How do you manage your time when your schedule is hectic? How do you get yourself going when you’re stuck in a rut? Finding balance in every day life, from work and play to exercise and rest, is something I come face to face with pretty much every day. By sharing my experience and struggles, I hope to shed light on the fact that finding balance is an everyday effort and one that we all share. I don’t think it’s something you can figure out and then *boom* – you’re a master balancer. You have to constantly make decisions throughout your day, and every day is different. Even if you were to put together a seemingly perfect daily schedule… your feelings and mood are going to fluctuate and change daily. Sometimes finding balance is harder at times, but I think we can all agree that when we do feel at balance, we feel ultimately more grounded and at peace with ourselves.
One of the biggest difficulties I struggle to balance is my desire to get as much done as I possibly can, and allowing myself grace when I can’t. I often feel the need to be as productive as possible, which can leave me feeling hella burnt out by the end of the day. I am very much a to-do list person, and for the most part, I love it. I love having tiny goals for myself throughout the day and the feeling of crossing it off as I go. The trouble comes when I don’t get to cross everything off and I enter panic mode. That rush of euphoria I get when I finish everything on my list is probably slightly addicting, so when a task is left incomplete, it’s easy for me to feel bad about it. Not everyone makes to-do lists, but I think the example is translatable to other areas of life – school, making deadlines, spending time with family, giving yourself time and space to be alone, etc. When we don’t have the time for it, it can make us feel ashamed.
When I find myself jumping back and forth between the line that separates wanting to get stuff done and going easy on myself, I remind myself that there is leeway when it comes to balance; it’s not the answer to a specific math equation. Driving yourself into the dirt and burning out is just as unhelpful as giving yourself too much lenience that it turns into procrastination. If I can stay within a 15% deviation of that line, I consider that pretty good harmony.
My guide to practicing balance looks like this: Identifying what I need to balance, setting goals, sharing those goals, being aware of my common setbacks, and forgiving myself on the days that just don’t get balanced at all.
Here’s how I break it down.
Recognize what needs balance. At the end of the day, what areas of your life do you think is full? What areas are lacking? Maybe you feel socially drained and need some alone time to practice self care. Or maybe, like me, you’ve spent too much time by yourself and need some time to connect with someone. Reflect on how you feel to help you realize what needs balance.
Set goals. After you identify what you want and need to feel more balanced, you can set goals for yourself. As I mentioned, I like to make myself daily to-do lists. I think this can be kind of scary to some people. Maybe they think that if they start a to-do list, they’ll find so much to add to the list that it will never end and they’ll give up after one day. I’ve been there, and it’s not fun. Some people just aren’t to-do list people. So start small. All errands and deadlines aside, what’s one thing you want to get done that will help you feel more grounded and balanced at the end of the day? Write it down.
Share your goals. One of my favorite ways to connect with someone is to exchange goals and how you’re working on them. Sharing your progress with someone not only helps hold you accountable but it’s also nice to celebrate the triumphs and milestones together.
Identify your setbacks. What are the things that hold you back from getting stuff done and lead to procrastination? Too much screen time and losing track of time are big ones. I also like to be aware of the self talk that deters my progress. It’s helpful for me to write down the common phrases I think to myself that set me back, such as “I can just do this tomorrow” or “this doesn’t really matter in the big picture”. My most common setback is using the day of the week to rationalize getting out of something. “Thursday is almost Friday, which is basically the weekend, so I’ll start over again on Monday.” Seriously. After I acknowledged this, it was hard not to notice just how often I used this as an excuse.
Forgive yourself. It’s okay if you don’t get everything done. Honestly, it doesn’t feel good to me when I finish my goals but I basically ran myself thin getting there. Be kind to yourself.
Finding balance in life is something to be practiced every day. Creating a new habit doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to create new patterns. Like working out or painting, the more consistently I make it a habit, the easier it will get. And if I do yoga more days one week than another, that’s okay. If I paint all day one day and then don’t paint for another ten days, that’s okay. If I eat out more days one week than another, that is okay. We’re all just trying our best. At the end of the day, if I didn’t accomplish everything I had set out to do, but I know I tried my best, I’ll consider that a win.