This is a two-part post. The next half will be up next week.
Those of you who know me personally have an idea of the schedule I usually have: working full-time, working part-time, graduate classes, meetings, volleyball, building a relationship with my fiance, spending time with friends, seeing my family, church groups, volunteering, and then indulging in my hobbies (reading, writing, photography). I know, it doesn’t seem like a simple life. I thought the same thing. Last fall, I realized I was spending my precious time doing a lot of things I didn’t enjoy. As a result, I’d fall into bed exhausted, dreading the events of the next day. I was burned out. It was time for a change. I quit my part-time job and eliminated a few commitments.
Here are things I do to ensure that I create time to relax and balance my schedule:
I say no.
Saying “no” was the first step to simplifying my life. I wanted to do everything because my schedule technically allowed me to. Available time slots would be filled with commitments and activities that I believed would make me feel important and involved. I discovered that running nonstop on a back-to-back schedule causes burn out. Fast. You can’t focus on one thing when you have dozens of other things going on in your life that demand attention. You’ve probably experienced the same thing. Projects on top of meetings, jobs, deadlines, appointments, and lunch dates. Little time is left over to relax and refresh. Saying “no” to commitments, one at a time, freed up my schedule, left me feeling more relaxed, and made me happier. Now I can really focus on what’s important.
I enjoy what I do.
My two main commitments were working and going to school. Work was three things for me: something I loved doing, a great learning experience, and a way to pay my bills. School is helping me reach a goal and learn more about my intended career. Everything else I do is an extra choice. I ask myself, “How will this benefit me? How will it benefit others? Will it be OK if I don’t do it? What are my other choices?” Some of my current commitments are optional – they are things I can do when I feel like it. A great example is the weekly gathering with my church group. Instead of telling myself that I have to go every week, I ask myself, “What is more important to me tonight: fellowship or alone time?” The answer can swing either way and I do what is best for me, or in some cases, another member of the group. Most of the time, I’m really excited to go see everyone, listen to a great speech, participate in a great discussion, and go bowling; some days I need to stay home and curl up with a book or have a nice dinner with my fiancé.
I get up early in the morning.
I used to get up at 6:45am. This would allow me time to look at my phone, jump in the shower, get dressed, throw together something for lunch, sit online for twenty minutes, rush out the door, swing by Starbucks’, and arrive to work just on time (8:40am after a half-hour commute). Then I changed it. My morning routine became: 6:00am wake-up, stretch, get in the shower, put on a robe, go make some tea and cook eggs for breakfast, eat breakfast and just eat breakfast – no multitasking, clean up, sit and read a couple chapters in the latest book I’m reading, make lunch, get dressed, check my e-mail/Facebook/Twitter quickly, leave, and arrive to work ten minutes early. That extra forty-five minutes and the choice to avoid the computer when I get up made a huge difference. I arrived to work feeling refreshed and ready to go!
I always make room for ‘me’ time.
I love being around people. I love learning about people. But sometimes, I just need to be with me. I was available at least two nights a week and a majority of the weekend. I made sure I stayed available at least one night a week and some time over the weekend for myself. It might sound selfish, but it really isn’t. The most important person you need to build a relationship with is yourself. It is only when you are good with yourself that you are able to wholly focus on others. Giving myself alone time allows me to be more present and focused on other people when I am with them.
I tell people I’m busy.
This doesn’t mean I lie to people. I either put my phone away and get back to them when I can, or I let them know that I need a night to myself – usually the latter. Most people understand that. Well, at least, I hope they do! I do try to find a time in the near future when we can reschedule.
I give myself treats.
The best motivation to finish a task is to reward myself with something when I’m done. This may be a small bowl of ice cream, five minutes surfing the net, reading a book, meeting up with friends, going outside, or a movie. I use this system with the kids I work with and guess what? It works just as well with adults!
What do you do to create a balance in your life?
On another note, my schedule changed again. My current schedule is a lot different than it was at the time I began this post. Working on this blog is also a commitment that I have been thinking a lot about lately. Both of these will be addressed in Part II next week!