Leading a Balanced Life

- by Sam Hunter

What does it mean to have a balanced life?  Moderation in all things? I think it’s harder for people like us, writers, whose work is always in our heads and in our homes. I’ve always thought that the things that take us away from writing are the things that offer us balance — family, hobbies, friends, other work, etc — but if they chip too much into the time we need for writing, that stressed, unbalanced feeling sets in again.  Is a balanced life just another unattainable ideal?

I’ve wondered if I have one. Some days feel more balanced than others, so does it all come down to perception?  If I can fit 7 things into a day rather than 2, does that make it more balanced? Or is it more like regression to the mean?  While some days may seem radically out of balance, swinging from one extreme to another, it all eventually balances out in the big picture?  In search of what others define as a balanced life, I looked around the web and found these various bits of advice about leading a balanced life:

-Figure out what really matters to you. (And what are we supposed to do with the rest of it? They don’t address that…)

-Drop unnecessary activities.  (Again, this sounds nice, but which unnecessary activities would those be? Watching TV? Writing this Blog?)

-Protect Your Private Time (some of you are saying WHAT private time?)

-Exercise, Live Life in the Moment, Do First Things First, Set Your Priorities… etc. The lists for how to lead a balanced life are never ending.  One webpage had 72 tips. Who has time to read that?

And my favorite, one that had the title “Multiply Your Time:  4th Dimention Time Management”  which says that the author gained 28 hours a week by giving up television, which was time she could spend doing other things. While this might be a way to be more productive is it really balance? Shouldn’t TV fit in there somewhere? Like, as in the time you get to relax and NOT have to be doing other things? Forget it. There’s no way I am giving up my shows.

I’m beginning to think the best way to have a balanced life is to not worry about having one. To do what you do, get done what you can, be happy and forgiving of yourself for the rest, and ignore the lists telling us how to have a balanced life.  This might be a good way to approach out writing as well, don’t you think?

So how about you? How balanced is your life? :)

20 comments

  1. Nice topic. I don’t think a balanced life is impossible, but it seems to take on-going effort. I found a very useful life balance tool here:
    http://zenhabits.net/2009/05/the-one-tool-you-need-to-lead-a-balanced-life/

    The idea is that you list the various categories of life and activities that combine them, so that you don’t neglect any. I do think it’s true that if you neglect any life area, it impacts all of them. And time to relax should be on the list!

  2. With three children, a dog, a fiance’ and two 83 year old women who try to have me at their beck and call, a job and then trying to get myself out there to promote ME…what is balance?

    LOL

    I guess I just hope that I toss the things in the air one at a time and hope I got them up in the air far enough so that they don’t all come crashing down at once. But, yeah, no tv? Certain nights I can do that. Usually over the summer. But thursday nights are my “must-see-tv”.

    Plus, I think we all have our obligations. That’s a fact of life. Can’t ignore our spouses and children and furbabies…or life. I just don’t think there is one set of rules to this that can apply to all–I think you have to work equally as hard to find the balance that works for YOU and fugggedabout the rest.

    Great post, Sam!

  3. See, I think leading a balanced life, a truly balanced life, is more a matter of perspective. That’s where I’m sitting right now, anyway. It’s more about being happy in the moment, accepting what is, not feeling like you need to address every area of life, break it into categories and then check them off… The minute you put “relax” on a list, it becomes a “thing to fit it” and thus less relaxing! LOL

    Doing that seems like the opposite of balance to me. I don’t think time management, which is really what all of this other stuff is about, is necessarily about balance that will help us feel less stressed. Time management is about how to fit more and more in, when maybe we should be weeding some things out. (though, with the woman who gave up TV, I just see that as another extreme — if she was already working 56 hours a week, is she now working 70+? What’s balanced about that?)

    I personally don’t want to break my life into categories. LOL So, I am being a little pugnacious, but I really think the only way to have a really balanced life, or maybe just to be a balanced person, is to just live it and do what needs to be done in the moment, and then let some things go and find that the world doesn’t come to an end when we do. I have been tending to think of my day in terms of “get the necessary done” and then after that, anything goes. It’s not bad.

