With the beginning of my second year of teaching I’ve encountered the reoccurring matter of balance. We have on-boarded a lot of activities and obligations to our family life. In addition to working full-time I will also be taking college courses as part of professional development for my teaching licensure over the next two years.
Here are five things I’m doing to renew balance in the eternal quest for equilibrium.
- Working out in smaller chunks
- Contacting one of my friends every week
- Maintaining some of the positive changes I’ve made to my schedule this past year
- Scheduling chores and cleanup in a set timeframe
(If you need the quick details, scroll down to the bottom of the post!)
We are involved in soccer, cycling, and a host of other activities associated with work, school and community. We are still recovering from our move. For some, it sounds ridiculous to say that a return to normalcy would be so hard to achieve after moving. In all honesty, moving really threw me out of my groove. Maybe many of these feelings of precariousness come from that uproar. It was a big life change. But I think there is more to this moment in my life than moving, career focus, or realigning my goals.
I need another reset, a re-centering, a restoration of balance and order, in my entire existence. It would be foolish for me to say that simply because I recognize this, I’ve achieved my balance. I feel as though I am entering a new time in my life. I have lived my childhood, my young adulthood, my child bearing years, and we’re into the real thick of the child rearing years, and it has always taken me a while to find my equilibrium.
Now I have reached another new juncture in my life. I am experiencing the need to return to some of the tried and true things that make me who I am, and I now have the opportunity to incorporate some of the good habits I’ve picked up on returning to the workplace. I am excited to see what this part of the journey holds for me and my little family, and I am committed to finding my balance in this new episode.
I have written about balance on the blog, HERE. Perhaps the first post should have covered it for me. When I wrote that first article, I talked mostly about balancing blogging and home-life. As my quest for balance continues, maybe yours does, too. When I say balance I mean the confluence between the things we prioritize in our daily schedules, and perhaps some of the things–activities, practices, time frames– we might want to bring into the daily stream.
One of the hardest transitions for me in returning to work has been that I have really let go of working out. I’d like to say that “I had to let go” of working out, but there are plenty of people who are up at 4:30 am getting their physical activity on. Therefore, I have to place the responsibility for my physical fitness needs and desires solely on my choices.
One of the reasons this shift into zero work outs has been hard is that I find that physical practice has just as imporant mental impact as physical benefit. I truly believe in the mental cleansing that comes from working out.
This entire internal dialogue came to a head one night about a month ago around 8:45 p.m. I had recommitted myself to returning to the gym that very next morning. My intention was to make a morning work-outer of myself. (This has yet to happen in 37 years, but why not try again now when I really need it!!!!?!) My alarm was set for 5:00 a.m., my intention was to head to bed.
But it just didn’t happen. One of the boys got up with a tummy ache, I realized that I still needed to turn off all the lights downstairs and let the dogs out, my husband asked if we were ever going to hang out again. The pressure was on. The other reality is that I absolutely hate going to the gym in the mornings.
Leaving for the gym at 5 a.m. also means an insane amount of preparation: packing lunches, gym bag, work clothes, prepping breakfast, solidifying lesson plans– all things that I usually do in the morning before work. First world problems, I realize this. But stumbling blocks, nonetheless.
More importantly, if I am gone in the mornings I miss out on those precious moments right as I am heading off to work and my boys rise each day. We say our good mornings/goodbyes. I’m able to give squeezes, and kisses, and wishes for a wonderful day. This time is very important to me. So what am I to choose?
I’ve been looking at this problem from many sides for a few months now and it is time to make a change. Something’s gotta give. I understand that part of this conundrum is the “having it all” syndrome. The idea that you can balance the big five: family, work, sleep, working out, and friendships.
The night my plans to make a fresh start in the working out world crashed and burned for maybe the seventh time in as many months, I sat on the couch dejected. My phone buzzed with a text message from my husband upstairs. “Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one who can’t have it all.” He wrote, with a link to an Inc.com interview by Jessica Stillman with Randi Zuckerberg (sister of Mark). Ms. Zuckerberg explains that if the five pillars of life are family, work, sleep, friends, and working out. A person who wants to be successful (in any of them, to any degree) should choose three.
