One of the themes I’ve been noticing lately—in conversations with you, in conversations with myself, in the things I’ve been listening to or paying attention to—is the idea of balance.
(I know, I know, it’s talked about a lot. But hear me out.)
I’m noticing that when we finish a particularly busy workday, we think, Ugh. I didn’t exercise or do my morning pages today, and I missed a call from a good friend. My life is totally out of balance. Or when we get to the end of a week where we concentrated mostly on client work, we think, Oh no, I didn’t send out an email this week and I didn’t spend any time on business growth. Everything is way out of balance.
But I’m starting to believe we’re measuring balance on the wrong scale.
I’ve been listening to I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam (who also wrote What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think). She did a study of how women spend their time and I Know How She Does It is all about what she learned.
I won’t get deep into details, but one of her conclusions is that we should measure balance weekly instead of daily. Maybe you have a couple of really busy days, but they let you have the entire weekend totally free from work—and if you look at the week as a whole, that might feel pretty darn good after all.
So let’s look at that busy day as an example. Yes, you skipped exercising, didn’t write your morning pages, and missed a call from a friend. But later on in the week, maybe you went for a longer run, sat in a coffee shop for an hour and wrote to your heart’s content, and met that same friend for a leisurely brunch. When you look at the week as a whole, do you feel like your life is out of balance? I’m guessing not—or at least not as much. You still got to do the things that were important to you—you just didn’t do them all in one day.
But I think you could pull back even further. Let’s look at that client-heavy week. Yes, you skipped sending out an email and didn’t focus on growing your business. But maybe in the same month, you sent out two well-written, well-received emails that gained you a new dream client and then sat down for a several-hour planning session for a new ecourse you want to create. When you look at the month as a whole, do you feel like everything is out of balance? I’m guessing not—or at least not as much. You still did the things that were important to you—just not all in one week.
Really, what we’re talking about here is perspective.
Many of us have mapped out our ideal day, and I love this exercise. It’s a beautiful way to look at what you truly find important and what makes you happy. But I think that where we fall down is thinking we can always do those things every single day.
For example, I would love to be able to meditate, stretch, exercise, write morning pages, take a walk, and hang out on the couch with a cup of tea reading a book that helps me grow—every single day. But realistically, at the pace I typically move and with the other things I have going on, doing all that would take more hours than I usually have. (And with a baby on the way, those hours are going to shrink even more.)
For a long time, I felt like my day was a failure if I didn’t check all those boxes. But what I’m coming to realize is that if I get to the end of a week and I’ve done each of those things, say, two to three times, I feel pretty darn good—meaning my body and mind feel taken care of and I feel like my life is pretty good.
But I only get those good feelings when I stop trying to force myself to do more than is realistic in one day (or even one week). And if I do have a day where I manage to do all of those things and still get all my other responsibilities taken care of, I have something to celebrate—rather than letting that super nice day get ruined by all the other “failures” around it.
So what do you do if things feel out of balance?
Take a step back. Imagine zooming out on a map of your time. Look at bigger windows of time. How are things going on a weekly basis? Monthly?
And then think about how that bigger view makes you feel. Are you ok with things the way they are? What changes would you make?
Maybe you decide, for example, that you want to write every day (even if just for ten minutes) but that you’re happy exercising three days a week. Or maybe you decide that you’ll have a marathon reading session once a week, and be content with ten or fifteen pages before bed other days. Or maybe decide you want to do a month packed with client work followed by two weeks of content creation, business growth, and other internal projects before firing up a busy client month again.
Or maybe you simply realize you're in a busy part of your life right now (new baby, new business, big move, hard personal things happening) and you just let go of some of the expectations you've been placing on yourself.
Just remember that you’re the one who gets to decide what balance looks like for you.
I would love to hear what balance looks like for you!