A Balanced Life
Balance. It is a difficult thing to attain in life. In the two major jobs I have worked in my life, the companies have promoted a healthy work/life balance. The tools were there, but I hadn’t really understood how to use them and what truly balancing my life meant. I started making progress there recently. Managing my time was the first big step, but having a balanced life is more than just time management. It is about truly living in the moment and committing to what you are doing during that time. It isn’t helpful to have a managed schedule if you are thinking about what is coming next or what you would rather be doing all the time. I can say that I have noticed a difference in my quality of life since I truly embraced balancing my life and not just managing it.
I have found three key practices that have helped me get there:
- Know what you want in life (Identify)
- Have a plan (Prioritize)
- Commit to living in the moment (Be Present)
How I Got Here
The last step is where things really clicked for me. As my last article (Mastering Time – Link this) described, managing/mastering time is the foundation and structure of balancing your life. However, if you do not live in the moment that you have planned out then you are missing out on so much. The thing that has been my biggest struggle has also been my biggest motivator recently.
For those who don’t know my story, I was laid off in January 2017. I worked in operations at a telecommunications call center for a little over a year but had taken phone calls there for over 9 years prior to that position. I was not happy on the phones, but I made it work (mostly). Once I had gotten off the phones and into my operations roles, I felt more complete. That went away after the lay off, and now that I am working a call center job on the phones again, it’s really struck a nerve. I needed a job and some of my former coworkers were here and told me it was a great company. After four months of being here I agree with them, but I have had unresolved feelings about my prior experience I never dealt with. I’ve realized that delving into balancing my life has been key to helping me resolve these issues. I am not there yet but am getting there.
Know What You Want In Life (Identify)
The first step to balancing your life is to know what you want out of it. You must identify what matters to you and what you want to spend your time on. If you don’t do this then you are just aimlessly wandering and will never truly achieve a healthy balance. For me, as an analytical person, it has helped me to essentially take inventory. I have written things down, created spreadsheets, and just talked it out with my wife and some close friends/family.
I recently discovered that I really haven’t “known” myself – who I am as a person and what I want. I found at least part of this had to do with the environment I grew up in. I became what those around me wanted me to be and went through the motions of life without really discovering who I am as a person. In the last year or two, as I have been working to improve myself and find my place in the world, it hit me that my identity was attached to what I was doing at the time and I just went with the flow. Once I realized this, I started the process of self reflection and just trying to discover who I am and what I truly want in life.
I have come to find that I am a man of principle who wants to get the most out of life and help people along the way. I enjoy creating things, analyzing things, being informed, helping my kids navigate this crazy world, and just being me. Once I took this inventory it was easy to find out what I wanted to do with my life. The hard part was trying to fit it all in.
Have a Plan (Prioritize)
I found I cannot do everything I want to in life, at least not all at once. In the last couple months, and especially the last week or two (and an honest thanks to my wife for calling me on it), I have realized that although I was finding a way to squeeze in all of the things I wanted to do professionally I wasn’t doing it effectively. I was so focused on fitting everything in I didn’t stop to think if the time was right to add more to my plate. I have been tweaking my schedule to fit in all of my current projects and time for myself. I am now prioritizing what I want to do and making sure that what I am currently doing is working before adding more in.
The biggest example is how I use my time before work everyday – I spend a few hours on personal or professional projects or just to have some time to myself. I recently started splitting my days so one day a week is spent on personal projects, one day is a personal day to do what I want, and the other three I spend on my client projects (when I have them). I was going to try and add in creating content for YouTube, which seemed feasible at first. However, I didn’t think about the long term and how much time it would really take once I factored in shooting, editing, and managing my profile. I would also have to hone this new process while I am still honing my other processes. My lovely wife really opened my eyes to this and got me to think it through. I never considered that I don’t need to do everything right now, as it is impossible to do it all effectively while maintaining a balanced life.
I still plan on eventually creating that content, but for now I am going to focus on the projects I already have. In the meantime, I am recording a video journal for myself to satisfy that need to film and edit. It’s also making my journaling time more effective since it’s harder for me to process everything through writing it out.
The main key to this point is to really prioritize what you want to do. It is ok to want to do more, but you need to consider holding off on things that are not as high a priority. This will ensure that you are being the most effective at what you are already doing, and then once you feel you have mastered those processes you can add in other things. You want to do this slowly, though, so as not to overwhelm yourself.
Commit to Live in the Moment (Be Present)
All of the above is useless if you are not being present and in the moment. This was my biggest area of opportunity. I have always been looking forward to what is coming next, trying be a step or two ahead. I didn’t realize I was missing what was going on in front of me. It caused me to do things half baked at times, and I was not present at home. I am now working on being present and thoughtful in the moment. I don’t need to worry about what is coming next if I have my plan, as it will still be there when I get to that point.
To truly get the most out of what you are doing – to enjoy it and to learn something – you need to be present and in the moment. Know what you want in life and have a plan for it, but don’t get so caught up in the destination or what is next that you miss the journey. The journey is what is important. I know it is cliché, but it is the absolute truth. You can’t truly enjoy your life and what you are doing if you are not mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or even physically there.
I really want to focus on my career right now and getting to where I want to go. For me, this means I need to be present in my full time job and not be focused on when I got to go home for the day. When I was home, I was thinking about the amount of time I had left with my family and when I had to go back to work instead of being present and focused on them while I was there. It was this vicious circle that was not healthy. I am also wanting to build my business in web design/development and consulting. I can’t do that effectively if I am trying to figure out how to fit more things in all the time. These are the most important things for me right now so this is what I am going to focus on.
I want to grow as a person, husband, father, creator, entrepreneur, employee, friend, etc. To do this effectively I need to be focused on those aspects of myself when I am in those roles. I can’t be so focused on what is coming next and where I want to get to that I miss what is right in front of me. To achieve a truly balanced life you must live in the moment. All of the planning in the world is a moot point if you are not present during what you are doing.