7 Steps to Create Balance in Your Life

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It is very easy to feel overwhelmed in life, not having a moment to yourself, not doing the things you love and spending too much time working, doing long hours in the office and then more at home. Creating balance within your life is about making conscious choices and behaving differently. Generally, when it comes to our lives being out of balance, it is because we spend too much time doing work related activities at the expense of our home life, our relationships or our health. If you feel that you don't have the right work/home life balance, then here are 7 steps to create balance in your life:

  1. Explore where you are in your life right now. Use the Wheel of Life to help you assess what's working well for you, which areas are giving you the greatest satisfaction or happiness. In doing this exercise, you'll be able to see at a glance which areas aren't positively contributing to the life you want, and which areas are the primary cause of the imbalance. As you complete the wheel, think about how much time you are spending at work or doing work or how many hours you are putting in each week. Are you getting the opportunities to relax, doing the things you love with the people important to you? Are you living a healthy lifestyle?
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  2. Identify what your priorities are. You can't do everything, there's not enough time in the day. Tackling the lowest scoring areas within The Wheel of Life first to create balance, and thus an easier life, determine what your top three priorities are within those areas. What do you need to focus on and what do you need to do?
  3. Once you have identified what you need to do, create SMART goals for those priorities and a step by step plan to achieve them. Then get working on them. Check out the blog post on SMART Goals if you want to know more.
  4. It might seem ridiculous but if you are struggling because of the perceived lack of time, it is useful to create a schedule for everything in your life. You might be used to time management in the workplace and structuring your work around a diary is essential, so why wouldn't you use a similar structure for your home life. When you are pretty full on and busy all the time, it is easy to be all consumed by work. No thought is given to you doing the things you enjoy, to having time to yourself. Each day becomes like the previous one, evenings and weekends fly by without you feeling like you have done anything, let alone achieved something.

    Try scheduling the priorities you have identified, creating a commitment to time to get those things done. Schedule activities such as time for you, relaxing, recharging your batteries, engaging in self-care etc. A schedule helps you commit to the time, it helps you make the conscious choice and be fully present in the activity you have scheduled. If you don't schedule things in, then more often than not, you won't do it; the habit of working, reaching for the wine bottle, sitting watching tv. zoning out or making a token effort will be the overriding behaviour. Why don't you try scheduling in a romantic meal with your partner each week, quality play time with the children, meeting up with your friends, a super relaxing bath, watching a movie you have been wanting to watch for some time? These small commitments can make a massive difference when creating greater balance in your life and helps you reconnect with the things that are important to you and your priorities.

  5. Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone. You don't want to be playing it safe all the time. If you want to have a more rounded, balanced life, you've got to make the right decisions to do so and not fear the consequences. We create the imbalance between our work and home life but at what cost? The job will still be there if you leave it once your shift has finished. Though for some people spending all their time working is a distraction strategy because maybe they don't like their own company, don't have any hobbies or interests, don't want to think about making changes because they don't know where to start. They are comfortable doing this, but are unhappy and in the end, it will be detrimental to their physical and emotional well-being.
  6. Create flexibility in your thinking and behaviour. No matter how much you plan or create balance in your life, something unexpected will happen. How you respond to this will determine what the outcome will be. But if you have learnt strategies for creating balance, you'll be in a better frame of mind and state to be able to deal with unexpected events. You won't be too tired or stressed out and will be able to respond effectively. You'll be able to come up with alternative solutions to problems, to bounce back quicker and not become overwhelmed by issues that are sometimes beyond your control.
  7. Have the right mindset. I have previously written about the power of positivity and about being responsible for your life, and both are important when it comes to creating the right balance between home life and work. What are you working for if you don't have time to spend the money you are earning? If you don't have any time to recover, to recharge, then how effective are you going to be when you are at work? Not working every hour you can, is not a negative reflection on you. Ask yourself, why you are not creating balance in your life? If your life has become all work, work, work, why is this and what are you going to do about it? You are in control of creating your future life. If you don't have balance, it is because you are choosing this, choose to do something different.

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life"

- Dolly Parton

The Power of Positivity

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You hear a lot about positivity, there is even strand of psychology devoted to research around the topic. But is it just wishful thinking, woo-woo-ra-ra stuff or is there some truth to the fact that have a positive mindset can influence the results you get?

Having a positive mindset is not about thinking that you must be happy 24/7, that you'll never experience negative emotions or have negative thoughts. It is about thinking positively, re-framing negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. It's enjoying the little things and how these small everyday things compound to have a positive effect on your life.

