I get asked the “how do you do it” question reasonably frequently. Usually by people at the start of their careers.
“How do you do it?” is usually framed around achieving balance between work and life. I hasten to add here that whilst I might be delivering a moderately good show of balance – at least good enough to get asked the question - the reality is that I’m often playing the game of whack-a-mole, once one area of life is vaguely under control there’s usually another that needs attention.
My counter question to the “how do you do it” question is often “what do you want in your fridge?”. Because, you see, your fridge doesn’t lie. It often delivers a reality check about whether you’re managing the right balance for you. For example if you’re feeling exhausted because you’re burning the candle at both ends running around between work and friends then I imagine your fridge will have a high quantity of condiments and booze and a low quantity of fresh food. Or maybe (more accurately) a low quantity of food that used to be classified as fresh but more recently is developing mould cultures that could contribute some interesting breakthroughs in scientific research.
But what do you want in your fridge?
When I first graduated I had a clear view of what I wanted life to be like when I was thirty. One of the important elements for me was that my fridge always contained a chilled bottle of champagne. It is hyper specific I realise, but for me that meant two things:
1. I had built enough wealth that I could afford to buy champagne.
2. That I would have a broad range of exciting things happening in my life that would always be worth celebrating.
Now that I have a fabulous full time job, a wonderful (if overworked) husband, two delicious small children, two rewarding charity jobs, and the primary role looking after our busy household, I aspire to different things... My fridge right now is full of carefully planned family meals, enough exciting snacks to feed the small army of children and nannies that rotate through the house in my absence, and if I’m honest – a little more alcohol than is good form.
I long for my fridge to contain ingredients to spontaneously conjure up meals for good times with good friends. And occasionally to hold some experimental foods for never before tried it-might-work-or-it-could-be-disgusting-but-let’s-give-it-a-go culinary adventures. I know that to have those things in my fridge I need to dial back on some of my commitments and make space to be creative. My fridge tells me that. Every day.
So what does your fridge look like? Are you someone who enjoys nourishing themselves with nutritious, vitamin packed smoothies but the cloud of fruit flies buzzing around your fruit screams to you that just buying fruit isn’t the same as investing the time in yourself? Do you struggle to make space on the shelf for your food because your fellow housemates in your crowded house share got there first with their yogurt two months ago and (despite the fact that it’s now long out of date) irritatingly there’s no sign of them throwing it away? Or perhaps your fridge is mostly empty apart from a small selection of microwave meals for one?
More importantly, what do you want it to look like?
I find often that being able to articulate what you would like to have in your fridge is a useful way to express your true aspirations. Not goals or ambitions necessarily, but a reflection of the things you need to do for yourself to feed your soul. To be successful in your work, and in life in general, being true to yourself is an important ingredient. So figuring out what those things are is a good place to start.
Once you’ve worked out what you want in your fridge then the harder work begins. Build a plan to make some small changes. Wish you ate more healthily? Try to give more of your time to eating and sleeping - being overtired and time pressured doesn’t lend itself to a balanced diet. Want to be more social and share more meals? Find the things you need to stop doing so you can make regular space in your week to hang out with (old and new) friends and family.
Over time watching the contents of your fridge transform is a visual proof that you’re in charge of your own destiny.