    Sam

  4. Thanks Rae — I think you have the right idea… you just take each day as it comes, and do the best you can. And the real trick might be forgiving yourself for not getting everything done every day, but also realizing there IS tomorrow. ;)

    Sam

  5. I believe that attempting to achieve balance is life is an excellent goal, but a constantly moving target. What is balanced one day would be out of balance the next depending on deadlines, planned activities, etc. What keeps me completely off balance most days is the time I spend on the computer, especially on sites life Facebook. Every time I pull back from one game or application, someone sends me another one to get hooked on. I’ve started hitting the ignore button more often lately.

    After I hit submit for this comment I’m off to the gym. Then I’ll see if I can keep the TV off today. Maybe I can gain some hours to do something more productive. Great column, Sam!

  6. Thanks Betty — I love the “moving target” scenario — yes. :)

    And you know, like Rae said (and with apologies to Charli for my pugnaciousness, LOL), maybe whatever anyone needs to deal with it is what works. It will be different for everyone.

    For me, it’s learning to let some things go and enjoying life.

    For others, as you mention, and I think this is hugely important, it’s about being able to say no. A lot of people have trouble with that.

    Have a great day!

    Sam

  7. For the most part, I think a balanced life is a myth akin to the woman who can have it all. We may, at times, come close to a balanced life, but having it every day is pretty much impossible.

  8. Amen, Joan. Which is maybe why we need to balance our perspective on things — it’s the only thing we can really control, IMO.

    Sam

  9. Interesting blog! I think balance is a really subjective thing. What makes me happy, and centered, and “balanced” isn’t necessarily what makes someone else happy. Some people find that in work, or volunteering, or training for a marathon. Others find it in reading, or walking, or cleaning the house. I might find it in snuggling with my kiddo, trying to get published, and grocery shopping. The trick is in knowing what it takes to make you feel like you’re getting out of life what you want and what you need. Putting into life, as well.

  10. Sam … The Power of Less (the link Charli posted) is about paring down your life–or as you said, weeding things out. It’s a great book though I haven’t checked out his website. Lists work for me, but of course, they don’t work for everyone :D

    It’s taken me a long time to realize I’ll never be as perfect as my mother (LOL I Know I know) and I’m still working on letting go of that. My house will never be spotless and for that matter, i still struggle to keep the clutter under control. IMO that’s not good (clutter).

    I wish my life was more balanced, and that I was a more Zen person :D, but it’s definitely NOT chaos which is no fun to deal with.

  11. I think whatever works — so I am amending my response to Charli, since if it works, go for it. The idea of lists and categories, for me, just creates more stress. But if it works for others, that’s a good thing.

    I feel pretty balanced most of the time. My work gets done, I don’t miss my TV shows, the animals are alive. I sew, garden, and spend time with family and friends. But I got thinking about this b/c people sometimes ask me how I fit it all in — and I guess the answer is, I don’t. I don’t fit it all in. I just do what I do on certain days, usually what I feel like doing. And sometimes, I don’t feel like doing any of it, but have to anyway, like Rae mentioned. Some days we just push through.

    Yesterday I felt like baking instead of sewing, so I did. Today, we’re going to my Dad’s for a picnic. Maybe I’ll sew later. The writing always gets done, because it’s my work. We spent a whole day outside on Saturday, gardening, and we could spend a week, the yard needs so much done, but we just focus on what we did and enjoy it, and we’ll get to the rest another time.

    I guess that’s how I manage it. Maybe flexible is a better word than balanced?

    Off for the afternoon, but enjoying the discussion…

    Sam

  12. I think about having a balanced . .”uncluttered”, “listed” life all the time . . . really I do, but I think, you would have to have control over the people around you, which would bring everything crushing down very quickly !! :)
    So I also just take it one day at a time . . and live this wonderful life of mine, not controlling everything and everyone around me . . but just now and then still dream of having that perfect balanced life . . . :)

    Great post Samantha, thanks !

