Five Tips for a More Balanced Life

Five Tips for a More Balanced Life

It seems crazy (and totally understandable when I look at my own life) but more than half the country reported not using all the vacation time they earned in 2017. Last year this totaled to 705 million unused days, up from 662 million days the year before, which means each person who couldn’t find the time to escape donated about $561 back to their employers.

Endlessly keeping plates spinning and multitasking is the new norm but being busy does not mean your mind is stimulated or your life fulfilled. Making time to disconnect from work and our digital lives for a week or even 10 minutes has clear and perhaps overly obvious personal health benefits yet many of us forego these benefits for all sorts of reasons.

Endlessly keeping plates spinning and multitasking is the new norm but being busy does not mean your mind is stimulated or your life fulfilled.

For some, the benefits of getting away just don’t outweigh the pain of handing off work to co-workers let alone the scary inbox count upon return. We download countless productivity apps and project management software but we still remain handcuffed to our work. What are we working for?

For others, their business won’t run without them and there is no one to hand-off calls and orders to keep the business rolling. Any solo shop owner, maker, or entrepreneur knows this balance all too well. Being a solopreneur can totally suck. There simply isn’t an option for relief when there are few lines between personal and business. Not stressful at all…

Still, some employees fear the negative perception of taking time off for fear of appearing uncommitted or highlighting that they can be replaced. Having four weeks of vacation is pretty ideal but not when your workplace makes taking time off feel like a bad guilt trip. How many vacation days did you forego last year? Have you ever canceled a trip because of work?

Skipping Time Away Isn’t Without Slings and Arrows

Even for those that chose to stay in the office, the sad truth is that we’re not really getting the most out of the time we’re spending at work. We’re constantly breaking flow with email notifications, co-workers sharing GIFs via Slack, and extended commutes. Even when no one is distracting us, we’re distracting ourselves. How many times have you complained about all the work you have…as you spend 10 minutes mindlessly catching up on Instagram stories? It isn’t healthy but it is very common to sabotage our own productivity. One might ask if there is a deeper message of dissatisfaction or values…

How many times have you complained about all the work you have…as you spend 10 minutes catching up on Instagram stories?

With 2.23 billion monthly active users, Facebook/Instagram have given us some powerful ways to stay connected, informed and entertained. The average user spends 10 hours per month browsing the ‘Book’ but do we feel that much more inspired or connected? Unfortunately, it appears to be quite the opposite. We feel more lonely and disconnected. Most of us share how we wish we had more time for our interests but we keep doing it anyway — and it’s hard to be interesting without interests!

So what do you get when you mix skipped vacations, faces glued to mobile devices, constant app notifications and overly curated social feeds? Well, you get a ton of uninspired, busy, envious, distracted people who perceive they lack the time to pursue their passions and interests. More and more, people simply lack the time, commitment and focus to realize their best lives. More and more people are experiencing imbalance and time poverty but there is hope.

“More and more people are experiencing imbalance and time poverty but there is hope.”

Life isn’t going to simplify itself until we make a change, retire or die. The seemingly endless treadmill of productivity and progress doesn’t slow down for you to find balance. The choice has to be deliberately made to make balance, create time abundance, and human connection a greater value.

Here are five ways that you can start to slow down your own treadmill, focus your energy, and make time for a more balanced and rewarding life:

  1. Prioritize Downtime — Block out time for yourself to slow down. This can be 10 minutes of taking a walk, silence, meditation, prayer, deep breathing or journaling. I’ve personally had users of the mediation app, Headspace, swear by the impact and encourage me to test. I prefer unguided meditation and struggle to make time for it but thankfully there is something for everyone out there. If you makes you feel better and manages work expectations - stay marginally connected while on vacation. Set blocks of time to be connected and communicate this to your clients and co-workers. Firing up the laptop for a couple hours in Maui is better than skipping the Road to Hana. I promise. Try to reframe your mindset around “idle” tim Learn to consider your time spent in mediation or on creative outlets as your competitive edge. You’ll be moving your career forward by being more focused, productive, and balanced while making yourself more interesting at the same time. Win. Win.
Learn to consider your time spent in meditation or on creative outlets as your competitive edge.

2. Explore Your Interests — Pull out your bucket list of experiences. If you don’t have one…start one. Learn a new skill, take a city history tour or get creative in a DIY workshop on Dabble. Yes, I’m pretty biased! Seriously though, breaking from your routine and your screen will reward you with a new hobby and possibly something you’ll be proud enough to display in your home. Taking classes to explore a new skill and meet new people is the new happy hour. Maybe you want to learn how to make craft cocktails, blow glass, roll sushi, calligraphy, or spend an evening creating a terrarium. Whatever you decide, it’s pretty certain that everyone there will be as excited to be there as you are — which basically means new friends. New to town or newly single? Skip the dating apps and take a class. Even if you don’t meet anyone, you’ll learn something new and explore the city.

“Taking classes to explore a new skill and meet new people is the new happy hour.”

3. Disconnect Digitally — Accidentally leaving your phone behind can be a super stressful situation, but you might find that doing it intentionally can be a game-changer. It can also be a real challenge for parents, children with older parents and pet owners as communication can be really difficult without a phone. Too much to leave your phone behind? Try the Do Not Disturb feature to focus and create space with the option to add exceptions for emergencies. Upon the urging of ADHD researcher Elizabeth Hawkey, I turned off all non-urgent app notifications. It has saved me so much time not looking down at my phone each time it would have buzzed or a red notification popped up.

4. Give Your Brain a Break — Disconnecting from your thoughts and connecting with your body is incredibly important. Run a mile each day, go for a walk (with your phone on silent or not at all), find a bench in the sun or a spot under a tree. Take your shoes and socks off and truly connect with the Earth. We rarely view dirt as a good thing but it is so important to remind ourselves and nurture the experience of being grounded. Nature has a way of calming the mind. Make time for a road trip. Go camping. Plan a picnic. Most importantly, fight the urge to capture all the moments on your phone.

5. Pick Up The Phone / Send a Card — How great is it to get a “real” letter in the mail from an old friend? I recently returned from 10 days on the road and found not just one but TWO handwritten letters from family and friends thanking me for gifts or thoughtful actions. It likely took them less than 5 minutes to create but the impression and impact were huge. These days it seems we can feel more connected to distant friends via their posts on social media than friends in our cities. Sending a real card (handmade earns extra kudos) to cheer up someone going through a tough time means a heck of a lot more than adding a sad face emoji to their post. Don’t have their address? Message a family or friend that does and surprise them. Still stuck or hate your handwriting (we can fix that!) pick up the phone next time you send that “thinking of you” text message.

Sending a real card (handmade earns extra kudos) to cheer up someone going through a tough time means a heck of a lot more than adding a sad face emoji to their post.

Life is short but it is also full of opportunities to be truly ourselves. What will you do with your extra time? Time is a steadily depleting asset. Make the most of it. Make time for what you value…oh, and take that vacation!

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be some master of balance. I’m awful at putting my phone down and being fully present. I’m constantly multi-tasking and it has taken a toll on my personal relationships and productivity. That said, I’m pretty good at spontaneous, unplanned road trips and getting myself outdoors and I’ve been running every day for more than a year..so I got that going for me. Basically, do as I say not as I do!

Previously published on Medium

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