, but it’s also quite sad. The core skill of juggling is throwing, not catching. To keep every object in the air, you have to get rid of each one as quickly as possible, barely allowing it to register on your fingertips before you toss it up and away, preparing for the next object to throw. A strong life is the opposite of juggling. Juggling requires you to keep everything at bay, up in the air, away from you. The secret to living a strong life lies in knowing how to draw a few things in toward you. It asks you to be discriminating, selective, intentional. You can find energizing moments in each aspect of your life, but to do so you must learn how to catch them, hold on to them, feel the pull of their weight, and allow yourself to follow where they lead.

So today I find myself looking at who and what give me energy. I am working at being “discriminating, selective, intentional” and investing in the things that fill me up, rather than the things that wear me out.

I love that I work for a company who has a powerful purpose, to inspire the world. I love that my work clearly lines up with where I feel like God is calling me. I love that I have a job a career that allows me flexibility (too much at times) to do what gives me strength and the opportunity to meet people who give me energy.

I love how my worlds collide. I love that my life is out of balance. And I love the lines between working and playing are often blurry.

Because as I have said before, my ultimate goal is to make little distinction between my work and my play, to master the art of living.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” James Michener

Curious what YOU think about this. How would you answer @jrforasteros’ question? How do you create balance between personal and professional?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club. She spends her days (and some nights) laboring to end childhood hunger at Feed the Children and to gather, equip and unleash women at IF:Gathering.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I like that point too that “having it all” doesn’t mean having everything, at once, all the time. It’s more about who you are. Thanks for sharing!

  • My husband used to quote Phillipians 4:13–"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."–whenever I started complaining about having too much to do. Over the years, I've found an answer to his words, "Yes, but I can't do them all at once." I have three basic priorities in my life as I walk with God (in random order): my job as a high school English teacher, my book/blog, and my family. Everything else has temporarily fallen by the wayside and only God knows if and when I will pick some back up. I'm serious about taking enough time for myself because my priorities demand a lot of emotional effort. I do not want to burn out–that won't help anyone!
    My recent post #38 THE DOING OF PRAYING: VICTORY

  • My husband used to quote Phillipians 4:13–"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."–whenever I started complaining about having too much to do. Over the years, I've found an answer to his words, "Yes, but I can't do them all at once." I have three basic priorities in my life as I walk with God (in random order): my job as a high school English teacher, my book/blog, and my family. Everything else has temporarily fallen by the wayside and only God knows if and when I will pick some back up. I'm serious about taking enough time for myself because my priorities demand a lot of emotional effort. I do not want to burn out–that won't help anyone!
    My recent post #38 THE DOING OF PRAYING: VICTORY

    • Patricia, It is amazing that you have honed it down to the three things that are most important. I am definitely still in the process of whittling down my list.

  • great post! i think it's hard to balance the two but… over time i think i've learned a few boundaries… when it comes to work i really try to stay away from emails and calls, unless there is an emergency, after 6pm. Since i work from home i give myself room to have the morning to myself… run, work out… write… then i start working… most of all i try to take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy the time i have with my friends and soak it alllll in.

    i love my job but if i go for it 24/7 then i think that's unhealthy for everyone around me.

    i think you do a great job balancing your life:)
    My recent post Content Is King

    • these are great boundaries. i need to do a better job unplugging. for sure. but life would be boring without something to work on 😉

  • i had SUCH a hard time figuring out how to do this in DC – my schedule was madness. So God moved me down to rural (middle-of-nowhere) Georgia where there were no distractions. I learned to like balance so much…. learned to enjoy time with myself… learned to enjoy the silence…I became a professional at saying "no." B y the time i moved back up here – I didn't want to "unbalance" and complicate too much 🙂

    Five long years on the back side of a desert… oops I mean, in Rural GA … that'll teach ya! 🙂 (Actually, it was bliss and I loved it… Southern folks rock 🙂 )
    My recent post Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy? Growing Up With a Gay Father: Day 3

    • Yes. Moving helped with this a ton. It is like starting with a clean slate.

