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How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

Health and meaningful relationships add years and quality to our lives. Few people contest this fact.  Does it then follow that more people are focusing on these areas of their lives?  Do you regularly exercise and go for holidays or fun meals with your spouse/partner and family?  If the answer is no, why not?  Expense could be an issue.  If your reason is  “I can’t find the time,”  you’re not alone.  You keep track of your expenses and know how much your bank balance is, but do you also know exactly where your time goes?  Here are simple tools to manage time and become conscious of how you spend it.

1. Pause and review your past week.

You attend to many things at work and after work.  How do you decide on which tasks to prioritize?  Usually, you first do those that need to be finished sooner or whose deadlines are looming.  This generally works, but over the long term it could turn into crisis management rather than a way to manage time.  Cheryl Richardson in her book Take Time for Your Life challenges us to check where our time goes. Determined to get an accurate indicator for the exercise, I came up with these forms that assign colors per Life Area to make it visually easier to track time.

First, look over a typical week.  On the Time Tracking Daily Form, block the hours spent per day according to color of the Life Area they fall under.

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    Next, total those hours by Life Areas on the Time Tracking Weekly Totals Form. An optional step is to convert those weekly totals to a pie chart for a more dramatic visual.

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      So just where does your time go?  Aside from sleeping and eating, which area of your life do you spend the most time on? Which life area gets the smallest portion?  I had expected work to eat up a big chunk of my time, but was surprised at how little I spent on Spiritual well-being and on Fun and Adventure.

      2. Make a plan to manage time; decide which life areas need attention.

      These forms are not absolute and have room for improvement.  Exercise, for example, is grouped with sleeping under Physical and Emotional Health. Although this area gets the largest share of your time, it does not necessarily mean you are spending that time on exercise.  Watching TV falls under Fun and Adventure, but it’s a poor substitute for traveling or participating in a hobby. Reading falls under Physical and Emotional Health when it could actually be considered a hobby.  You can tweak the activities that go under each life area or even change the colors altogether.  What’s important is you’re aware of the other areas of your life you may be neglecting and can then decide to manage time so these get more attention.

      The Simple Abundance Companion author, Sarah Ban Breathnach remembers the shock she had felt while looking at her calendar and realizing, in her own words, that “there was no space in the day, week, or month for me to take care of my needs.” She talks about how our inability to say no to family, friends, colleagues, and volunteer work can quickly fill up our calendars, leaving no time for ourselves. Taking action, she set aside two hours a week on her calendar just for her.  She didn’t label it, but blocked the time with a bright yellow marker. This visual prompt made it easy for her to say no to any activity that was in conflict with her “just my own” time.  Her color-blocking tip inspired me to use colors on my weekly and daily schedules.

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      3. Prepare your weekly to-do list and daily schedule to prioritize those life areas you want to focus on.

      Planning what you want to accomplish on a weekly basis works well.  List the tasks by Life Area on the Weekly To-Do List.

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        These tasks can then be carried over to your Daily Schedule.  At the end of each day and week, review what you have accomplished.  The colors will clearly show which life areas you spent most of your day and the week on. You can then decide to focus on the other areas in the coming days and weeks.

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          Often, there will be demands on your time beyond your control. These effective, colorful tools will equip you with some leeway for deciding how you spend your time.  Consider it like a bank or expense account that shows you where your money goes.  Unlike money, time is a finite resource.  Once spent, it can never be recovered. When you consciously manage time, you can balance not just your finances, but more importantly, your life.

          Featured photo credit: Hour Glass, flickr, Nicole Gaunt via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on September 20, 2018

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

          If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

          1. Breathe

          The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

          • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
          • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
          • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

          Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

          2. Loosen up

          After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

          Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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          3. Chew slowly

          Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

          Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

          Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

          4. Let go

          Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

          The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

          It’s not. Promise.

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          Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

          Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

          21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

          5. Enjoy the journey

          Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

          Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

          6. Look at the big picture

          The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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          Will this matter to me…

          • Next week?
          • Next month?
          • Next year?
          • In 10 years?

          Hint: No, it won’t.

          I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

          Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

          7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

          You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

          Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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          8. Practice patience every day

          Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

          • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
          • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
          • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

          Final thoughts

          Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

          Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

          Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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