Today started like this:
5:15 a.m. Alarm. What? Hit the sleep button. . .
5:25 a.m. Alarm. AAAHHH!
The noise almost gave me a heart attack. Strategically pull-down face mask and attempt to doze off. . . Realize it’s a weekday and jump out of bed!!!
5:30 a.m. Coffee. Mmmmm coffee. I love coffee. . .
5:50 a.m. Exercise. Listen to loud music. Plan out my day.
6:30 a.m. Make breakfast. More coffee.
7:15 a.m. Get the kids out the door for school.
7:20 a.m. Silence
7:21 a.m. Get ready for work.
8:30 a.m. Work?
Sound familiar? From the second your eyes open in the morning, you’re off to the races. Racing against the clock, against traffic, against the to-do list you have. So how does one find balance?
Is it possible to excel in your profession, be present for family, exercise, get 8 hours of sleep, have time for friends and time for oneself? Yes? No? Seriously, I’m asking and hoping someone has the ever-elusive answer.
Many self-help books promise the secret formula for balance and success. “Read this book, follow this method and all your troubles simply fade away.” But I have to ask, is there such thing as balance? Or does life shift, requiring a shift from you? As soon as you shift one way, you find you’re shifting again. There’s a give and take, a push and pull. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “The only thing that is constant is change.” So, given that fact, how do you maintain equilibrium in your life?
The common denominator in all the advice out there comes down to prioritizing what’s most important in order to make balance more achievable. First, you have to think about what truly is most important to you. Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” When was the last time you sat down and gave YOUR priorities some focused attention? (go ahead and laugh out loud at the concept of spare time to think.)
Part of the issue in feeling overwhelmed is that we don’t set boundaries for ourselves. We say yes to far too many things, when what we should be saying is no. It’s okay to say no, BTW. It’s not a bad word. It might actually be the best word. Say it with me, “NO.” When you take time to reconnect with the priorities in your life that are truly important to you, you’ll know that when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else and vice versa. Lean into the things that are for you and away from the things that are not. Prioritizing helps to maximize your performance, keeping focus on the things that are most critical to success.
All the World’s a Stage?
In the book “Your Brain At Work,” author David Rock talks about the different areas of the brain and refers to the prefrontal cortex as “the stage.” He writes, “Making decisions and solving problems relies heavily on the prefrontal cortex…think of the prefrontal cortex as a stage in a small theater where actors play a part.” He continues, “you must pick and choose which actors are on the stage.” He also suggests to “prioritize prioritizing” and that you must “get disciplined about what you don’t put on the stage.”
So, what’s at the top of your priority list? This will be different for everyone and it will change based on the season in your life. It might even change based on the day of the week, or the hour of the day. Perhaps you could benefit by hitting the mute button, and clearing the “stage” of all the actors. Calm your world, silence the noise, turn off the TV, take a break from social media. Meditate for five minutes. Whatever it takes to get clarity.
Prioritizing requires focus. Focusing on your priorities is what creates balance. Balance is simply doing what’s important and ignoring the rest.