It is so easy in our world today to get overwhelmed.
We are assaulted from all sides all day long with the idea that we are never “enough”; we need to be smarter, sexier, earn more money, be better looking, and always be “busy”.
If you have ever been enjoying a walk, a good book, a soak in the tub, or a mindless TV show and felt guilt and anxiety because you were not being productive right that moment, you know what I mean.
If you’ve ever caught yourself, past midnight, still replying to work emails in bed even though you’re exhausted and have to go in early for a meeting tomorrow, you know what I mean.
If you’ve ever gotten so overwhelmed and burnt out on your writing, or blogging, or side-hustling, or maintaining your homestead you early retired to that you just cannot even, you know what I mean.
We need balance.
Balance in all things.
This applies to all areas of your life.
How do you feel if you’ve worked overtime for three weeks straight, you have yet to get more than 6 hours of sleep per night, you haven’t seen your wife or husband or kids or friends in a month?
How do you feel after a buffet of all your favorite things, where you had two plates too many and just couldn’t help yourself, and then also there is always room for dessert too?
How do you feel when you just can’t say no, and so you are working, and volunteering, and on a committee, and helping out at your kids school, and don’t even remember the last time you showered?
How do you feel when you work your day job, and another few hours at your side hustle, and have three freelance projects due by tomorrow as well as a post you need to write before 8am?
Probably not great.
But, how do you feel when you have one of those days.
A day where everything clicks. Flows. Is easy.
You get things done.
You’re ahead of your deadlines, you finished a big project, your boss praised you in front of everyone, you got an unexpected raise.
The house is clean, the laundry is done, the yard is mowed, the sink is empty, dinner was a breeze.
You’re in the zone.
AND there is still plenty of time for you.
To work out, do some yoga, read a good book, listen to an inspiring podcast, have a glass of wine/beer, sit and watch the sunset.
You got to spend time with the people you most enjoy, laughing until your cheeks hurt and making memories you know will last forever.
You feel fulfilled, creative, glowing, on top of the world!
Feels pretty awesome, yeah?
Balance looks different for everyone.
Maybe you are a single male in a metropolitan city, living in a tiny apartment with 2 roommates while you finish an MBA. Maybe you are a legal aide, renting a small apartment by yourself within walking distance of work, struggling to pay off six figures of debt.
Maybe you are early retired, living in South America on 10,000/year. Maybe you are a married couple with three kids living in a house you inherited from your grandparents in the suburbs, or a McMansion you earned through a decade of schooling and licensing and work.
In each of these scenarios, your priorities will be different.
But your needs are the same.
Everyone needs the basics: water, food, clothing, shelter.
After that, we all want to be comfortable, whatever level of income and luxury that means for you. We all want to feel loved and valued, be part of a community. We all way to feel healthy, passionate, inspired, capable, and independent.
But this is the 21st century.
We can all be Connected, all the time.
We must be On, all the time.
Reachable, all the time.
Working, all the time.
Where is the time for you?
To be truly healthy requires balance.
If you go to any extremes, that is usually where the most unhealthy habits begin and thrive.
You eat far too much and too often, you risk obesity and diabetes.
You lean on fast food, processed meats, tons of cheese and oils, and solely pre-packaged meals, you risk serious cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and strokes.
You indulge too much and too often with alcohol, and you risk addiction, destroying your liver, starving your cells of nutrition, and shattering your relationships and ruining your entire life.
If you eat only raw vegetables every day, you will slowly starve from lack of proteins and fats.
If you try every herbal supplement on the market, you risk interactions with other medications and crazy unanticipated side effects.
If you become too obsessed with eating “clean” and working out constantly, you risk eating disorders, weakening your bones, losing your hair, and collapsing from exhaustion.
And so, the need for balance is clear.
Eat your vegetables.
There are SO MANY KINDS, and so many ways to cook them.
Try spinach, carrots, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, radish, beets, collards, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, squash… you get the point.
Eat fruits too.
They are nature’s candy.
Go ahead and eat carbs, but try to make them whole grains (brown rice over white rice, whole oats, quinoa, barley…)
Get protein from the source your body responds to best, but lean heavily on legumes (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, navy beans, and more).
Move your body.
As frequently as you can, and for as long as you can.
Try new and different ways of moving too. Try yoga, pilates, cycling, water aerobics, or just go run around a playground. Monkey bars are a LOT harder than you remember, I bet.
And for pete’s sake, drink water! (Especially if your name is Pete)
You will literally die without it. Don’t try to rationalize to yourself that coffee counts, or tea, or soda. Drink actual water. Like, about half your body weight, in ounces. Every day.
Add fruits, flavorings, or try fizzy water if you can’t handle tap. But please, please, drink water.
Go ahead and eat that brownie now and then.
Say yes to a 2nd margarita on Cinco de Mayo.
Listen to your body and know the difference between a healthy soreness from muscles being worked out and an actual overuse injury or something that needs medical attention.
Give yourself rest days.
Don’t forget that by eating healthy and exercising so you can live longer, you should also be enjoying living right now.
