One of my goals for my 30s is to “find balance” (read the rest of my kind of odd goals by clicking here). Dear readers, I have been totally failing at this.
No matter what I seem to do, things are out of whack. When I’m getting caught up at work, then I’m neglecting something at home. When I’m doing well at home, then I’m getting behind on my dissertation. When I’m doing well on my dissertation work, then I’m neglecting this blog, and so on and so forth. You get the idea.
Maybe it’s just that point in the semester. I know that many of my students feel overwhelmed and out-of-balance now. Each class, I look out at my students and meet their zombie-like stares–half of them are sick at this point, half of them are behind, and all of them need more sleep. There’s absolutely no doubt that attending college is a wonderful privilege, but gosh, it can be hard.
Then again, maybe life in general is a constant battle to achieve balance.
So, in light of this, I did some research on how to find and maintain that ever-elusive balance. Here are some of the tips that I found.
Do you have some advice that I didn’t mention? If so, please let me know in the comments below (any and all advice is appreciated).
1. Set your priorities. Make sure that you’re first attending to the most important (and even the most anxiety-inducing) things in that moment. But what if everything feels important? Even if they’re not necessarily equally important? I’m not sure how to remedy this situation.
2. Create habits. From what I’ve read, you’re supposed to “create new” habits in order to “overcome your habitual patterns” that are not helping you to achieve your goals (Tanjeloff, “How to Create”). Easier said than done. However, if you do this, then you’re supposed to be able to . . .
3. Create a consistent routine. Yep, the individual habits are supposed to create a consistent routine. I have no idea how this fits in with having spontaneity in your life, but maybe you can schedule spontaneity? I don’t know. But that brings me to number four.
4. Schedule daily, weekly, and monthly goals. I dig this one, because it’s about creating lists, and we all know how much I love lists. The problem is making a reasonable list of tasks though. I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to list out 20-25 tasks that I need to get done in one day. Spoiler alert: I don’t ever get them all done and then I feel like a failure rather than an achiever. Maybe number five in this list could help.
5. Set realistic, small goals that will help you to achieve your big dreams. Dare I reference Dr. Phil? The guy has some controversy surrounding him, and I don’t always agree with him, but he does say that dreams are achieved when you treat those dreams as goals and then have plans to reach those goals. That’s not wrong. I have a tendency to focus on the huge goals that I have, and then things feel overwhelming to me. But really, I should break those big goals into smaller goals and then focus on achieving those smaller goals. I suppose that it’s now appropriate to quote Dory from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
6. Reflect daily, weekly, and monthly on your progress toward your goals. A lot of planners have a section for reflection (hey, that rhymed), and there’s a good reason for that. Reflection helps you to understand what you’re doing right, what you’re doing not-so-right, what you need to continue doing, and what you need to change. This period of reflection can also help you to pinpoint how and where you’re missing that mark on achieving balance.
7. Learn to say “no.” Royale Scuderi at Lifehack writes that you should “Say no to everything that is either not essential or doesn’t add something valuable to your life.” Dr. Susan Biali Haas at Psychology Today even claims that your “default answer” should be “no.” Yet, this one is difficult for those who are building their careers, I think. Students feel pressure to take on activity after activity in addition to their schoolwork, because they’re trying to prepare for their careers. Also, they’re probably trying to pad their resumes if they’re looking at applying to law school, medical school, graduate school, etc. What? Tell me that that’s not true. Likewise, when you’re trying to build your career, it’s difficult to say “no” to something when you know that there’s someone right behind you ready to jump in and say “yes,” which could possibly make you look like you’re not keeping up with your peers. I don’t know how to fix this one, and I’m extremely guilty of not saying “no” to more responsibilities at work.
8. Take care of your body. Every article that I’ve read has mentioned taking care of your body—getting “enough sleep” (whatever that means), maintaining good nutrition, meditating, exercising, etc. Sure. Because I apparently have time for all of this. Okay, okay, let’s look at the actual logic of this. I think that Dr. Haas puts it best, because she claims that not getting enough sleep or enough nutrition can result in less focus and more easily frayed nerves. This, in turn, can make us feel stressed and overwhelmed and be less efficient in our work thereby increasing the amount of time that it would take to get a task done. Okay, fine. That makes sense.
9. Do a task that can be done quickly. Dr. Alice Boyes at Psychology Today claims that when you do a task that can be accomplished in a short amount of time (she says 30 minutes or less), then “it will give you a feeling of being in control.” I guess that it could also make you feel like you at least got one thing accomplished, which equates to, in the words of Forrest Gump, “one less thing.”
10. Don’t go overboard when trying to accomplish a task. Dr. Boyes says, “Do the minimum necessary to get a task done.” Interestingly, one of my mentors told me this when I started my masters. She told me that I can’t do everything to the very highest of quality, and I can’t keep doing projects to the absolute best of my abilities. To be honest, I’ve tried to ignore her advice. But maybe I need to incorporate more of this in areas other than work. Maybe housework is a good place to start? I’ll take a good excuse not to clean toilets. Bleh. 😛
“5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Find Balance in Your Life” by Catherine Beard
“6 Strategies for When You Feel Overwhelmed at Work” by Dr. Alice Boyes
“10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back” by Royale Scuderi
“How to Create a Balanced Life: 9 Tips to Feel Calm and Grounded” by Jasmin Tanjeloff
“Overwhelmed? 8 Tips to Avoid Burnout and Balance Your Life” by Dr. Susan Biali Haas