Find the time to do all the things you want to – and have to – do

Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Last week, my husband e-mailed me information on a CQI time management/life balance course that I was scheduled to co-teach. He joked and wrote, “YOU’RE going to teach people about life balance?” I know what he’s getting at – I am a very busy person.

Here is a snapshot of my world: I teach full-time at the university in town, I am scheduled to teach one professional development course each month for CQI, I write four columns a month for two publications, I am helping organize one provincial and one regional event, and I have a husband and two young children. From January to March, I was also a coach-in-training at the Sault Gymnastics Club. There are times where I’ll admit that I don’t know if I’m coming or going, and in those moments, my husband is correct (but obnoxious) to point out that I do this to myself.

So, what is life balance? To me it is as simple as finding the time to do all of the things that you have to do and also finding time for the activities you want to do.

Note that I have not mentioned striking a balance for work, family, exercise, hobbies, and sleeping, because life balance is different for everyone. I avoid the term work/life balance because for some individuals their whole world is work.

I tend to lean into that camp more than I’d like to admit, but it works for me. I enjoy intellectual pursuits, and if asked what I’d really like to do in my spare time, writing and making things happen are right up there. Even though I only exercise formally once a week, and I spend a lot of time at the computer at night, my life is in balance (except for the next two weeks while I’m finalizing the provincial High School Adventure Challenge – I’m currently searching for 12 $315 sponsors).

Other people require more time to engage in physical and outdoor activities, more time dedicated to painting, reading, selling stamps on eBay, gardening, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all of those activities as well (except I’ve never sold a stamp on eBay), but, I’ll pick writing over gardening any day.

It is important to reiterate that life balance is very personal. If you are happy with the balance you have in your life, don’t worry too much about what others think about it.

I have to caveat that though, because too much of anything is not healthy. Also, if your idea of balance involves never lifting a finger around the house, then your partner may have a thought or two about that. You do need to balance your desires with the impact you’re having on others.

I used to judge peoples’ lives from what I saw looking in. Why don’t they spend more time with their kids? Why did they have them in the first place? Why do they work so late every night? Do they have problems at home they are avoiding? Why don’t they ever go to the gym anymore? Why are they training for another marathon?

Then I had the epiphany that their balance isn’t my balance.

We are different sizes, shapes, and colours. We have different careers, upbringings, values, goals, ambitions, priorities, hopes, and dreams. When I step on the scale, it isn’t the same as when you step on the scale. When I pick up my bank book, it isn’t the same balance that you have. So why do we expect everyone to have the same life balance?

If your life feels out of balance, take the time to figure out why. Have you neglected the activities you want to do to focus on the ones you feel you need to do? Are you being as efficient with your time as you can be? Are there activities you can do at the same time (go for a walk with friends to socialize and exercise)? Do you plan out your week, setting goals and prioritizing? Can you get help with some items? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Ironically, the time management course is freeing up some time in my life this week because it is being rescheduled.

Perhaps some of the prospective participants just couldn’t find the time to attend. For those of you who wanted to be there but couldn’t, if you’re looking for tools to get more done in less time, consider reading Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy or Romancing the Clock by Marvin Karlins.

Returning to my husband’s e-mail – joking aside – as hectic as my life appears, I rarely drop the ball on the family or work front, so I am definitely qualified to teach the course. After all, if I didn’t have super time management skills, there is no way I could get it all done, and still get any sleep (luckily no one can see the timestamp on when I finished writing this).

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