Wa-wa-wahhhhh. I’m still not stoked on this paradigm. Though I have to admit that I’ve been living it for half-a-year or so. (Or if you ask my close friends, people who I loved, cherished, and treasured before I had a full-time job how I’m doing on the friend front [read POORLY] I’ve probably been struggling with this shift in balance from day one of full-time employment.)
After parleying the merits of this approach– big five, choose three– for some time now I’ve come to believe that perhaps a more nuanced look into each of these– family, work, sleep, friends, working out– might yield more benefit. I read this article by Mallika Chopra, and it encouraged me to be more open to examining my balance, desires, and involvement in all aspects of my life in a more refined way.
Below are the five things I’m doing to realize more balance in my every day:
Working out in smaller chunks
In the past I had time to work out for 60 to 90 minutes a day, no problem. I have always enjoyed working out, so I knew that I wasn’t experiencing an apathy issue. I just simply didn’t/don’t have the luxury of devoting the same amount of time as I did in the past to physical fitness.
One of the mistakes I made was to mislabel the lack of time I had (of course my schedule is tighter) for NO time whatsoever. I DO have time. I simply need to realign my idea how much time a full work out really needs to be effective. My plan is to work out for 30 minutes a day.
If I have more time, great. If not, I’ll take the 30 minutes I can get! I have also had to refresh some of my work out modes. For example, I set my bike up on my trainer at home. I can hop out of bed, into my clothes, and be on my bike in less than five minutes. I also downloaded several workout apps to my phone. This will make it easier to get SOME sort of workout in, no matter the days’ schedule.
Contacting one of my friends every week
I value all my friendships very highly. I may not be able to devote as much time and energy to each of my friends as I did in the past, but I can still make an effort to reach out with sincere love and care. I am going to call one of my friends once a week every week. This includes my sisters, and some of my friends that are very distant from me geographically. There’s no reason I can’t pick up the phone and simply let them know that I am thinking of them.
Maintaining some of the positive changes I’ve made to my schedule this past year
I have established some very good habits this past year, and I don’t want to forget that during this increasingly busy time in my life I have been able to dial in some habits that I want to keep forever.
One of those is a more balanced approach to sleep, i.e. the pure recognition that I am a human that works best if I have eight hours of sleep every night. I function better, I am happier, and I am more productive in every way if I pay attention to getting enough rest.
Another one of the healthy habits I felt stayed consistent during some of these life changes was my commitment to family dinners. A huge thank you to The Six O’clock Scramble, revolutionizing dinnertime one family meal at a time.
I have such a belief in and reverence for family dinner, and I was able to maintain a relatively consistent dinner schedule through the past year-and-a-half. Home cooked meals were and are happening, and I want to make sure that this continues.
Scheduling chores and cleanup in more organized and specific time frame
With the job, and the move, and the increased activity level the struggle to maintain home tidiness has been real! I have to say that we have tried our best to keep every aspect of life clean and good working order. But it is time, time for the chore chart, time for task delegation, and time to set up a rotating system or jobs that benefit our home environment.
We’re dialing in laundry by giving every one a wash day, and have made great strides (read my husband has worked miracles on our home to make it more sound, more pleasant, more functional, and more beautiful) to get this new home in functioning as well as orderly condition.
We’ll get there, so this week will include a long hard look at some of the chores that need to be address on the regular. My fear is that this will become a fight between the parents and other occupants of the household, my hope is that if we get into a true routine with our chores it will move along seamlessly (ha ha, I know). Cheers to trying for balance in chore land!!
Meditation time may also fall under the category of ME TIME. When discussing some of my new approaches to balance with friends, many of them mentioned that it is important to have time for yourself. Time that is not devoted to a particular enterprise or even goal. This meditation time might be spent genuinely meditating. It might be spent reading. It might be spent painting my toenails.
The important thing is that I don’t lose sight of some of the little things that I might need to bring continuity and even free flow to my new practice of balance.
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject of maintaining personal balance. As for me, I need to quit this post so that I can start acting on the steps I’ve outlined!! Have a wonderful Monday, friends.