Because life is such a multifaceted experience, achieving balance can be an extremely difficult challenge. Let’s face it, there is a lot to do and only so much time and energy to go around.
I’ve often thought that it would be nice to have an extra day in the week. Not just a normal day, but one that wasn’t counted and didn’t show on the calendar. Imagine, a totally free day to use however you wanted. What would you do with your extra day? Here’s something else to think about…
Why does the “free day” concept sound so good?
Isn’t it because there never seems to be enough time for everything? And why is that? It’s because we let work expand to fill the time available. This is why we convince ourselves that more time would solve the apparent shortage and allow us to get everything done. But is that really what would happen?
I don’t think so!
You see, if we only had six days in a week, then we would say the same thing about the possibility of having seven. Oh, if I only had an extra day so I could get everything done. It wouldn’t matter if we had 8, 9, or even 10 days in the week, we would still let work expand to fill the time available. That’s because…
Productive people always have a backlog of things they want to get done. That’s a good thing, unless we try to squeeze them into our schedule too tightly. When we do that it changes the dynamic of everything. You can only pack so many “to do things ” into your day before something has to give.
Compression always creates a rise in pressure
Doing more, more, more is not the answer. In fact, neither is continually operating at maximum capacity. There’s a name for that approach. Maybe you’ve heard it, it’s called STRESSED OUT! And it is often followed by a close cousin named BURNED OUT.
Have you been down that road? If so, then you probably realize that stressed out is not a very productive state, and burned out is actually counterproductive. Oh, you can probably function under increasing stress for a while, but sooner or later it will bite you. What happens when you try to do 15 hours worth of work into an 8 hour work day? Unavoidably, the pressure (stress) goes up, it’s the law of compression. Adding an extra day won’t change things because…
It’s not about time, it’s about balance!
Balance means that we portion our time and energy in a way that benefits our whole life. We get out of balance when one aspect of our life is stealing time and energy from the others.
To be balanced, we need to give sufficient attention to all of life’s important areas, including our physical, emotional and spiritual well being. We need to be creative, as well as productive. We need to care about what is going on in the lives of those around us instead of just focusing on the task at hand. Balance means that work is just a part of the picture, not the whole panorama.
You need to make a choice
Let’s face it, you can do quantity or you can do quality. If you want to do both, then you need to hire some good people. Otherwise, it’s one or the other, that’s just the way it is. To raise the quality of your life in all of the important areas requires you to set certain limits.
If you have a family, a business, and a few other obligations, then you have more than enough to do. Not only do you need to balance your time and energy in those areas, but you also need to avoid adding to the mix. Life is about choices, and sometimes that means being able to say no.
A universal truth
Quality always takes longer, it can’t be rushed. To have a quality family life you have to be willing to invest your time and energy. The same applies to your business. Do you want to maintain optimal health? That takes time as well. Everything done well takes time and time is something you only have so much of. So here’s what I suggest…
Do less, but do it better
This is the only reasonable approach to a life that is both high quality and balanced. Limit the number of commitments, so you can feel good about being deeply involved in the areas of your life that really matter. You will experience fewer distractions and feel less hurried. This will automatically bring a greater sense of joy and meaning to everything you do.
Learning to filter out the activities that don’t really matter is a great way to create more time and energy for the things that are truly important.
Here are a few simple guidelines for incorporating balance into your life.
1) Set priorities. Make a list of everything that you do with your time and energy, and then figure out your top priorities. Be realistic as you assign a value to each activity. Ask yourself, “Does this really contribute to the quality of my life?” If there is any doubt, toss it out.
2) The highest priorities get the majority of your time. Don’t allow incidental activities to consume large amounts of time. If it is a low priority, that means it gets a very limited ration of time and energy. If you don’t put limits in place, you will waste valuable time on things that don‘t really matter.
3) Make a plan and stick to it. If you have scheduled family time, don’t let the predictable “something unexpected came up at work” change your plan. In your heart you already know how valuable your family is to you. Make sure that your life reflects those feelings!
4) Use your time efficiently. Always look for ways to accomplish more in less time and with less effort. Don’t think in terms of “hours of work.” Get away from the concept of making so much per hour. If your occupation allows for it, think in terms of making so much per project. Then look for ways to accomplish your projects in less time. If you do work by the hour, figure out how to make yourself significantly more valuable to your employer so he can justify paying you a much higher salary.
5) Take time to focus on others. This might sound strange, but spending some part of your day focused on other people will expose you to new, creative ways of thinking. Answers and solutions often appear when our attention is elsewhere. You can create opportunities for this to happen by purposely shifting your focus. Paying attention to others also builds the quality of your relationships on several levels. Remember, we’re all in it together.
6) Eat healthy foods and get regular exercise. Feeling good makes life better. Without your health, nothing else really matters. Don’t ride when you can walk. Choose nutritious food instead of fast food. Value your body and show your appreciation by treating it with respect. Not only will you feel better, but the quality of your whole life will improve.
7) Schedule some time to decompress. Don’t be a slave to productivity. A balanced life includes time to relax and enjoy a change of pace. When you take time out for yourself, you establish a more balanced perspective of everything else. Balance makes life seem easier and more rewarding, because that is exactly what it is.
What helps you stay balanced when things get crazy?
Have something you would like to add to the list?
The lines are open!