As we trek into the new year, I though it was the perfect time to talk about balance. We all strive to have control over our lives, and so many of us feel that we don’t. I know that I have days where everything seems to fall apart and I can’t regain control. But more often than not I have learned how to keep control over something that could easily get messy. And I haven’t always been that way, and I’m still learning. Only in the last year have I felt my life start to become balanced, and it happened with a few key shifts.
I hope that these tips help you as we move into the new year to be more organized, balanced, and focused on what is most important.
1. Make a list at the end of your work day.
Each day when I finish working I make a list that details what I want to accomplish for the next day. I write it out in as much detail as I need to know exactly where to start when I sit down at my desk the next day. There are certain tasks that stay on my list full time, like “answer emails” and “yoga”, since those are things I do every day. Other tasks come and go, like “book travel for India” or “write proposal for new event”.
Here are some of the ways I keep my lists. If you have a Google email account (gmail), you can use the Google mail “Tasks” list. It is my new best friend. On the upper left-hand side of your mail page you will see a red MAIL with a dropdown menu. In that dropdown you will see the word “Tasks”, and when you click it, it brings up a pop-up to do list. You can easily create new tasks, check them off (which satisfyingly crosses them off) or delete them completely.
I write my tasks at the end of each work day, cross them off as the day goes on so that I feel accomplished, and then delete the ones that won’t repeat. You could also utilize, ColorNote, EverNote, or any other app that allows for organization. I also keep a very detailed calendar online.
2. Put down your work when you finish your day.
Number one is truly the most important thing in my arsenal of organization tools. I used to stress myself over work to the point where I would stop watching a movie halfway through and run to my computer to check on random emails. It drove my husband IN-SANE. Now that I have a to-do list that I create at the end of my work day, I’ve already gone through the motions of figuring out what I’ve accomplished and what needs to be done the next day. That means that when I put my work down, it is really down.
There are many practices that can help with finishing work and not “taking it home”…or for me, out of my office, since I work at home! One is to look at everything you crossed off your to-do list and think ahead for what will need to be accomplished in the day or week to come. Another is to keep a detailed calendar so that you can always look quickly to see what is upcoming. The other great thing to do is to not just plan your work day, but also what you do after. For example, I love having a meal planned out so that I have something to look forward to when I finish working. I love to cook, so it is a treat when I’ve thought ahead and I have the best looking mushrooms to make mushroom soup! It allows me to go from one thing that I love to another, which makes it easier to put down the work.
3. Realize that time is actually pretty generous.
I have spent a lot of time (ha-ha) thinking about the problems I hear from people when they sit and tell me what is frustrating them about business. The number one thing, by far-far-far-far, is that they haven’t succeeded yet at their goal and therefore they have failed. They see other people doing amazing things and they just can’t seem to get off the ground. I sympathize wholeheartedly, because I have often been plagued with that crushing thought. Time is so short! I must compete! I must succeed!
But then something dawned on me. Maybe it is my imminent 30th birthday looming (which I am SO EXCITED for…I was meant to be any age but young, I swear), but I have come to realize that time is actually quite generous. We put such arbitrary deadlines on our success that if we don’t meet them we think we have failed. Who says you have to achieve your dream in a certain time frame? Success is sweeter when we fail and keep going. Eventually these things often work out.
I recently auditioned for a TED talk. I didn’t get it. I was crushed. I got the news, started hyperventilating, ran to my husband and cried for a good five minutes. And then I decided that I was being pathetic. It was good to let it out. After all, giving a TED talk is my ALL TIME BIGGEST DREAM. But it wasn’t going to crush me. The next morning I took a long walk through the forest. I sat watching a bird jump on a branch for a few minutes, each time it moved a little dead leaf jiggled. Finally the leaf fell off at the same time the bird flew away. I had a realization in that moment that everything has it’s time.
Stop putting that pressure on yourself. It isn’t worth it, and that way of thinking might hold you back from ever completing your dream.
4. Define your small goals with great intent.
Just the opposite of my last point is this one: though our dreams should never have a deadline, little, concrete goals can (and should). If my dream is to give a TED talk, I shouldn’t tell myself that it has to happen by a certain time or else I fail. What I should do, instead, is to come up with concrete steps I can take to help make the dream happen and set deadlines for those. Examples might be to submit an application to TED (by a certain date), read a public speaking book (by a certain date), hire a speech coach (by a certain date)…you get the idea.
By defining small goals we give ourselves small successes. By keeping our spirits up by actually taking steps to achieve our dreams, the dreams don’t seem so far away and we feel a sense of accomplishment.
5. Stop defining your dreams so strictly.
If there is anything I learned, it is that life never turns out precisely as you thought it would. We make plans for ourselves and too often think we have failed if the picture of our lives doesn’t match how we thought it would look. Learn how to roll with the punches and widen your stance. If you have a dream, be open to that dream morphing.
I remember when I wanted to be in a gallery. I submitted to over 100 galleries and heard nothing but the occasional “no” back. So, I changed course. I started paying to submit to juried shows and eventually I got my work exhibited. It wasn’t in a proper gallery, and I had to pay $25 for it, but suddenly my dream was achieved when I widened my perception of how it would happen.
Some other ways I keep balance and organization?
Daily yoga with a daily positivity mantra
Knowing what I love to do and scheduling time for those things
(almost) Never procrastinating
Actively seeing any completed task as a success
Rewarding myself for doing unwanted tasks
Allowing time for relaxation for optimal health
Sleeping 8 hours a night
Eliminating sugars and processed foods, frequently
Going over what I am grateful for every night
Let’s get into gear for 2017 to get off to the right start. I love knowing that a new year is upon us and with that new year comes new opportunities to be better than before. Take them. Build them. It is always worth it even if not everything sticks. The most we can do is build that foundation that we can fall back on.
One way to start 2017 off with a bang is to join the 20 Day Portfolio Renovation Challenge! You pay only what you can!