How to Create a Balanced Life Filled With Things You Love
I have spent almost my entire life trying to achieve some semblance of balance. I try to balance the amount of time that I spend working with the amount of time that I spend playing. I try to balance alone time and time with friends and family. I try to balance creative activities with ones that require logical thinking. For most of my life, this balance has been a struggle. I’d work too hard for awhile and then burn out and not want to work at all. I’d go through phases of spending a lot of time with friends and then suddenly yearn for time alone. I guess it could be argued that it all balanced out in the long run but I always thought that I’d be happier if things were more balanced on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. What I’ve learned in the past year or so is that you really can impose an order onto your life to create this balance and that it does indeed result in a greater amount of happiness in life … or it least is has for me. The schedule feels artificial sometimes and I definitely abandon it now and then but for the most part I’ve found that having a schedule of things that I want in my life allows me to live more fully.
Make a List of Things You Want To Include in Your Balanced Life
In order to have a balanced life I first had to figure out what types of things I wanted to include in this life. To do this yourself you simply need to sit down and ask yourself what things you have to have in your life and what other things you want to add to your life. My complete list of things that I both must have and desire to have in my life at this time includes:
- • Work. I have to do a certain amount of work in order to pay my bills so I made sure to include this on the list.
- • Creative writing time. I write for a living but I want to make sure that I am also someone who writes creatively.
- • Yoga or pilates classes. It is important to me that I go to one or the other of these on a weekly basis.
- • Cooking. One of my goals in life is to learn to cook better which I can’t do unless I make time to do it.
- • Hiking. I love hiking and want to get out and do it on a regular basis.
- • Education. It’s important to me to keep learning new things. I want my life to include classes or lectures.
- • A date with my partner. I want to make time to just go have fun with him on a regular basis.
- • A “date” with friends. I believe that friendships last over time because you invest time in making them last. I want to enjoy my friends and to do things with them that build our connection with one another.
- • A date with myself. I make time each week to just hang out by myself and to do something that isn’t required of me.
- • Cleaning. Some people don’t need to make a specific time to clean each week but I do because it helps me make sure that the chores don’t add up.
That’s my list of things that I want in my life. These specific things started with bigger desires in life though. Those desires were for human connection, personal growth, financial stability and good health. I took those bigger goals and broke them down into the activities (dates, time with myself, classes, exercise) that I believed would lead me to achieve these bigger goals. Ask yourself first what few things you really desire from life. Then make a list of the activities that you could do regularly to achieve these goals.
Schedule Time for Each of these Things
I sit down at the beginning of every week (which means on Sundays for me but might mean Monday or even any other day of the week for some people) and I schedule each of these things into my week. I literally go down my list with my calendar in front of me and mark out when I’m going to hike, when I’m going to go to a yoga class that week, when I’ll do something with friends. I look up classes and events that I want to go to that week and figure out what I can do to meet all of these goals. Then I put them on the calendar. I factor in my work schedule and other commitments.
If it doesn’t work out on the calendar then it won’t likely work out in my real life either so I make it work there. Sometimes that means taking a half day off of work to fit in hiking or getting up an hour early to do creative writing. I remind myself that I am choosing to put these things on my schedule because having them in my life ultimately makes me happy. The whole point of making it all work on a calendar is because the goal of my life is to achieve this balance.
You may find that you can’t find everything into a week that you have on your list. That’s okay. Consider making a monthly set schedule instead. Maybe you want to hike once a month but you want to go to the library once a week. You can sit down at the beginning of the month and pick a day of each week to go to the library. Then pick one day of that month to hike. Put it all on the calendar. Seeing it there will help you to see whether or not the month (or week, or whatever) is as balanced as you want it to be.
Make a List of Small Pleasures
To achieve even more balance and happiness in your life, you should also make a list of small pleasures that you enjoy. To do this, you may want to look first at your bigger goals. For example, good health is one of my big goals. The main things I do to achieve this are going hiking and going to pilates classes or yoga classes. However there are small pleasures I enjoy which also contribute to this goal. Going for walks, eating new healthy foods and reading about health topics are some of those things. They aren’t things I necessarily want to do every week but they’re little things I want to have in my life. Also consider just the random things that you like to do now and then – bubble baths, sleeping in, riding rollercoasters. Add these little things to your list.
The purpose of this list isn’t to schedule these things but to make sure to include them in your life now and then. What I do is at the beginning of each week I look at the small pleasures list and choose five things that I want to try to do. I put these on a sticky note on my computer to remind myself to try to fit them in throughout the week if I can. Right now my note is reminding me that I’d like to watch a foreign movie, listen to a Patsy Cline song that I haven’t heard in forever, catch up with an old friend by phone, eat Smores and doodle for no reason. I may or may not do these things this week. Chances are I’ll do at least a couple of them and my life will be richer for it.
Be Firm but Flexible with Yourself
For me, the new challenge as far as balance goes is learning to listen to myself in regards to what I really need during any given week. For example, I may sit down on Sunday and schedule everything out and it looks great. But then I get sick or work goes awry or a friend unexpectedly shows up and throws things off. Let’s say I had planned to go hiking on Friday but then the friend appears in town and I really want to see him so I don’t go hiking. On Saturday, it’s the end of the week, and I need to decide whether I want to fit in hiking to get my balanced week or just forget it this week. The thing I’ve had to learn about myself is how to know when I’m just deciding not to do something because I have internal resistance that I need to overcome (ie, I’m feeling too lazy to hike but would feel better if I did) and when I really need a break from the routine. I’ve learned to be flexible but firm. I try to convince myself to stick to my schedule but if it really doesn’t feel right one week then I abandon it, be kind to myself, definitely don’t beat myself up for not sticking to it and go on with the schedule the next week.
Periodic Reviews of this Balanced Life
Every three months or so, I check in with myself about this balanced life. First of all I ask myself if I’ve been sticking to the plan. If there are things I haven’t been doing then I ask myself if I want to re-commit to them or let them go. For example, if I haven’t been going to yoga much then I need to decide if I really want to do yoga (and re-commit to putting it on my schedule) or let it go for awhile and just don’t worry about it. Making a conscious decision about this every few months helps me to make sure that I’m really doing the things that I want to be doing.
I also make sure to consider whether or not to add anything new to the list. For example, I want to practice my Spanish more so I’m thinking about adding that to my schedule. I may review my bigger goals and see if there are other tasks I could add that would help me meet them. I want to be healthy which means regular exercise and therefore I might add a new sport to my week or month. By checking in with myself, I hold myself accountable to having this balance in my life and yet I also make sure that I’m not just doing these things out of habit but out of a true desire to have these things in my life.
So that’s pretty much what I’ve done to achieve balance in my life and what I’d recommend to you to try:
- • Figure out what your big goals are (a happy relationship, a healthy body, etc.)
- • Make a list of all of the tasks that can help you reach those goals if you do them regularly.
- • Put those tasks on a list every week or every month.
- • Make another list of small pleasures. Incorporate them into your days as you can.
- • Stick to the schedule as much as possible but be open to the times when you can’t.
- • Review the schedule regularly to make sure that it’s helping you achieve the true balance that you desire.
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