5 STEPS TO CREATING A BALANCED LIFE
In the age of the Internet, it can feel as if you need to be “always-on” and always working. It can be almost impossible to disconnect and enjoy the more mundane and human things in life, especially when you have cell phones, emails, IMs, social networking, and countless other things constantly calling you back in.
This can lead very quickly to a feeling of overload as if you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it in. This can lead to a variety of problems including depression, marital problems, and even, perhaps ironically, poor work quality.
Simply put, finding balance in your life means more than just taking two weeks of vacation every year. It’s something that must be controlled every day.
On that note, here are five steps you can take right now to help you lead a more balanced, happy, and fulfilling life.
- Determine Your Priorities
You can’t hope to find balance in your life if you don’t know how things are influencing you. Sit down and draft a list of the things that are most important to you. This can lead to some very big questions such as whether you put career before family. You must answer them honestly, or you’re going to struggle to make decisions that will bring you happiness.
It’s important to keep in mind that this list needs to be a selfish one, meaning the things most important to you personally and not what others feel is the most important. If you can’t decide, try to imagine a life without one or more of the elements and see which, when absent, would hurt you the most.
- Plan Your Days Starting With #1
Now that you know what’s more important in your life, it’s time to start planning a typical day or a typical week. When doing that, start with what’s more important to you and block out time for it. For example, if you have a hobby that’s important to you, set aside some time every day or week to do it.
While there are some things that you may have to block in that might be a lower priority, such as hours you have to be at work, dole out your free time starting with what makes you the happiest, and work our way down the list.
- Drop What’s Not Important
If you make a long enough list, you’re going to find quickly that some things just don’t fit. Those that are lower down on your list need to be dropped from your life. At least for now.
This may mean that you stop doing some things that you enjoyed but don’t find as important as you might have once thought. Likewise, it might mean dropping or scaling back on things that you thought were important to you but aren’t of as high of a priority as they seemed.
Some of these decisions will be painful, but they are most likely for the greater good. However, if dropping something does wind up causing more grief than it gains, you can always adjust your priorities later with this new knowledge.
- Set Boundaries
Once you have your schedule, even if it is just a general idea of how you want to divide up your time, you need to set strict boundaries on how you spend your time.
The biggest rule is to never let lower priority things intrude on higher priority things. For example, if you put your family ahead of your work, remember that order when work asks you to stay late on a night that you were going to spend at home.
Though sometimes life gets in the way, it’s important to remember that there’s always tomorrow and you can’t let your lower priorities interfere with your higher ones, at least not without a very good reason.
- Remember to Take Down Time
Finally, though it’s tempting to try and schedule an activity for every waking moment of every day, it’s crucial that you set aside some downtime. This is the time where you are doing nothing, or at least as little as possible.
Simply put, humans were not meant to be going every waking moment between morning and night. Whether it’s a few minutes sprinkled throughout the day or a block of time that’s just for you, be sure to have a time where you can do nothing but relax.
While there’s no real rule as to how much time you need to set aside, it needs to be enough for you to recharge and continue to face the day.
On a related note, make sure that you give yourself enough time to sleep. Though it’s tempting to skimp on sleep to get more things done, doing so makes you less effective and can make you far more miserable than leaving a few unfinished tasks.
The simple truth is that there is no magic solution to leading a more balanced life. The key is to determine what is most important to you, focus on those things, and then learn to let go of the things that are less crucial.
For most, unfortunately, it’s the letting go part that’s the hardest of the process. The good news is that most will quickly learn to do that when they see how happy they are doing the things that matter the most to them.
So, while there’s always some initial pain with moving to a more balanced life, it’s quickly dulled by a much happier and more fulfilling life over the long haul.