This is not your ordinary advice article. This is a story about someone who’s busy. He’s ambitious, passionate about life and actually happy. He just struggles to stay that way because he’s pulled in so many directions. Doing less is impossible, simply, impossible if happiness is the ultimate goal.
So what do we do if we can’t just ‘do less’? The things that we’re required to do and the things that we want to accomplish actually make us happy. They make us fulfilled. They make us a better person. But they tug at us constantly. They battle for our limited time. Is it possible to do less and still accomplish our goals? How do you find balance?
I am a husband.
I am a father.
I am a son.
I an friend.
I am a business owner.
I am a business partner.
I am an artist.
I am a graphic designer.
I’m a digital marketer.
I am a photographer.
I love to cook.
I love to eat and drink.
I love to ride my bike.
I love to exercise and do yoga.
I love to travel.
I love to read.
I’m a writer.
I love to feel accomplished.
I love to sleep.
Over the last 10 years or more, I’ve become very busy. My mind is always churning on the next thing. It’s not always a bad thing. But many times, I’m just trying to keep up. I struggle with balancing my priorities and the things that I’m personally passionate about.
When I was a kid, I remember actually being bored. I honestly can’t remember the last time that I felt bored. I literally ‘GO’ from the moment I get up, until the moment I go to sleep. Even if I’m not actually ‘Doing’, I’m doing things like meditating or just making time to lay with my wife and talk.
In our modern world we’re spoiled for choice. We have so many options. We have so many interests. We have a lot of demands on our time.
How do we manage it all and still have a ‘tranquil’ life?
Marcus? In the real world, how do you actually do less and still be happy? How to you keep the others around you happy and content? How do you feel accomplished and creatively satisfied?
Thoughts on how to be tranquil and also feeling accomplished
I’ve mentioned the word balance. I think we need to strive for a truly balanced life. It’s the concept of Yin and Yang where there is always a give and take.
Striving for a balanced life is the key, but how do we actually achieve balance? Here are a few suggestions on how you can work toward a more balanced life:
Get organized and set goals
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is not getting their life and priorities in order. Make a list that you can set in front of you. It’s something that you can look at and set your priorities in order. If you can put it all down on paper you’ll quickly be able to see what you have to deal with and you can start to decide what your real priorities are. Make a list like I did above. Understand who you are and who you want to be.
Prioritize and make the hard cuts
Once you have your goals down on paper you should try and prioritize where you really want to spend your time. The true reality is that you may not be able to accomplish everything you want to do in life. Realizing this is where balance begins.
Work hard when it’s time to work
Balancing work and your personal life begins by working hard during work hours. Get to work early, stay focused and make the most of your time at work. It’s a popular trend to try and make work fun, to have balance at work. But maybe the solution to overall work/life balance is to just work really hard during the day and to make the most of your time there. Stay focused and make work all about work. Decide that your time at work is about accomplishment. Maybe to find overall balance we need to be a little unbalanced at work and just put our nose to the grindstone during our 9-5 hours.
Disconnect during nights and weekends
If you honestly work hard during the day then you can feel good about leaving at 5:00, maybe even 4:00 or earlier if you started work early and worked hard all day. You can leave work at work and focus the rest of your day on your other pursuits. Treat 5:00 like a daily appointment that you can’t miss. Stop, gather your stuff and walk out. Treating quitting time like an appointment is critical to achieving balance.
Divide your time between internal and external pursuits
Part of building your priority list that I mentioned above is diving your life into internal and external pursuits.
Internal pursuits include things like overall health and exercise, spending time with your lover, spending time on your hobbies, cooking and eating, meditation and sleep.
External pursuits include spending time with your children, family, friends, your work, and pursuing other projects that just need to be done such as mowing the grass and cleaning the house.
Once you have your priorities split into lists then you can start to see how balance can begin to happen.
Remove bad people and influences
Every interaction takes time and energy and you only have so much energy to give. It’s a black and white fact. Therefore, you need to continually try to cut people and activities out of your life that at odds with your goals and happiness. Learn to be honest with yourself when something isn’t working and after a fair amount of time, be ‘ok’ when you free yourself from that negative influence in your life and move on.
Spend time in your cave
Find time to be alone. Seriously, it’s ok. I give you permission to step away from work, your children, your lover, your friends, your dog, the yard work and your busy day and just be by yourself. When you come out of your cave you’ll be better at your work, you’ll be a better father, lover, friend and it will be easier to tackle your ‘must do’ list. If you never spend time in your cave away from people you’ll find that, at best, anxiety and frustration will build up. At worst you’ll begin to resent those around you and this is not how you find balance.
Do things just for fun
When you’re an ambitious person, it can sometimes be hard to stop ‘pursuing’ and do something for no other reason than because it’s fun. Sometimes the pursuit of your interests are actually fun. For example, what I’m doing right now is fun. But, be honest with yourself. Could I be at an amusement park right now? Could I go for a drive? Could I be riding my bike? Could I be drinking at a bar with my friends. Could I just be watching a movie and doing nothing!
Again, I give you permission to stop and just do something for fun. Realize that it has nothing to do with your priorities and that it’s ‘ok’ to maybe do nothing if it’s truly fun.
Learn to rely on others
Sometimes in life you forget that your responsibilities don’t all fall on your shoulders. Be ok with the idea that sharing the burden is ok and actually a critical part of achieving balance in life. Lean on your children and require them to contribute and help. Ask your wife for help. Delegate to family. Ask your friends for help. Delegate to your co-workers.
Realize that you’ll never actually arrive at balance.
In the end, there will likely never be a time where you feel completely balanced. Balance is a pursuit. You’ll always be working to keep things in balance on a regular basis. But if you follow these tips there will be many more days where you actually feel like you’ve arrived and this is when you can finally say that life is good.