Most days I feel like I’m living the millennial dream. At 24, I’ve been blessed by more opportunities than I can count. I am getting paid to teach math to college students while I work on my PhD, all in my hometown with an incredibly community of family and friends around and a great network of friends across the country. I’m incredibly fortunate to be in the situation that I’m in and often times am faced with more opportunities than I can afford to take advantage of. With my life being an embarrassment of riches of sorts, finding balance in how I spend my time is something I struggle with. Between classes, research, teaching, tutoring, volunteering, friends, family, my church community, and taking time for myself, I often feel torn in how to spend my time, having to choose between multiple good things. I am a firm believer in balance as the key to peace and happiness, and that’s especially true with work/life as much as anything else.
As the new semester gets going, I’m recommitting myself to finding balance. Here’s what I have found so far to have helped and what I’ll be working at.
I had the realization a while back that how I spend my time should reflect what’s important to me. It’s a simple idea, but if someone were to look at my schedule right now, would they be able to tell what I value? Do the things that I say are important to me actually play out in what I do day-to-day? Make a list in order of the things that are important to you, and then think about what parts of your day/week/month you devote to those things. Do they match up? I’ve had to adjust how I spend my time and cut back on things that suck my time, like Netflix (currently not watching any TV) so that I have time for the things that I want to do.
Be fully present
Ahhh multi-tasking, the all-lauded productivity skill. I used to think working on multiple things at the same time would make me more efficient, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. The times that I’m most productive are the times that I’m fully engaged in what I’m doing. Whether I’m on a writing roll, reading papers, writing lesson plans, or spending time with friends or family, when my mind is 100% checked into what I’m doing without distraction, the better use of my time it is. Working for short periods of time completely void of distraction has been working really well for me. The do-not-disturb/airplane mode setting is my new favorite thing to use. No one will be offended if you don’t text back right away, and you don’t need to refresh Instagram every 20 mins. Unplug and be fully present in whatever you happen to be doing.
Embrace saying no
Over-committing has always been something I’ve struggled with. This past year I’ve been presented with several great opportunities that I’ve had to turn down, simply due to lack of time. In general, it’s really hard for me to say no, especially when it’s something that I would like to do. I recently declined an offer for a big research position, one that would have definitely made my CV shine and ease the job search after grad school, knowing it would consume too much of my life if I accepted it. It wasn’t easy and I doubted my decision, but I’m grateful I said no. Learning to say no, and knowing I don’t need to overly justify why to others, has been crucial for my life balance.
Ask for help
Along with saying no, asking for help goes along way. Some of the things I’ve taken on in the past have become too much for me to do alone. Finding other people to help join in what I’m doing is also hard because I often like doing things myself, but has been another way I’ve found balance.
Make time for self-care
Whether it’s exercising, reflection, prayer, silence, down time, cooking healthy meals, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Staying in and spending time on yourself is important and helps you to be more energized and at your best when you are helping others. Making time to exercise has been huge for my sense of balance and mental well-being. Yoga’s been a great way for me to unwind and destress lately. It’s challenging and mental, but won’t wear me out so much that I can’t work the rest of the day. I’m also itching for it to cool down here in AZ so I can get out and hike. Time in nature always makes me feel more complete.
Make time to just be available
I thrive off of a busy schedule and like having lots to do, especially when it’s things I love that bring me fulfillment. I’ve found though that sometimes I’m too booked to make time for the spontaneous things that come up. If I’ve already planned every hour of my day and there’s no downtime, I often have to say no to last-minute dinners with friends or other fun things. As a friend, I want to have time if something comes up where another friend needs me to talk or help in some way. I’ve always admired my friends who, no matter how busy they are, still have time to drop what they’re doing for me. I hope that I can be that friend in return, which means laying aside some time to just be available for whatever may come up. The close friendships in my life are one of my priorities, and I want how I spend my time to reflect that.
I’m so excited for all that this year holds! Wishing you all a balanced year as well. I’d love to hear from you. What helps you to stay balanced through the busy of life?