The shelves are loaded at the book store about how to create and manage a healthy work/life balance, yet so many people still have the issue (I guess the lack of balance is not allowing time to read a book). If you feel that you are standing on the edge staring at a meltdown, or even if you have not reached that point yet, now is a good time to take an inventory and make changes. Here are a few steps to get you started.
I personally run into issues just because of “having too many irons in the fire” as the saying goes. I am always trying to be too helpful and take on too many side projects, and so I have to mentally tell myself to stop and pull back before blowing a gasket. My desire to serve others often gets the best of me as I tend to volunteer to help out on too many projects, and from time to time I have to follow these steps to fix my own mess.
First, take a deep breath, step back a half a step, and tell yourself everything is fine, but that there is room for improvement in gaining a balance. Do not let the overwhelming reality shove you down into submission, but instead stand up and accept it for what it is, and take baby steps to fixing the issue. Being overwhelmed and giving up is not the answer.
Stop and take a view at things, setting priorities of attack. Some suggest you stop and waste some time, just to help get reoriented and clear you mind to allow you to better see what the high priority is and make a game plan to work it out.
Priority setting and an attack strategy is going to be different for everyone. In my case, I begin by looking at the things that at all costs must get done, either by me or someone else. Then as a sub-priority within each priority, I may look at which things I have a higher desire or passion towards doing, versus those things I take on just because I have the skills and desire to help.
Then there is the issue of the financial side. Oftentimes, doing something for pay may be done over and against something that I may be more passionate about doing, but is not bringing any financial return. I know, it sounds like a sell-out to do something strictly for the money, and in a sense it is, but it is also a necessity to many people, including myself. Obviously I would love it if I were financially comfortable enough from my regular job to be able to then pursue and use my skills and talents for what I enjoy rather than what I can get in return; but the reality is, money matters to most people, and tends to be a leading factor for why we get out of balance to begin with.
Once the priorities are set, it is time to clean house. Some find it helpful to make a list of the priorities in order to have a visible record to help manage things. Either way, take a look at the things that can be done quickly and be gone, versus those things that are more long term. This type of idea is familiar to those who have seriously set down and formed a financial budget. Attack the small things that go away, and make a plan for the larger things that will take time. Look for things that are unnecessary, and take steps to eliminate them from your to-do list.
For me, I often have to live with regrets when I pass on a project because of deeming it as not frugal time wise. I do web and graphic design projects on the side occasionally. One thing I enjoy doing is book cover designs for little no-name self-published authors. Most of it is done in a ministry capacity, and so at time I have to turn down projects in order to keep my balance. Then I see what someone else ended up doing for them, and I regret turning it down because I know I would have done a better job. Then it becomes tougher the next time around to turn down the job. This is the type of feelings that need to be kept in control and that lead to being overwhelmed – at least for me it does.
So, after you set and begin an attack on the priorities, you need to begin to revise your plan of commitment to things. Keep your promises, but revise them if needed, and avoid making too many new ones until you get back in balance. For me, having a wife and kids – one of the things that keeps me in line to avoid becoming too overwhelmed with work, is a song that plays constantly deep in my mind – Harry Chapin’s “Cat's in the Cradle.” Take some time to begin exercising, or prayer/meditation to simply begin slowing down and getting back into a proper state of mind.
When things get tough, and the wave of overwhelming pressure approaches – stop and breathe and re-evaluate and change course to compensate. Many people lose way too much in life when they let the wave swallow them as they live out of balance in these areas – find your own “Cat’s in the Cradle” - somthing that will assist you in keeping a proper focus and balance in life.