Positive thinking becomes a way of being, a framework by which you live your life. In the beginning it's about being conscious of stopping and thinking, to consider alternative perspectives. Not jumping to conclusions that the universe is out to get you, seeing the world and the people in it differently. For example, you send a message to a friend, asking if they want to meet up for coffee. You don't hear anything from them. Having a positive mindset allows you to consider multiple options for what might have happened such as, they 're pretty busy right now and they simply forgot or maybe they think they have replied already (yes this is me, I sometimes think I have replied when I haven’t). Those not operating within a positive framework will likely take is a personal rejection, that they are being ignored or the other person doesn't like them. Having a positive mindset is more likely to put you in the shoes of others and to consider a greater variety of perspectives and reasons for certain actions or outcomes.

As you live your life from this positive standpoint, your reactions to events, people, environments become more unconscious. The generation of alternative options becomes more automatic to the point that you don't consider any negative aspects to it, you don't jump to those negative conclusions like you might have done in the past.

Having a positive mindset is not just about considering the different perspectives but about affecting our own thinking and behaviour and influencing the outcomes we get. Thinking and experiencing something positive can have an influence on actions and events which follow. A few weeks ago, my niece had a particularly stressful and pressurised day in which she had a piano exam in the morning and her driving test in the afternoon. Despite feeling naturally nervous for both and having previously failed her first driving test a few weeks prior, it would have been easy to be distracted when it came to the exam in the morning. As it was, she focused on the first task at hand. Throughout the exam she played the piano well and knew she had performed to a high standard. She carried the positivity from that through into her driving test and was faultless. It is no coincidence that the good feelings from the morning exam influenced her state of mind for the afternoon test. If she had played badly, the negative self-talk would have taken over, she would have dwelled on her previous failure and would have convinced herself that it was not going to be her day, she would have doubted her own driving ability. Going forward she can draw upon the day’s experiences and outcomes to help her through future challenges. I’m sure you can think of instances where your mindset affected your emotional state, influencing your behaviour and then the outcome, either negatively or positively. We can use our positive state and mindset in a variety of situations and challenges, to be in the right frame of mind to have a positive outcome.

People might think it is difficult to create a positive mindset but it's not, yes it takes practice; however, you all have the ability to do it and live your life more positively. Below are 9 steps to creating a positive mindset:

  1. Think positively, talk positively. Use language which is positive. Increase your awareness about how you are thinking and talking. If you the first thought you have or the first thing to come out of your mouth is negative, catch yourself and use more positive language.
  2. Use positive self-talk. Silence the negative voice. The little voice in your head is sometimes very loud and persistent when it comes to telling you what you can't do, the things you don't deserve, what kind of person you are and how things will end. Tell it to shut up, there are more important things to say like you are an amazing person, capable of fantastic things, reminding you of all the things you have achieved in your life. Let the voice that is promoting you sing loud and proud.
  3. Use previous positive experiences to get you in the right state giving you a boost when doing something which is challenging or stressful tasks. You will be surprised just how your body responds when you draw upon your previous experiences.
  4. Create a network that will stretch and challenge you, but which also supports you. They are there to take inspiration from you but nothing else, they push you to be your best and celebrate with you. Ditch the toxic people, they are not going to help you and will suck the life out of you.
  5. They say laughter is the best medicine and it is, use humour to alleviate stress and tension. You cannot be sad or upset at the same time as being funny, and by using humour, it allows you gain a better perspective on a potentially bad situation.
  6. Focus on the solutions, not the problems. By focusing on the problems, you are not moving forward and will be stuck in a spiral of doom and gloom. Switch to focusing on the solutions will create more options and whilst you might find more problems along the way, you will have moved beyond the original ones.
  7. Failures are not mistakes or world ending events, they are feedback, lessons to be learnt, opportunities for different courses of action, different journeys and different possible outcomes. Embrace them, don't fear them.
  8. Be present in the now, don't be trapped by the past. You are in control of your thoughts and actions, you choose what to think, what to focus upon, what to do. You do not have to choose to focus on the negative, you can choose a positive mindset.
  9. Be aware and practice. If you don't already, start to view the world and people in it from a different perspective. Get out of your own head and put yourself in the shoes of others and consider what might be going on from them in their world. See your life full of possibilities and opportunities, not a life full of danger, risk and potential losses. Practice to the point that having a positive mindset is your default position.

Choose to be the glass half full type of person, not the glass half empty.

