Balance 101: Shutting off the Bachelor and Getting the Life You Want.
Occasionally, when I’m playing Trivial Pursuit, I’m thrilled that I know that John Philip Sousa wrote the Stars and Stripes Forever. There are times when knowing the difference between mean, median, and mode gets me a look of appreciation from my children during homework time and nobody can rock a dinner party like I do when the lyrics are needed for Funky Cold Medina. During these times I give credit to traditional education and America’s Top Forty Countdown. But where is the love when I need to know how to choose between sleeping, writing, or feeding my children? Where is the class Balance 101: Shutting off the Bachelor and Getting the Life You Want?
I get a lot of questions about balance. I have a career unrelated to my creative life of writing and I’m a parent of two teen girls. I have, essentially three full time jobs. I think based on this information alone, people should be asking me-- Have you heard about balance? You should try it some time. Do you want the enamel on your teeth when you’re seventy?
On the days when I am successful in balancing life I might offer the following advice (but would then deny it as I believe the universe is listening and has a wicked payback system for advice givers):
1. Get a handle on what you value and hold every decision up to those values. I value my health, my family, my job, my relationships and my writing. Oh, and GoodWill (both the store and the concept). I do not value the Bachelor(ette). I do not value Solitaire, Tetris, or Angry Birds. I do not value season tickets to Wisconsin Badger Hockey. If you love nothing better than to dress in your alma mater’s colors and watch your team throttle another, rock on. If that is part of your balance formula, I’m on board with it. Just make it an active decision and not a passive one.
a. Example I: The phone rings and there is an offer to make some money teaching a quick nutrition course to twenty Physical Therapy Students. Does it further or hinder my values? Does it cost or buy me time. Do the positive results outweigh the negatives…and so on. In this case the answer no and to take a pass.
b. Example II: Should I stare into space or write a chapter in my book. Again with the checklist and in this case the answer was to go with the staring. I needed the space-staring for balance in my day.
2. There is no number two. I was going to put time management here. But, time management is just another way to say value management. If you know your values then you know what is worth your time. It’s a twofer.
I think often we need to remind ourselves where we are in the life process. Many times when a beautiful temptation or otherwise irresistible distraction crosses my path I have to review my value system and remind myself, Ann, you are in the parenting part of your life. Jetting off to party with Brad Paisley just isn’t an option right now. You did that before (no I didn’t) or you can do that in a few years (well…probably not).
It’s old advice I’m doling out here. Advice my mother used to give to me in her usual no-nonsense fashion. “Oh for God’s sake Ann. Shut the TV off and get on with your life.”
Well, I guess Ann's mother says it clearly enough! I agree that we all need to better prioritize, and what better way to do so than with a value system. But I am glad that you point out that what may be a negative on one day might be a positive on another. We just need to know what works for our individual selves.
Reading is one of my priorities, and I will freely confess that sometimes I read to the point of ignoring my family. Other times though, everything else sucks up all the reading time I've planned for--and then I binge-read to make up for it. I have definitely worked on balancing reading with all the other things I like to do (note that I reviewed 237 books in '09, 159 in '10, and I'll be hitting around 150 this year--I think!), and yet I still think I could cut back a bit more. But how? There are soooo many books out there just waiting to be read!
What do you do to prioritize reading with everything else going on in your life?