  • Thanks, Lindsey, for your insight! I think the hardest part for me (as a young adult pastor) is the "discriminating, selective and intentional" piece. I'm in a field where everyone always wants more of my time than I have to give.

    I've found that building a team is really helpful for me – there was quite a bit of backlash when I 'pulled away' from most of the persons in my ministry, but I have been able to focus on a few key leaders and begin to train and mentor them. The result – so far – has been that more persons in the overall ministry feel more valued because I've included more persons 'at the top', so to speak, who are pouring themselves into the ministry.

    I too am in love with my job, and am on the same journey of trying to figure out what the heck a healthy life – that includes career and family – looks like. Thanks again for your thoughts – glad to know I'm not the only one 🙂

    • I struggle with the "discriminating, selective, and intentional" too. A couple things I have done is be intentional with my relationships – who are my VIPs, who are my VDPs (draining peeps), and VNPs (negative peeps). I am making sure I invest more of my time & energy in the most important folks.

      Also, I have started trying to put my goals OUT THERE. That way people (online and offline) can cheer me on and hold me accountable).

      Lastly I have decided to QUIT some stuff. If I am investing in something and it is not quite "what I signed up for", I am really looking at it and thinking is this the best use of my time. Obviously our word is important but sometimes we are doing things that we don't need to be just because we feel like we have to.

      You certainly are not alone. We are trying to figure out this stuff together…

  • Makeda

    Lindsey this was a fantastic post. I am going to be chewing on these words for a long time "investing in the things that fill me up, rather than the things that wear me out." I am terrible at balancing work and personal especially since I'm single. I have workaholic tendencies and with no family to draw me out of work mode it is too easy for me to stay there all the time. I don't do well when I am in work mode for too long so trying to find more opportunities for play in my life. Unfortunately I don't think I have yet arrived at a place where I am mastering the art of living. There is still a fair amount of distinction in my life between work and play; not quite sure what that means but your post may get me down the road of trying to figure it out. Thanks for your words today. I"m sure I will come back to this post often.

    • Good luck Makeda. I'd challenge you to really pay attention this week to what AND who gives you energy. It is a great indicator of where you should be investing.

  • Lindsey this is the first time I've read your blog…and such great timing!! I recently (as in this weekend) made the decision to resign from a ministry position in my church. I love my church and I love what I do but I finally came to terms with the fact that I CAN'T do it all (still hard to admit). I have a family that needs my time and energy right now – in order to give what I need to give to them I have to eliminate some other things in my life. It was a struggle coming to this decision. Your post is very encouraging – as hard as it will be to actually do the act of resigning, I'm excited and I know it is the right decision for me at this time. Thank you for sharing.
    My recent post Home "School"

    • Chrystal, Welcome! Glad you are on the right path. Quitting is a hard thing to do (heck that word is even hard to type). I respect you for thinking through your priorities and making the right decision for you and your family.

  • I love this quote: "God will one day hold us each accountable for all the things He created for us to enjoy, but we refused to do so" Rabbinic saying.
    My recent post What's the worst job you have ever had?

  • Hey Lindsey,

    I stumbled across this post via Michael Hyatt's RT. For me, the idea of blending work and play is revolutionary. As a small business owner, I tend to compartmentalize work and play and everything else in my life for that matter, keeping each aspect in its own box. I loved the analogy of juggling the different aspects in our lives. That describes my life all too accurately. Lately, I've been spending some time reflecting on what really matters to me and trying to eliminate the rest, so this post serves as great affirmation for that.
    My recent post Friday Fruit Spotlight: The Passion Fruit

    • I know. I love that quote by Michener. It was revolutionary for me the first time I heard it (from Michael Hyatt in fact.)

  • Thanks for a good perspective on something I wrestle with regularly. Working for a mission agency often leads to the blurring of lines between work/ministry and the rest of life. There's a constant give and take. While I love where God allows me to spend the majority of my days, I know I need life and friends outside of that arena. I'm realizing the importance of play—and how much it's lacking in my life. I'm working at changing that.

