What better time to work on life balance than the New Year? It’s a time to take an inventory of your life and make some improvements. Invigorate your commitment to yourself and your overall well-being!
Step 1: Identify what you want in your life. What is it that you’re trying to balance? Career, family, school, friends, housework, personal growth, hobbies, exercise, volunteer work, errands, financial management? Make a list of what you’d personally like to have in your life. Include those aspects that are taking up too much time as well as those that are being neglected.
Step 2: Recognize that there is a limited amount of time for your infinite “to-do” list. You want to get really good at letting go. Don’t beat yourself up for not having time for everything. Just like our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, so we plan more than we can usually get done. We need to be able to simply say “it’s ok that I didn’t have time for that.”
Step 3: Identify what you typically have not gotten around to do, and try to figure out why. Ultimately, you have been prioritizing whether you are doing it consciously or not. You may have 10 things you want to do, and you only get 5 of them done. On some level, those were the 5 things you prioritized. Perhaps they weren’t the most important things, but maybe they were the easiest or the most enjoyable.
So in your life, what usually gets less of the balance? For most people, it’s personal health, hobbies, and social engagement with friends and family, while work or school take most of your time. We tell ourselves that we “have to” finish a project for work. But do we really “have to”? You can follow your “have to” line of thinking for a while by asking yourself, “What happens if I don’t?” Oftentimes, there are minimal consequences; you don’t look as amazing to your coworkers as you’d like. Usually if you don’t finish a work project over the weekend, you’ll continue it the next week. Sometimes of course there are more consequences, but it’s important to distinguish the real consequences from an imagined sense of urgency.
Step 4: Make a plan. Now that you’ve thought about your current state of balance, think about how you’d like the balance to look. Ideally how many hours per week would you like to work? How much time would you like to spend with family and friends? How much time would you like to spend on your health or personal growth? Don’t forget to make time for sleeping and relaxing! Make an outline of your ideal plan and write it somewhere where you can review and update it from time to time. Ask your friends and family members for input.
Step 5: It’s time to do something! Pick one or two changes to make. Don’t try to do it all at once as this often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and discouraged. Pick one or two things, really. Let’s say you choose to spend 2 evenings per week painting for an hour. Take a month or two to get into the habit of painting a couple of times a week so you establish it as a pattern of behavior. Then choose another aspect or two from your life to balance.
Try not to get down on yourself if you stray from your plan. You can’t go back in time and balance your past. You can make time for yourself in the present and recommit to making time for yourself in the future.