Gaining a Little Perspective

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!

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The In-Between

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I wasn’t sure what to share with you this week.

I’ve started several posts (that you’ll get to see, don’t worry!) but I am saving them for the next few weeks as I finalize and prepare to launch some website updates, my new content coaching services, the guide I’ve been talking about for a while, and some big changes to the blog (starting in September!).

So as you can see, I’m in a bit of an in-between place. My heart, my mind, and my work are all in this new place—but I haven’t shared that with you yet. (More next week!)

I’m also fighting a bit of weirdness this week as I struggle to get into work zone each morning. I feel like I’ve thrown off my rhythms a bit (I’ve been exercising at a different time than I used to, I’m starting to eat differently, and I’ve been working more in the evenings than I usually do), so I’m struggling to figure out what my body wants and, well, give it whatever that is.

So instead of sharing something I didn’t feel great about or skipping this week altogether, I thought I would just tell you where I am, imperfections and all. I’m working hard and loving what I’m creating, but I’m also slogging through some of the less-exciting parts of growth. I’m making changes in my work and personal life, but change isn’t always easy.

And now I’d love to hear where you are, imperfections and all. What are you working on (or what do you wish you were working on)? What are you learning? What are you struggling with? What are you celebrating? What are you looking forward to and excited about?

I’ll see you next week with more about the direction I’m heading in and launch dates for all I’m working on!

What We Can Learn When We're Inconsistent

As I’ve been working on the guide for you (mentioned in my last couple of posts), I’ve been thinking about my own content.

I realized, as I looked back through my Instagram photos, that there have been a few shifts in visual style recently. Now I could feel bad about that—if you listen to any advice about Instagram, it’s to keep your photos visually consistent—but I’m choosing a different path, and I think you should consider doing the same.

See, I do think visual consistency is super important. But I also think that as humans who are constantly growing and changing and trying new things, we can learn a lot if we pay attention to the times when we’re not consistent—or the times we shift into a new kind of consistency.

First, we can learn from the patterns we notice.

For a few months, I was posting pictures that tended to be a bit darker. But lately, I’m feeling more pulled to post photos that are a bit lighter and brighter. And after thinking about that shift for a few minutes, I realized it mimicked a shift in my own life. I went through a few months of having a lot going on and feeling a bit heavier, but as things have gotten worked out one way or another, I feel lighter. Unconsciously, I was reflecting that in my images.

And lately, I’m realizing that I really like change and experimentation—I love the feeling of possibility that comes with trying something new. And I’ve found that in the past, when I've given myself a bit of freedom to try new things, I have eventually arrived at what’s most true and right for me—but there have naturally been changes along the way.

So instead of beating yourself up when shifts and inconsistencies happen in your own work—easy to do because of all that aforementioned advice about strict consistency—look at what they’re trying to tell you. Has something changed? Does something need to change? Is there something going on you should take a closer look at? Is the way you’re doing things now the way you want to continue doing things?

What You Can Learn When You're Inconsistent - Erica Midkiff - Content Coaching.jpg

We can also learn from the resistance we face.

Ah, resistance. Every Tuesday morning, I talk to a friend and fellow creative on the phone—we talk about our goals for the upcoming week, what went well (and what didn’t) the previous week, and anything we’re struggling with or celebrating. Yesterday, we talked about…resistance.

This is a tricky one for me. I’ve talked about writing in layers and going where you're led before, and I really believe in both—but I also think it’s important to be able to tell the difference between doing those things…and giving in to resistance.

It’s tempting to just give in, to make excuses, to go with what’s comfortable. But if you can start to notice resistance instead of just fighting or ignoring it, that’s where the real magic happens—because that’s when you start learning.

As an example, your resistance may be telling you it’s time to stop holding on to something. Let’s say you have been resisting posting on Instagram every day. Examine why. Would you be annoyed if someone else did the same? Does it feel inauthentic? Would you rather post a couple of more in-depth updates than something light every day—and you only have the time or energy to follow one of those strategies? Do you just need a break from posting daily for a month or so while you finish a big project? Those all might be reasons to change the pressure you’re putting on yourself to post daily.

But your resistance might also be telling you it’s time to just do the thing already. Let’s use that same scenario above—you’re resisting posting on Instagram every day. Examine why. Are you afraid to put yourself out there because you might get criticized? Are you feeling your photos aren’t as good as someone else’s? Are you afraid you can’t handle the rush of client work or purchases that might come your way? Those all might be reasons to push yourself a little harder instead of ignoring the problem (maybe try it for two weeks and see how things go, or start putting systems in place to help you work with clients more efficiently, or look into hiring someone to help you send out orders—you get the idea).

What can you learn?

So whether shifts and inconsistencies are a result of a bigger pattern or have to do with resistance, they can potentially teach you something—if you can push past the self-criticism that so often tags along. (Easier said than done, I know!) I’m spending this week paying special attention to the times I face resistance, and would love for you to join me!

P.S. In the guide I'm creating—which will help you gain clarity, map out sustainable steps for consistent sharing, do the actual work of creating content, and then publish with confidence—I focus on doing what's right for you, not right for everyone else. And this naturally takes a bit of experimentation. I want you to feel comfortable trying something out and then be able to incorporate changes when they come your way instead of feeling like you've done something wrong—or like you need to start from scratch. I'm working hard on getting this into your hands soon, and I can't wait to see the incredible things you do with it!

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