Welcome to the rest of your life. One of the most important things you will need to learn to have a happy, fulfilling life is how to find balance.
Recently, I was reading an article from Business Insider magazine and the article was talking about 9 things that every person should be able to do by the time they are 30. Eight of those things are not relevant to this blog, but #9 really struck me. #9 talked about achieving work/life balance. The article claimed that the key to finding balance is less about work-life balance than work-life purpose. Work-life purpose is prioritizing what’s important to you and fitting it into a composite of who you are.
I agree with what the article was saying about this. I’d be lying to you if I said that I had mastered this when I was in college. In fact, even though I am better at it now, I would hardly consider myself a master of life balance now.
I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, especially those who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs.
One of my core fears is that someone would think I can’t handle as much as the next person can.
I don’t know about you, but that really resonates with me. I want to do it all. Even more importantly, I want to be seen by others like I can do it all. I want people to think I am Super Man. That is probably my biggest challenge in finding balance in my own life. I say that I want it, but deep down, I’m not willing to admit I can’t do it all and, therefore, create the balance that I desperately need in my life.
One of the best times to work on getting life balance is when you are leaving college. You most-likely are not married yet and hopefully you don’t have any kids so you are at a point in your life when you are really the only one you have to worry about. Your life is changing anyway so it is like you are starting with a clean slate.
If you are still in college, you can certainly start on working on finding life balance. It will be more challenging though because there are a lot of things that you just have to do to be successful at the big machine that exists for getting a college education.
If you are long removed from the college years and you need to work to find balance, it can still be done. It can be more challenging though as you have the added demands of your family on you. Just remember, as long as you are able to function on your own and make your own decisions, you can find the life balance that you so crave.
Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to find balance in your own life:
- What are your weekly priorities? When you are in college, these priorities usually consist of social life, grades, and sleep (usually in that order). When you are older, these priorities are usually similar, you just substitute your job for the grades portion. But surely there are more priorities than that. What are the things you need to accomplish or experience each week to be doing what you want your life to be about? That is the question you need to be asking. This list will be different for every single person and only you can create your own list. Take the time to actually write out this list. You need to actually see what those priorities look like and see them as a whole.
- What can be cut? This can be a much tougher thing for college students than adults who are past our college years. There are a lot of things you have to do while you are in school (go to class, read, write papers, internships) that you simply can’t cut. I get that. But surely there’s something you can cut that isn’t contributing to your top priorities. Once you have created your list of priorities in you life, put a star next to the priorities you have listed that you would consider your very top priorities. When you are trying to determine what you can cut from your life, look at your list of top priorities. If what you are trying to decided to cut or not does not contribute to one of these top priorities, you should indeed cut it out of your life. If it does contribute to one of your top priorities, you should consider not cutting it.
- When making decisions in the moment, what’s your immediate priority? Do you stay in and write that paper or do you go out with your friends? If the paper is due tomorrow, the paper is the immediate priority. If the paper is not due for a few days and could be done tomorrow, it now becomes a matter of priorities. Is it more important for you to get a good grade on the paper or spend time with your friends? As you get out of college the choice can often be one involving staying extra hours at the office working on a project or going home and spending time with your spouse and kids. It’s a choice that only you can make.
- Watch how you’re spending your time. Often we waste hours of the day without even realizing it. One of my favorite time management activities I do is something I learned at an NCAA Leadership Conference I attended in Orlando, FL in the summer of 1999. I have used this often through the years and have found it to be very helpful. What you do is make a weekly schedule with each day broken down into 30 minute increments. Just live life like you normally would and then record everything you do for a week. Don’t try to alter your schedule because you’re tracking your time. Then, at the end of the week, go back and see where you wasted time or if there were things you did that you could cut in the future. It is a great way to see a snapshot of how you are actually spending your time.
- Don’t forget to take time to relax. It’s OK to watch TV. It’s OK to read a book that has nothing to do with a class you are taking. You can play your guitar. You can take a nap. Don’t get overly obsessed with time management and balance that you don’t allow yourself time to relax, blow off steam, or just hang out. That stuff is important too. It keeps us sane.
How about you? What do you do to maintain a healthy life balance or to manage your busy schedule?