As I sat down to work on this article, my husband came in to see what I was doing. I told him I was trying to write an article on balance and asked him if he had any wise words for me. “Balance is overrated” is all he had to say – then told me I’d be more balanced if I went to bed soon.
I thought his answer was flippant and wished for a meatier idea or two. But the more I think about it, there’s actually a good dose of truth in his quick little response.
Sometimes I worry so much about whether or not I’m balanced. I feel stressed as I look at my life one week and see that it’s totally off-kilter while I work on a big project for The Power of Moms for a while. Other times, I’m tilted towards lots of quality time with my kids and end up neglecting some other things I’d promised to do. I’ve had stretches of time when I’ve felt so totally consumed with my family’s needs and work needs that I haven’t even been able to find time to take a shower or exercise for days. During these off-balance times, I find that on top of the stress I feel about the amount of work I’m doing or the lack of personal time I have, I also feel stress about being out of balance.
I think it’s important to accept that perfect, ongoing balance is just not going to be possible for most of us. And that’s OK.
Picture a tightrope walker. Is she walking in a straight steady line or is there some side-to-side motion involved in keeping her balance? Her overall balance and ability to keep walking along that thin rope involves a lot of tipping back and forth with her arms held out to the side as she moves forward. And just like that tightrope walker, our balance must include some tipping towards one side then the other as we move forward. Some days we’ll be more tipped towards kids’ needs, other days, we’ll need to tip more towards projects for our home or our paid employment. But there are ways we can stay somewhat centered through it all.
One simple practice that really makes a difference for me is this: I strive to take about 3 minutes each evening to make a list of the three most timely and important things I plan to accomplish the next day. To make this “top priority” list, I ask myself these questions:
- What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow for myself?
- What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow for my family?
- What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow from my ‘to-do’ list for work (be it housework, volunteer work, or paid work)?
I find that the answers to these questions come quite quickly and easily – more so the more regularly I do this. Examples of things that might go on my list for the next day: for myself – read one chapter in my new book; for my family – work with Isaac on his book report; work – put up the registration page for our upcoming Power of Moms Retreat on the website.
Even on the busiest, craziest days, I can generally get THREE SIMPLE THINGS in THREE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES accomplished. When I accomplish those three things, I feel quite balanced – and quite powerful.
And when I don’t quite accomplish my three-category goals, there’s always tomorrow. I can be more balanced and tomorrow. I’ll just keep trying.
I guess I’ll just end by saying that I do think balance is important. But I also think balance can be overrated and over-complicated and guilt-inducing if we don’t take the time to figure out what balance can realistically look like in our lives and figure out simple strategies to achieve a level of balance that is manageable and empowering for us. I hope that maybe an idea or two from this little article will strike your fancy so you can find a general sense of balance in your life while recognizing that there are times when we we’ll be tipped one way or another for a time – and that’s OK!
And now I’m quickly setting my three little goals for tomorrow and heading to bed because, as my wise husband mentioned, it’s hard to be balanced when you’re tired.
QUESTION: What simple methods have you found to be successful in finding some basic daily and weekly balance in your life?
CHALLENGE: Try making a daily list of the three top things you plan to accomplish each day for a week. Use the categories “for myself,” “for my family” and “work” or “beyond” (or come up with your own categories).Then do your best to accomplish the three small goals you set each day and see what this simple practice does for your life. Tweak the idea to create your own way of establishing some daily and weekly balance in your life. And if you want help, check out The Bloom Game at the Power of Moms – it helps you set and track these types of balance-inducing daily and weekly goals.
Thanks for your examples. I bought a little package of mini notebooks at the $ store a few weeks ago with the intention of using them for this very purpose of putting my 3 goals in it each night but I haven’t started doing it yet so this was a good reminder!
I gotta say I agree with your husband. Most likely it’s a semantics issue, but to me balance only brings to mind one thing: walking on a tight rope. I appreciate that it’s part of life, yet the word harmony allows my mind a more realistic and inspiring dynamic. Harmony:meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the greek verb (harmozo), “to fit together, to join” (I love the idea that it’s a verb!)
I guess it’s the same with the difference between control and influence. To me the “balance” we often discuss is really a control issue and often one we are viewing from a single handed perspective. I think this is also why we find it so elusive, because it really can’t be had in family life long enough to even say we have it. So for me…I’m working for harmony because I want to put myself as far away from a “one woman” show as I can!
So simple, it’s brilliant! I love your three-category idea! I like how broad the categories are–whatever I really need to do will surely fit in one of those categories! And I like that “myself” is one of the categories. I have been neglecting her lately. Balance helps us feel good about life when there’s a lull in the action, and it will enable us to keep up with the action when it comes! Thanks for the ideas, Saren.
lima yankee says
This reminds me a lot of a piece of advice I read during pregnancy that I’ve found very applicable for life in general. It came from Dr. Sears’ book on Pregnancy and talked about how you should be eating during your pregnancy. It said that you shouldn’t be stressed out if you’re not getting a well-balanced diet everyday. Don’t worry if you eat nothing but 3 large cantaloupes one day because of cravings or nausea. You’ll likely balance it out by eating nothing but mac-and-cheese the next day. Then you may find yourself feeling OK a day later and be able to eat your proper servings of vegetables and grains. The bottom line is that you should aim for a balanced week of eating, not a balanced day. And I have found that true in a lot of areas of life. Don’t try to have a balanced day-to-day… you may spend an entire day doing nothing but watching movies with your kids while all the chores and errands go untouched. But you likely won’t do that for a week straight. You make up for it by piling the kids in the car the next day for a day of errands.
diana dearden says
What a great message is sent by having the first question focused on “me.” In theory, I see the wisdom of caring tor yourself, but I never get around to it when there is always needs of the children, the house, the children, the church, the children, the neighbors, the children, you get the picture!
Rachel Nielson says
Love this quick and simple idea! I tend to make things way too complicated, including efforts to simplify and balance my life. 🙂