Facing Down Overwhelm

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As I sit here writing this blog post I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed because today I have loads to do and lots of things on my mind. Thoughts are racing, ideas forming and time is flying away from me.

Throughout my working life as a chemist and a probation officer, there were many times when feeling overwhelmed was a regular occurrence. I am sure it has been the same for you from time to time. Overwhelm is very common in both our personal and professional lives.

 For me, when I am in a state of overwhelm, it is as though I have a tornado in my head. At first, it is slowly forming, turning and picking up things as it does so. You can see and hear the thoughts, ideas, self-talk and information, swirling round but you can't grab hold of any of them. More thoughts flood in, together with negative emotions which feed even greater energy into the rotation which then seems to just be getting bigger and faster, the more you try to get control of it. You know you just need to grab hold of one thing, but everything is going too fast, you can't focus, and this just makes things worse.

There are many contributing factors to the state of feeling overwhelmed.

  • Constant interruptions: We live in an on-demand society, being bombarded by various demands upon our attention and time. Emails, notifications, phone calls, conversations, additional activities, the dog wanting to play, the kids running around the house or fighting over the TV. There might always be something or someone placing a demand on you. These can all serve to constantly interrupt our flow of attention on the task at hand.
  • Commitments & expectations: Taking on too many commitments can leave you going beyond the point of being stretched in a positive way to a sense of overwhelm as the number of commitments are too great, placing a strain on you. This is coupled with then both internal and external expectations you experience because how you feel you are, how you want to be seen and other people's previous experiences of you.
  • Emotional state: Feeling stressed or anxious can lead and compound to becoming overwhelmed. Equally some unexpected event can have an impact on your emotional state, be it feeling worried, upset or angry or being out of control, for example.
  • Tiredness: Not getting enough sleep and being physically exhausted can affect how we process things and how we respond to daily life.
  • Mindset: Whilst some people might thrive on pressure, there are others that struggle to deal with it. The pressure can be down to the high standards you might hold or an inability to say no. Sometimes we place more pressure on ourselves than others do.
  • Time: At the end of the day, there is only a finite amount of time. We choose what to fill it with but, when it reaches a point that we are too busy, our feelings of overwhelm build and we lose all perspective. We cannot focus, we don't plan, and we don't act.

People's experience of overwhelm is different from person to person. Maybe you can deal with an extra activity being added to your day. Maybe the addition of anything else, no matter how small, is enough for the tornado to touch down and cause a path of mass destruction. It may differ depending on the context, whether in your personal life or at work. Whatever the setting there are ways in which you can reduce the sense of overwhelm and reclaim that focus.

Within a work setting:

  1. Switch off distractions & interruptions: Whilst this might be sacrilegious and you may not have done it in some time, turn off your phone. Close email programmes and browsers. Log out of all social media platforms. Put a do not disturb sign on your door. Create your best "do not talk to me right now" face.
  2. Brain dump: Get a big piece of paper or a notebook and spend some time just writing everything thing down that is going on in your head. Start to reduce the tornado's intensity by pulling stuff out, one thought at a time.
  3. Sift: Once you have done this, it's time to start sifting through, getting rid of anything that is external to you and, therefore. beyond your control. Cross out every single thing that you are not responsible for.
  4. Sort: Now you have cut through some of the noise, it is time to start sorting through what you have left. Prioritise, focus on the now and create a to-do-list. Michael Hyatt encourages you to focus on the Big 3; put the 3 things which are the most important or have the greatest impact at the top of your list and focus on those things first. Keep prioritising until you have gained control and have done everything you need to.

Within your personal life, it is also possible to use the above technique to move out of overwhelm but it might not always be practical. As an alternative, try this technique:

  1. Switch off distractions & interruptions: You don't want anything further being added when you are already feeling overwhelmed so switching off devices is still a useful step.
  2. Take a break: Change the energy by changing your emotional state. Take a break, go for a walk, sit down and just take a moment. It doesn't need to be long, you need a moment to breathe and to create an opportunity in which the energy is not so intense.
  3. Focus on the now: Be present and focus on what is right in front of you. Deal with that issue there and then. You'll gain a sense of achievement and allow you to take back control. Don't multitask, it is just going to keep you in overwhelm. Slow the tornado down so that you are tackling overwhelm one step at a time.

I didn't plan on covering this topic today when I was planning out this series of blogs but, given I could feel a tornado beginning to spin in my head, it seemed appropriate for me to deal with what was in front of me and highlight some steps which might help you the next time you are feeling overwhelmed.