Many of you may find yourselves on a search for a more balanced life. You wake up in the morning (late), rush to get everyone where they need to be, fritter away the day at work or work so fast and furious that the entire day is a blur, then come home to the normal after-work/school routine, veg out on your decompressing activity of choice, hit the pillow and hit the RESTART button.
Then as you lay there in bed you're thinking, I had wanted to get a load of laundry in the washer... no one loaded the dishes after dinner... I think I have a presentation or something tomorrow, what is it? I can't remember... maybe I should get up and check, but as you yawn and fall asleep another day goes by where you are slowing burning out and you feel like you're never making any real progress.
The great news is that life does NOT have to be this way! Here are 5 Tools to live a more balanced life.
Goal setting has been the biggest struggle for me all of my life. I strongly believe this is also why I always felt like I was never making any progress. I had terrible time management skills and always felt restless.
When you set a clear goal, when you can see the light way out there at the end of the tunnel, you can go in and break up the big goal into tiny, easily-achievable goals that make each day feel like a victory.
My goals often revolve around healthier living, but my tendency is to set goals that are too far out of my reach. Then on day 3 I get discouraged and deprived and ditch the goal entirely.
Pick Goals That are Manageable
I have discovered through many failed attempts that I cannot walk 10,000 steps everyday, I can't give myself a cheat day from a diet, and I can't get anything done without a detailed calendar of my day.
Therefore, I decided to set my step goal at 7,000 steps. As I began to reach 7,000 daily, I set it at 7,500. Once I began to hit that goal regularly, I set it at 8,000 and that is where I am now. In order to achieve my big goal, I needed to set smaller goals. Those include things like setting a watch alarm every hour so that I'll get up and walk around, putting an hour time slot in my calendar to go for a walk, and consciously parking the furthest away from the store, walking instead of driving, or doing yard work for exercise.
Setting these small things into my day-to-day routine makes the big goal achieve itself!
One of the most important pieces of achieving a balanced life is to become more self-aware. Just like I have learned that I can't give myself a cheat day or what is an unreachable goal for me, you are going to have to do a little experimenting and figure out what works and doesn't work for you.
Are you like me and buy a bag of potato chips and think you'll only eat the serving size, but then you turn around and the whole bag has disappeared into your mouth? Then don't buy potato chips. Do you go to work feeling inspired and ready to conquer and then get distracted for your whole morning on Facebook and Twitter? Save social media for your lunch break. Do you get home and feel so exhausted that you plop down on the couch and quietly ignore dinner, laundry, vacuuming, and organizing? Set a time limit for work when you get home so that it feels more manageable.
How to Become More Self-Aware
There are many ways to become self-aware and I have two favorites.
The first is journaling. I have been journaling since I could write. I would chronicle my day, what my friends at school were doing, things that I was afraid of, things that I questioned, mean things people said to me, frustrations I had with my parents or siblings or boyfriends. Now that I'm older and married my journaling focuses more on my job, my dreams and goals, my faith life, my marriage, and a general internal discussion of how life is going.
It is amazing what you will find tucked inside your own brain when you can release it into the world on paper. You will discover things about yourself that you never knew. You can privately hash out any problems you're having, any difficult discussions you need to have before having them, and say the things you probably don't want to accidentally say in real life.
My second favorite way is asking questions of my best friend. I have one, trusted friend that I go to for almost everything. Involving another person is extra beneficial because that person can ask you questions you may not have thought of on your own, he or she can express their outside opinion, that person will better be able to help you simply because he or she is NOT you. Any biases, stuck visions, or assumptions that you have will be quickly realized and addressed when there is someone else helping you.
There is a fantastic book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend called Boundaries. If you have trouble setting boundaries - meaning that people take advantage of you, you always say yes, you're doing a million-and-one things for everyone else but yourself - you should read this book.
Setting boundaries is essential to living a more balanced life. When you can draw a line and know when to say no, your priorities actually take priority, you and your family are well taken care of, and everything gets done. When there are no boundaries, you won't know when to say no or what you are responsible for and there will be a lot of things happening but not a lot getting done.
Who is the most important person in your life besides yourself? God? Your husband or wife? Your kids? Your boss? Make a decision, and then prioritize the other people in order. That way, if your husband is your priority and you have a trip planned together, but your boss comes along and asks you to work during your trip, the answer should very easily be "no". The boundary has been laid out and your "no" doesn't take any thought because you have already put the thought in when you laid out your priorities.
Wake Up Early or Stay Up Late
Are you a morning person or a night owl? This comes back to the self-awareness piece. Living a more balanced life will include knowing when you are at your best.
Being at your best involves your most productive time of the day, the media that most inspires you, the proper amount of rest that you need, and constantly learning something new.
If you are a morning person, try getting up on hour early and set that time to work on whatever project has been getting left behind. If you're a night owl, stay up and extra hour at night and do the same.
Prioritizing your time is just as essential to a more balanced life as prioritizing people. In order for me to appropriately prioritize my time, I use a Passion Planner. This planner allows me to set tasks in half hour intervals and map out my whole day, week, and month including goals and what the main focus for each day, week, and month is.
Normally I do a whole month at a time and simply adjust anything that needs to change as the month progresses. This goes back to the goal-setting portion. When you can see a whole month in advance, you know what tasks need to be accomplished and you can get a firm handle on your projects.
Eat Well and Exercise
These are hands down the most important pieces to living a more balanced life and, unfortunately, the most often forgotten.
When you regularly exercise, you sleep better. You're receiving a regular rush of endorphins to the brain that chemically up your mood. You're staying limber, fresh, and loose so that you don't get tension headaches, shoulder aches, or other aches and pains that make working or playing with your kids difficult.
When you eat well, your body is nourished, strengthened, and healed throughout the natural course of your day. This also makes sleeping easier and more restful, keeps your body working as it should, and slowly heals any toxins or malfunctions the body may have contracted from other bad foods or natural dangers in the air and water.
Healthy eating has its own life of balance. We eat far too much meat in America and it shows. When you put together a plate of food for any meal, half of it should be covered with vegetables. One quarter of the plate should have protein, and the other quarter should have starch or carbohydrates. You'll also want to add in a healthy fat of some sort, like avocado, nuts, dressing, etc..
Like I laid out in the goal setting portion, make exercising a part of your daily routine. Create opportunities to walk, move, and stretch. If setting aside two hours at the gym intimidates you, don't do that because you and I both know it won't happen if you're scared of it! Set something much more manageable.
I love to kickbox, so I bought an awesome kickboxing DVD that runs for 30 minutes. A half an hour doesn't seem like very much time to me and I have no problem setting that aside in my day, especially for an exercise that I love.
Wrapping It Up
In order to effectively live a more balanced life, we must each become aware of all the moving pieces in our own lives, set goals to improve our lives, set boundaries to keep our goals in line, and then make the lifestyle adjustments necessary to reach the goals.
I wish you the very best of luck in pursuing your own balanced life.