  13. A balanced life is hard to maintain. Some days I manage do everything on my agenda and have time to relax and watch tv or read. Then there are days where it seems nothing gets accomplished and I don’t even have enough time to eat lunch.

  14. I found out a few years ago that I was driving myself crazy living the life my husband wanted me to live–which wasn’t the life I liked at all. We read a book by John Piper called “Don’t waste your life” which made me realize I was wasting my life pleasing in-laws that couldn’t be pleased, and a husband that wasn’t happy with himself and dragging me down with him. I stopped trying to please my in-laws, realized the house would never be clean and uncluttered enough for my husband. I clean it to my satisfaction, if he wasn’t happy, told him to do it himself, and stopped doing things because HE thought I should do them. I’m much happier now, and have a better relationship with my in-laws. My husband is learning to carry his own baggage and my life is much more balanced.

    I read something on a simpler life which was growing your own food, cooking from scratch and washing the dishes by hand. It doesn’t sound simpler to me. While I admire those who garden, its not for me. I love to cook from scratch, but there are times I work and take out will have to do. I’d rather read a book with the dishwasher running in the background than wash dishes by hand. (with the exception of those that are too fragile or too big to fit in the dishwasher) Thats simple to me, making technology like dishwashers and other appliances work for you!

  15. Balanced? Not really sure. But I’m pretty good at procrastinating so maybe that’s how I balance?

  16. Great topic, Sam, and so relevant for most of us! As for my own balance, I don’t think I’m succeeding most days, but the reminders to focus and to spend my time on what’s truly the most important (NOT merely the most pressing) are helpful. I ultimately want live in a way that encourages my kids to pursue the important also. But balance isn’t so much about balance I think, but being content with how your life and time are spent.

  17. Hey everyone — thanks for popping by on the holiday. You all have such good things to say. :)

    I have been “balanced” today, LOL, as we had a great afternoon with my Dad, and then came home, napped, had pizza, and I just spent some time writing up an interview with a new character — and now it’s TV time! LOL

    Teresa, I loved your post. Wow, those are just huge lessons for women to learn. Yay for you!

    Jane and Marcie, I do think procrastination can serve a purpose…it’s maybe how we slow ourselves down? But I think it can also be a shield against the stress of feeling too much pressure? But a lot of us fall prey to it, that’s for sure. I always think of procrastination as what I’m doing when the thing I’m not getting to isn’t “ready” yet…

    Fedora, you sound like you have your ducks in a row to me! I couldn’t agree more about being content. Absolutely. :)

    Thanks you guys! What a nice chat…

    Sam

  18. Well it’s rather late to be making a comment but I just now got a chance to check in so……all I can say is I have no idea what a balanced life it and I seriously doubt I’ve ever had one.

  19. Balance? Oh boy. I love to have too many irons in the fire. It fuels me. But I usually end up in the fire burning up and out.

    Balance is ever changing, that is why it is so difficult to attain and maintain.

    Last summer I unsubscribed to cable and internet. I loved it. It was quiet and one could actually hear the birds, outside noises, and selves think. We all survived. I’d do it again, esp. with the cable. We had 2 channels and sometimes, on a clear sunny day, a 3rd channel. You know what? We all found something else to occupy our time and I got alot of things accomplished. If I had to use the internet I went to the LIbrary or brought the laptop to all of the free wi-fi places. Mc D’s for a coffee, ect.

    I think overcommitting ourselves is common. I took a long hard look at my committments and even wrote myself a note: Do Not overcommit yourself. It’s hard with a job, 3 teens, 3 cats, 2 dogs, and a husband that travels. Everytime I have things balanced they will for sure be out of whack when a new schedule or activity comes along.

  20. I’m sorry I’m so late. I was just about to head off to bed when I remembered I meant to comment here! This was a great post, Sam, and I think you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes balance is about letting the unessentials go rather than trying to cram more into an already jam-packed life. I’m trying to do that, mainly because I never seem to have time to read anymore, and the reason I became a writer was because of my love of books. So now I’m re-prioritizing, and looking at ways to give myself more time, not less.

    Really terrific discussion. :)