If there is one thing that I feel I have consistently struggled with over the course of my life, it is finding balance. I am well aware that I am not the only one; I just had a conversation with a good friend of mine last night discussing this very topic. He is younger than I, and has ambitious financial goals that he is well on his way to accomplishing. But what I was so happy to hear was him coming to the conclusion that the money doesn’t mean nearly as much to him as things like spending time with his kids does. He has already missed several “firsts” by being away at work, and he is shifting things to avoid as much of that in the future as possible.
For me, I do not have kids and my life has different priorities. I personally have always been willing to sacrifice money in exchange for time. I get that from my Dad I’m sure. Having the freedom to do the things I love to do has more importance in my day to day life than earning more money by working longer and harder at my job. One of the key things that makes me happy, and allows me to be my authentic self more often, is doing all of the things I do outside of my day job. I coach the Racquetball team at ASU, I teach two classes, I fly fish, I write, I do public speaking events a couple of times a month. All of these things are integral parts of me and who I am in the world. By taking any of these out of the mix, I chip away at the very foundation of myself. I need a variety of things to keep my mind fresh, and to hold my attention. However, balancing all of these things in an organized fashion is never easy.
I am closing in on the time of the year where a lot of my focus is on racquetball. The team is gearing up for the Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships, this year held at LSU in Baton Rouge. We have done the fundraising we needed, and now we are down to playoffs for the positions on the team. I squeezed in a fishing trip this passed weekend, and can hopefully do one more before the end of March when we head to LSU. Some of the other things I do get pushed to the side as the focus of this event takes over a chunk of my attention. Despite having done this for twelve years now, it still catches me off guard, and I feel like I run out of time to do all of the things I wanted to do in a timely fashion. Things feel out of balance,, and I am fighting hard to get everything back on order.
I can’t allow too much of my brain space to get taken up by the racquetball stuff, as everything else will suffer. My primary focus has to stay on the day job, as I have deadlines and obligations to fulfill. But outside of that, I spend a lot of my time in “racquetball mode” to try to get everything there squared away. When I feel like I am being pulled into too many different directions and feel overwhelmed, I rely on a couple of tricks to get back to center:
1a. Write a to do list – Sounds easy enough, all I have to do is write everything down so I can see and know what needs to get accomplished. Because I have spent a lot of time writing over the course of my life, I do think that spending quiet time at Starbucks, headphones on, focused on writing, has proven to be quite helpful. It allows me to extract my thoughts and get them down on my computer screen Once the words and thoughts are outside of my head, it is easier to sort through things when I can look at the totality of them.
1b. Prioritize the list – Not everything I need to get done is needed right away. Some things can wait, and I want to ensure that I spend my time as efficiently as possible. By prioritizing the list of things to do, I am able to have a game plan for getting everything accomplished.
1c. Do the list – Again, sounds easy enough, right? But this is the critical step…action. Once you have things narrowed down to what you need to do, and in what order, now you have to execute. Get cracking and make sh*t happen. Get the serotonin high of scratching things off of your to do list as you go. That little boost will keep you motivated and on track to get more done.
2. Go for a walk/hike – When I feel like I have too much swimming around in my head at once, i like to take a walk and let me mind drift off for a bit. When I can get my subconscious mind to take the reigns for a bit, I almost always have answers to the questions I am struggling with in a short amount of time later. There is a definite correlation between the silence of nature and sorting out problems in my head.
3. Talk it out – I am very fortunate to have a wide range of friends in all age categories, and I tap into their brains all the time. I don’t put the responsibility all on myself to solve every problem I have, I borrow the brains of others to assist. This always makes me see things in a different light, and the differences in perspective prove to be very valuable in determining my course of action.
In a perfect world, I live in a state of balance. This magical state includes time for everything I want and need to do, and all of it flows seamlessly. However, I live in a place called reality, and that place is riddled with distractions, curve balls, nagging little tasks and big decisions. It is easy for the balancing rocks to get misaligned and start to slip. It is my job to manage this “structure” and make sure that I can maintain the balancing act to the best of my abilities.
You know when you meet someone who’s life is just a spaghetti sandwich, and it is glaringly obvious to everyone else what the problems are. While it can be easier to run someone else’s life than your own, I don’t feel like I should be doling out advice all the time if I don’t have my own sh*t together as much as possible. I am not big on the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach, but rather do my best to be a “Lead by Example” kind of person. It is not easy, as no life is. But it is easier if I keep it together, write a list, prioritize the list, and then do the list. No magic secrets, no hoping for the best. A real, written plan on a day to day basis for getting things done. That is as good as it gets. That’s how I keep the rocks in balance.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.