If you are working to bring more life balance to your family, don’t forget your own needs. For a lot of us who are mothers of young children, it is difficult to acknowledge that we have personal needs let alone to find a way to address those needs and reach for some kind of personal life balance.
I’ve been really focused taking small steps to improve areas of my life that feel like they are out of balance. In Tuesday’s post, I quoted Nigel Marsh’s TED Talk on “How to Make Work-Life Balance Work,” and I keep thinking about one thing he said: “Being balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life.”
Don’t get caught up in the assumption that you must reach a perfect balance. Look at your big picture to see where you want to be and where you are. Then, take a step.
My Technical Details
It’s easy to say, “Take a step,” but how? I know from trying a lot of different productivity systems what works to keep me on track and what becomes too much of a distraction. I write down everything I need to do. I dump all tasks onto a list following what I learned from reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I have tried programs and apps, but I find that a plain spreadsheet works best for me. I’ve created my own system to outsmart my tendency to game the system and to keep me from putting everyone else first.
I check my big picture by dividing my goals and tasks by life area. (Embedded in the image above really is a screenshot of my daily task list.) How you measure your life balance and the balance of your family really depends on what you need.
- You could look at the categories described in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (Democratic Engagement, Community Vitality, Education, Environment, Healthy Populations, Leisure and Culture, Living Standards, and Time Use),
- use general life areas (Spiritual, Intellectual, Psychological, Social, Professional, Recreational, and Physical), or
- the roles that you play (Mother, Wife, Boss, Team Member, Community Member, Voter, Artist, Volunteer).
It will take some values clarification for you to determine which areas come together in your life to bring balance for you. I have gone through this process quite a few times, and I seem comfortably settled on eight areas that keep me in balance. I know that I tend not to take care of myself, so I have a whole section that is all about me.
If you are a visual person, you might like a graphic reminder of how you are doing. You can grade yourself on a Wheel of Life to remind you where you need more work. I used to want this, but I found that I made the wheel The Thing rather than making the wellbeing and balance The Thing. I get distracted by the graphics, so I just use a list with colors now. I make Family one of my eight separate areas of balance. I use my favorite color (purple) for the “ME!” area, to try to get myself not to ignore it. I put volunteer work at the bottom of the list in my least favorite color to keep myself from putting those tasks above family, work, and self.
If an off-the-shelf solution works for you, great. Really, that’s best, but it doesn’t work for me. I used to have to shift to a new system every few months to keep myself moving.
How does this help me find my own personal balance? I check in every week, and make myself choose items from every area to prioritize through the week. I don’t let myself get away with skipping the “ME!” section so I can get everyone else’s tasks done. Sometimes the “ME!” items are as simple as “READ novel” or “KNIT,” but I also make notes to call friends and workout. Over time, I have figured out how I neglect myself and I’ve figured out how to stop myself from doing it.
Shouldn’t we just be able to be more intuitive about life balance? I wish I could be. I think it used to be easier for me, but my life was less complicated and I didn’t have as many people to take care of. Now, I need help working through the chaos. To keep my personal life balance, I play to my own strengths and game my weaknesses.
While you are taking care of your family, don’t forget to take care of yourself.