  • Lindsey, I think openness, humility, simplicity and vulnerability is part of the TNP DNA, for this is a refreshingly real blog. My only comment is that, and I dare to be controversial, Jesus never did many things on earth. He did a few things exceptionally well. He confirmed that He only really came to offer a sacrifice, so even His miracles were more a means to that greater end than an end in itself. When we try too much, we lose our edge, but when we serve our life purpose we change the world. For many years I was taught that Outputs matter most. But the bible does not teach that, for Paul said, "I sow, another waters, but God adds the increase." Outputs put us under great pressure to perform, but serving our daily inputs will beget the required output – a great leader said, "I worry about the cents and the Dollars take care of themselves". That's the way to eat an elephant (mouthful by mouthful) – it also informs our lives.
    My recent post beat the email monster (tips for survival)

  • Love me some Marcus Buckingham! Wise words indeed!

    I feel much the same as you about my personal and work lives. My work is in ministry (ministry assistant) and it fulfills me in a way no other job ever has. It's not always a cake-walk, but there is NEVER a day that I dread going to work (not in 4+ years)!

    The only thing I struggle with is sometimes feeling a little disconnected from the "real world". But I think, this has more to do with my personality than my job, though. If the world comes to me, that's fine. I'll engage. But I'm not likely to get out there and search it out for myself. In a secular job, I'd be forced to interact outside my normal comfort zone on a more regular basis.

    Love the "how my worlds collide" line… 🙂
    My recent post Action Required…

    • Oh, I understand what you mean about feeling disconnected from the real world. I have discovered I LOVE being around a wide variety of people so I invest my time in several circles – some are committed Christians, others not. When my world gets too small…I start getting itchy.

  • I think we need to make sure we don't use "balance" as an idol, a way to control life and make everything fit perfectly. Doesn't leave room God's intervention. How do we respond to his call if it doesn't fit in our dayplanner: http://www.tabithas-team.com/christian_women_work

  • The difficult thing for me is separating the two. I have a hard time of doing that.
    I tend to find myself passionate about both my professional and personal life.
    But I do think there needs to be that separation and balance.
    I think that starts by making some realistic expectations of both work and personal time

    My recent post What Story Are You Living?

    • Yes, I have a hard time managing my expectations too. I have to remind myself, "High hopes, low expectations" because I have a really hard time recovering when I have high expectations that are not met.

  • Lindsey,

    This is an excellent post!! Finding your purpose, being able to discriminate while focusing on the positive… I love the emphasis on being out of balance – and just doing it.

    In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps – Proverbs 16:9

    My recent post All Things Gump

  • Thanks for the recommendation! My first glance leads me to think I need to spend more time there.
    My recent post Practicing What I Preach

  • andrea

    Great post here. I'm happy you started following me on Twitter…not sure how you found me because my Tweets are fairly pathetic…but this week, I started following you back and found your blog. This blog was a biggy for me.

    How inspiring your words are….I myself don't work for a Christian based company, although that's my dream. With that said, many of the people/artists I work with are Christian…which helps. But even then, it's different.

    This line from your blog makes sense to me, and I envy you:
    I love how my worlds collide. I love that my life is out of balance. And I love the lines between working and playing are often blurry.

    The thing is….my friends that are outside the entertainment industry don't see it that way. I put in so many hours…and yet, I cannot give God the credit aloud in my gig. That's the part I wrestle with. My artists can thank Him when accepting awards…but I cannot mention him day to day without the eye rolls.

    I could go on more sensically, but I just found this on a Sunday night and I'm pooped out. I plan to keep reading though…as we are on the same page, albeit different sides of the industry.

    Best to you, Lindsey and I thank God you found me on Twitter so I could find you.

    Hearts & Stars,
    -andrea

    • Andrea,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. So interesting to hear about the other side of things. Thomas Nelson is the first Christian company and so I know the challenges you face. Look forward to staying connected on Twitter.
      Lindsey

  • Yeah, I agree with Matt. Great post, Lindsey.
    My recent post Pay attention even when Anne Jackson doesn’t…