Scheduling for Balance in 5 Steps
Building balanced lifestyles so we can love our lives isn't just a tagline, it's a way of life for me.
There are a ton of requests vying for my time, my energy and my finances each and every day (as I am sure is true for you as well). It's hard to know what to invest in. If I say yes to one thing, will it prevent me from accomplishing some other goal? If I say no, will I miss out on an opportunity? The see-saw of what if's can destroy even the most structured among us.
That's why I rely on my Schedule Trackers so much. Building a balanced lifestyle doesn't just happen. It requires us to be intentional in making choices according to the priorities of our lives.
Last week I wrote about how to manage our priorities, which also included a section in learning to identify them. Once we have identified what is most important to us, the next step in priority management is to use our Schedule Trackers to make sure we are making choices that keep us focused on what matters to us.
Step One: Get a clear picture. It's time to get a clear picture of exactly why you are experiencing stress or even dread with your current schedule. In order to get this clear picture, we must be willing to track where our time is currently going. This week, starting today even, download a Schedule Tracker and keep track of where your time is being spent. Much like keeping track of our food intake shows why (or why not) we are losing weight, tracking our time will show us where our time is being spent and whether or not that expenditure reflects our priorities.
Step Two: Create a Color Code. Once we have a completed Schedule Tracker, we need to go back through it and identify which priority areas of our life received our time. If we don't we will not be able to see clearly whether or not we are balanced. My priority areas include my relationship with Jesus (yellow), Self-Care (pink), Marriage (red), Parenting (blue), Family (orange), Home care (green) and Work (purple). I have assigned each priority area it's own color and go back each week and color my Schedule Tracker so I can see which areas of my life got my time and which didn't. According to my Schedule Tracker from last week, even though I was extremely busy I was able to meet the needs of each area of priority in my life.
Step Three: Assess the Need. Balance doesn't mean that each area of priority in our lives receives equal time. That is not possible (and trying to achieve this is a huge source of stress). Rather, balance comes when the need of each of our priority areas, that are up to us to fulfill, are being met by the choices we make in how we spend our time. For instance, only I can take care of my body, so it's up to me to make sure to schedule time to do so according to what my body may or may not need each week. It's also up to me to tend to my relationships (no one else can be a wife to my husband for example). So it's up to me to make sure I am scheduling time to be with those who are important to me according to our schedules and both of our needs.
Step Four: Be Proactive. Like I mentioned above, balanced lifestyles don't just happen. They require us to make choices that value what's important to us. Before next week begins, sit down with your Schedule Tracker and, with your previous week (color coded of course) next to you, choose to use your time to fulfill the needs of your priorities (again, according to what you are responsible for, not for what others can do for themselves). This may mean writing in time to work out, inviting your spouse on a date and scheduling that time, or even not scheduling every minute of your day so you can rest or allow for the unexpected
Step Five: Be Protective. Urgent requests, last minute emergencies, and the unexpected will happen. In those moments it is up to us to be mindful in recognizing when to let go of what we have planned versus holding on to it and saying no. For example, when the school calls and asks you to come and retrieve your ill child, you go, right? Letting go of what you had planned to do. When a last-minute emergency request comes for 3 dozen cupcakes however, you have a choice to say no if saying yes takes away from other areas of priority that are more important in your life. I have learned that when we protect our time so that we spend it according to the priorities that are most important to us, we build our balanced lifestyle one choice at a time.
Did you know? Building a balanced lifestyle takes time. It will not happen in one week. I have been working for years to build mine, and new seasons of life often require changes to that balance. Grace is key my friend. And to those of you who are my fellow sisters in Christ, trust in His plan over our own takes time to develop, but He is patient and will honor your heart to align with His pan for balance within your particular life situation.