The importance of balance was provided by my mom in high school. Weekends in high school were filled with attending games and parties, but was also when I was scheduled to work. My mom always told me to have as much fun as I wanted (safely of course), as long as I was up and ready to go work the next day. And let me tell you, some Saturday mornings were easier than others, but I always got up and went to work no matter how much “fun” I had the night before. That lesson in balance also helped me to graduate 2nd in my class and get voted “Class Partier”.
I carried through with balance in college, where the fun happened on more than just the weekends. I was lucky that my friends were all about fun but also all about doing well in school. We banded together to study when it was necessary, rarely skipped classes, AND had a lot of fun and we all graduated and went on to productive careers.
Out in the real world after college, balance gets harder. Our jobs become more demanding, we have a partner, maybe a family, and the must-do activities start to outweigh the fun stuff. However, it is so critical to maintain the balance between what we have to do every day and what we WANT to do. The phrase “all work and no plays makes Johnny a dull boy” comes to mind.
When we only do things we MUST do, we can experience a whole host of emotions that don’t serve us—jealousy, bitterness, anger, resentment and sadness. When we feel burdened not only with the tasks, but the heavy emotions, we are stuck in survival mode. How much are we available to others when we carry this burden? How well are we taking care of ourselves in this state? What is the quality of our relationships? I think we all know that the answers are not good.
It is vital that we have balance so we stay happy and healthy, which increases our ability to expend energy outside ourselves, creating better relationships and opportunities to be of service to others. Here are six ways that can help you create more balance in your life.
- Schedule. The must-dos, like work, are hardwired into our calendar, so why not schedule some downtime? Most of us have a calendar of some sort, either electronic or paper that we use to keep track of our days. It could be as little as 15 minutes of solitude in your favorite chair reading, taking a class, heading to the gym, or a phone call to a friend. Recording it will increase the likelihood that you follow through with your down-time, which brings us to number 2…
- Stick to the schedule. We usually don’t (or can’t) let things run over our must-dos, so don’t allow things to run over your downtime. Your time is valuable, and having a strong balance of must-dos and downtime can increase life satisfaction as well as overall well-being.
- Broadcast your availability. Letting others know when you are available will prevent things from getting double booked. If your friends know you go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday, they are less likely to ask you to go out for dinner and drinks on those days. Same thing goes for the family—if they know you are available Monday nights for car pool, then other arrangements can be made for the rest of the week.
- Create a visual reminder. I have a tattoo of the Chinese characters for “balance” on my ankle, but you don’t have to do something like that! Infusing balance into a piece of jewelry, using the word as your screen saver or on a post-it note, or having a picture on your desk of a happy vacation memory are just examples of how to keep balance in mind throughout the day.
- Say no. Now that you have your schedule of must-dos and downtime, you must protect that downtime by saying no. Don’t let “fear of missing out” make you fold like a lawn chair. There will be another game, another dinner, another play, well, you get the idea.
- Say yes. If you find yourself with way too much on your schedule in the must-do category, accept an invitation to do something fun! This may seem to conflict with #4, but it is all about balance. If you don’t have equal time dedicated to the fun stuff, you will feel burned out and unhappy. Sometimes we need that little push to get out of the house after work to spend time with friends, or to wake up early on a Saturday to do some volunteer work that makes our heart happy.
Commit to living in balance and discover all the ways living unburdened contributes to a flourishing life.
My commitment to balance was tested this morning already. Daylight savings time and fun with friends on Sunday left me with little energy to go to the gym. I could almost hear my mom’s voice from 30 years ago in my ear–I got up and went to the gym.