Another aspect of life which requires balance is our relationships.
Relationships with coworkers and bosses, with our neighbors and friends, with our family, with our romantic interests.
We need a balance of personalities in our lives, people we can go to when we want to celebrate, when we want to vent, when we need a shoulder to cry on, a drinking buddy, someone who tells us the truth no matter how much it might hurt, someone we can count on to get something done right and on time.
But it can be easy to overextend ourselves too.
You know how sometimes, friends or family come to stay for a holiday or vacation, and by day 8 they have worn out their welcome by 4 days? That’s unbalanced.
You know how your significant other can become too needy if you haven’t spent enough time together, or too distant if you are around each other too much? That’s unbalanced.
You also need to nurture your relationship with yourself.
Think about it: when is the last time when you were totally alone?
Like 100%. No other people. No phone, no Twitter, no Facebook.
Just you. And your mind.
Did you love it? Did it scare you? Make you uncomfortable?
Time alone is time for self reflection, growth, recharging, release.
Struggling with the “big questions” of life.
If you feel like you need permission to be alone and not be doing productive things, schedule it into your life.
Put it on an actual calendar.
8pm - 10pm Tuesday: Massage followed by bubble bath. 2pm - 5pm Saturday: See action hero movie alone and check out that new book store.
Figure out what it is that recharges you, makes you happy, and inspires you to be your best.
Then do more of it.
When you are fulfilled and at your happiest and most vibrant, is when you are capable of giving of yourself the most.You cannot pour water out of an empty pitcher. Click To Tweet
Here too is where many of us cannot find balance. We are pushed to “become” our careers.
Oftentimes the very first thing someone asks when meeting someone new is “what do you do?”
You job or employment is seen as the definition of who you are as a person. It defines you. You are not “Joe” or “a coffee lover” or “a girl who likes Left for Dead” or “the best a capella singer in this room”.
You are “an engineer”, “a teacher”, “a mom”, “a construction worker”.
And in the pursuit of money (we will talk more about that in just a second) it is all too easy to get sucked into your career and let it be all consuming.
With our smart phones and constant connected world, you can answer emails at 10 pm and 4 am, you can be on conference calls from anywhere and anytime, you can be working at the dinner table or on a train or in the toilet.
And we do.
But what we need to not lose sight of is that it is just a job. At the end of the day, what you trade so many hours of your life for in order to keep bills paid is just a job.
You can get another one. You probably will.
If you love your work and are invested in what you do and you willingly work overtime because it is your true passion, that is amazing and I honestly am so happy for you!
But it is still a job.
And you still need work-life balance.
You need time to put work thoughts on hold, and engage in other areas of your life.
Stop stressing over hiring interviews, projects, looming deadlines, or presentations, and start planning a trip to Spain, a visit to an old college friend, hang out with your neighbor, or try a new hobby like painting or skiing or hiking or glassblowing.
If you are terrible about unplugging, start small.
Just try setting limits for yourself, like “no phone after 7 pm” or “no work email on the weekends”. Maybe you can even progress to the point of outright turning your phone or laptop off when you are off the clock!
Just like above with your personal relationships, your work relationship needs balance.
When you give your brain time away from work tasks to be creative and process, you never know what magical solutions your subconscious might come up with.
And you will definitely be better able to make decisions and solve problems when you are a happier, more relaxed employee.
When it comes to money, it seems “enough” is not a word that will ever apply.
Even when someone is demonstrably in the top 1% of earners in the world (think those pulling down six digits per year, like 200-400, but not quite into the millions), they will still defend to their last breath the fact that they are “average” and “just getting by” and “it’s not quite enough”.
We are encouraged to compare ourselves to top earners and innovators like Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs. Ads for bigger houses, flashier cars, ivy league schools, the nicest clothing, the scent that will definitely make you sexier, flood our senses 24/7.
And the bills never end.
Whether you have plenty of breathing room, or pinch every penny and still come up short some months, it never feels like enough.
So you take on overtime, extra shifts, a second job. You pick up tutoring, cleaning houses, bartending, work all the weekends.
You start hustling, building your websites and courses and ebooks, and freelance writing every spare minute.
But do you ever evaluate your ROI?
How much are you making, in dollars, but how much are you spending, in time and opportunity cost?
These are very personal choices, hence the world of Personal Finance. I cannot tell you which high-paying-but-stressful projects are worth keeping, or which pain-in-the-ass-but-pays-on-time clients you should ditch.
But I highly recommend you use the 80/20 rule which basically means that when we’re talking about earning, 80% of the income comes from 20% of the effort. And conversely for frugal living, 80% of your savings will come from 20% of the expenses you can control.
Concentrate yourself on the 80% at work which reaps the highest rewards. Ask what your boss wants the most, and take steps to make it happen. Prove your worth and ask for it.
And don’t worry about the 20%. The whole office will not implode if you don’t check email until Monday. No one will quit if you leave a little early to go for a run on a particularly stressful day (probably).
Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Click To Tweet
By taking concrete steps to create balance and space in your life, you are one step closer to living the life of your dreams.
“Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”