My readers know I’ve tried a variety of ways to find balance in my life. I’ve read books and blogs and magazines galore. There is a ton of information out there. Some things worked and some didn’t. But I kept trying and I feel like, although I’m doing a lot of juggling between kids and work and school and doctor appointments for the Type 1 kid, I’ve made a lot of progress and incorporated a semblance of balance. Here are my top ten tips for finding balance in your over-scheduled, over-burdened life.
10. Make a List
It was important that I saw, on paper, the sheer magnitude of my obligations. My daughter had doctor appointments weekly and I had to find ways to balance taking time from my job to take her. My weekends were crammed with Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) soccer games, Sunday School (for which I taught), Mass (non-negotiable), week nights were filled with music lessons, dance lessons, acting classes and the usual necessary errands like grocery shopping, dry cleaning, laundry and pet care.
After I made a list, I was able to talk with my kids about priorities and enlist their help in removing some of the obligations from the list. I asked the Church to replace me as a teacher on Sundays, Rachel decided to pursue acting in high school as opposed to soccer. We paired down our schedule and had the satisfaction of crossing non-priority items off of the list.
It’s imperative to take time away from obligations in order to find balance. I don’t mean getting up amidst a ginormous project and announce to your work team that you gotta go. I mean take a mini-vacation over a long weekend. We love to jet up to New York City for a long weekend of shopping, shows and culture. As a matter of fact, we’re getting ready to do that in about five weeks. Take a day trip and visit places around your city that you’ve never gotten to see, take in an afternoon ballgame, visit a day spa or an outlet mall. The important thing is to rejuvenate your soul by getting away from it all.
I cannot have balance without solitude. I need a day or even a weekend of absolute quiet so I can write, read and most important, think. So when my kids are away, I do just that. I don’t answer the phone nor do I make any commitments for my days of splendid solitude.
7. Lose the iPhone
Yes - this is vital to my life balance plan. I used to be that girl who woke up in the middle of the night and the first thing I would do is check my Blackberry. Not anymore. I cannot be plugged in 24/7. I need a break from the phone, email, texts and calls. I leave it in another room or on another floor with the ringer off once I get home. I might answer texts from a select few but everything else can wait.
6. Take an Inventory
Check in with yourself at the end of the day and review your behavior. If you’ve offended someone, make it right. Apologize or at least try to change the way you acted. Taking time regularly to reflect on your actions is necessary if you want to change behaviors, eliminate certain attitudes and just become a little kinder.
Planning is vital for a life in balance. I take time on Sunday nights and review the coming week. I used to cringe when I thought of doing this because I wanted to enjoy that little bit of weekend I had left. But then I realized I wanted to enjoy the whole entire week; therefore, I needed to incorporate some serious planning into my schedule. I look over my FranklinCovey planner and my iPhone calendar (yes, I have two calendars - I don’t recommend this but it really works for me.) I make sure all relevant meetings and appointments are on both. I pack my briefcase with whatever I’m going to need for the week and I pick out what I’m going to wear the next day. Makes my mornings almost a breeze! I make sure I put gas in the car on Sunday nights, count out all pills and vitamins and put them in our individual holders, sign pertinent school permission slips, review the girls’ assignments for the week and pack lunches for the next day.
4. Move it
Moving one’s body is so important in the game of feeling good. I can’t have balance if I’m feeling sluggish and cranky. With our newfound free time, we joined a fitness center. We go as much as we can and I was smart enough to pay a little extra each month to be free of the one- or two-year commitments that are impossible to get out of. At work, I get up and move around every hour or so. I stretch in the doorway or just walk to the mailbox.
I check in with my kids regularly. We talk all the time but I found that it is important to group up and make sure our priorities are aligned. If there is a problem with school, we can nip it before it becomes a runaway train. We talk about how we’re doing with our goals and yes, we even talk about feelings. It’s a great way to keep the bonds strong.
2. Leave it at the Door
I heard a story about a guy who, when he left the office at 5:00, would ball up a piece of paper and throw it into the trash. This was his way of leaving his work problems at work and not taking them home with him. I never come into the office yammering about the argument I had with my kids in the morning or how the milk spilled or the dog ran away. And I never come home discussing my work issues. Keep it separate.
1. Live with Purpose
Find your passion and live it. My passion is writing and I can’t do it enough. My other passion is helping people. I love that I can write this blog which hopefully inspires others. Someday I’d like it to grow into a book or a workshop series. My youngest daughter’s motto inspires me: if you can dream it, you can do it. That gives me purpose and that purpose helps me stay balanced.