9 Steps to Create and Sustain a Healthy Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy and sustainable life balance can be a never ending project. There are so many aspects of our lives that we have to make time for and fit in. Between work, commutes, chores, romantic relationships and family responsibilities it can be challenging to find time for things like friends, hobbies, exercise, rest and spirituality. Even once you feel like you’ve got it all figured out, it only takes a short amount of time for things to become unbalanced again. Most people would agree that they would experience greater life satisfaction, pleasure and peace if they could find and sustain a life balance that suits them and reflects their values. So what can we do about it?
The first step is to do a simple self assessment. Take a moment and write down the most important things in your life. In essence, list your priorities in order of importance to you. This list should be reflective of your core values (for example, family, productivity, health, spirituality, fitness, friends, education and so on). Next, set your list aside for a moment and draw a pie chart of how you have been spending your time this past month. Estimating how much time we spend on different activities throughout the day can be challenging, but try to do your best and try to be honest with yourself. Get as specific as you possibly can. For example, try to split a “Leisure” section into “TV”, “Reading” and “Instagram” (or whatever your leisure activities are) if you can.
Once you complete your list and pie chart, place them side by side and compare the two. Are they aligned? Does your time spent reflect your personal priorities? If the answer is “no”, don’t beat yourself up. There are certain responsibilities that we simply don’t have the flexibility to change. Although you might prefer your commute to be 10 minutes, that is not within your control. Similarly, many people spend a considerable amount of their time on work and simply cannot change that at this point in their life. That is completely fine. As you are looking at your pie chart, consider which responsibilities are fixed and which are flexible. Try to find some wiggle room. Your “time spent” pie chart won’t always match your priorities list exactly, but the goal is to get it as close as possible. Pay attention to big red flags and glaring discrepancies. For example, if you list exercise as a priority but it doesn't make an appearance on your pie chart, you know this is an area that needs attention. List, highlight or circle the problem areas and use the following steps to work towards a more balanced and satisfying life.
Set a simple goal
Although there may be multiple areas of your life balance that you wish to change, try to start with one goal at a time. More than anything, a goal should be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by committing to an unattainable goal. Also, it should be something that you can measure.
Example of a measureable goal: “go to the gym twice a week”
Example of a goal that is not measureable: “get fit”
Finally, identify a time frame within which you would like to achieve this goal.
Schedule your time carefully
It is difficult to achieve a goal without appropriate planning. Because we are attempting to alter life balance and how you spend your time, scheduling becomes key. Maybe you hate keeping a schedule, and that is completely valid, but in this instance it is VERY helpful. The simple fact that life feels unbalanced the way it is, may indicate that you could benefit from scheduling...so why not give it a try? Try to find a method that you like, whether it be an app, Google, hard copy calendar or something creative that you have developed yourself. Pick a method and stick to it. Schedule out your week before it begins by entering committed time for your prioritized activity.
Learn when and how to say “no”
Setting appropriate and firm boundaries can be an amazing way to find more (hidden) time. Maybe you take work calls after you leave the office or spend time scrolling through your emails first thing in the morning. These are examples of potentially inefficient uses of time. Evaluate where your time is being “wasted” and set some boundaries to avoid that as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to the people in your life. You could even let them know that you are attempting to rebalance your life and that saying “no” is a skill you are working on. Chances are, the people in your life will understand your intentions and support your efforts even if it is sometimes inconvenient for them.
Know when to ask for help
This is a skill that takes time and practice. First, it’s about being able to admit that you need or want help. Then it’s about putting that into words. Although it may feel like you are being an inconvenience, that is not necessarily the case. A lot of people feel flattered when someone asks for their help. Be brave and give it a try.
Practice good self care
Make sure to take time for YOU. It is almost impossible to make changes and achieve goals without appropriate self care. Make sure you are satisfying your basic needs like good sleep, healthy food, and support from others.
Time is a limited resource and repurposing time can be a very challenging task. When you have a priority that you would like to spend more time pursuing, the toughest obstacle is figuring out what area of your life you can take the time from. This is where creativity comes in. Are there parts of your life where you can multitask? Perhaps you want to spend more time at the gym, but also feel as though you are neglecting your friendships. Is there a way to make gym time social as well? Or maybe, instead of the news, you listen to your favorite music while in traffic for self care. There are many creative ways to find more time, don’t be afraid to give them a try.
Don’t get discouraged
This is certainly not a perfect process and some weeks are going to be better than others. Give yourself a break! Be flexible. When something doesn’t work out the way to wanted it to, simply make a note of what went wrong and try to correct it next time. Don’t give up!
As we go through life, our values and priorities change. Maybe you decided to have children, change your career, move to a different city or take on a new project. As your life changes your balance will be disrupted and will need to change as well. This is why it is important to reassess your life balance regularly. Simply complete the priority list and pie chart again for comparison and evaluation. Ask yourself if they are aligned. What is going well? Where would you like to spend more time? Where could you spend less time? Make it a goal to reassess your life balance every month if you are working towards a particular goal. Once you achieve a balance that works for you, decrease assessment frequency to every three or four months.
Adapt and revise your plan
Don’t be afraid to change up your plan! This is definitely a work in progress and will need constant revision. Once you achieve one simple goal, it is likely that you will be inspired to commit to another. So do it! Just as life is constantly changing, what balance means for you will as well.