Sunday, September 27, 2015

How do you find balance?

A lot of you already know that I love setting goals. It's probably my favorite thing to talk about in my journal—the future—including what I want to get better at, where I see myself next week or next month or next year, and how I plan to get there.

Sometimes my goals are big and lofty, like writing a book. Sometimes they're small and simple. The small ones tend to work best. And often I find that I can break my big goals down into small steps, which helps me to actually achieve them.

Writing a book, for example, is really easy to break down into chunks of 500 or 1000 words, which is definitely a reasonable amount to write in a single session.

There are other goals though that are less tangible and more ethereal in nature. These are a little harder to put into measurable daily achievements. These are things like being optimistic, being more charitable, and maintaining peace of mind when I'm stressed.

Right about now you're probably wondering what all this has to do with finding balance. I'm getting there, I promise. Last weekend I realized that my life had gotten a little out of balance. I wasn't spending enough time enjoying the beauty of the world around me. I was letting days slip past without really noticing them, and I wasn't devoting enough of my attention to connecting with people or being present in my body. That sounds very hippy-ish, but I just mean that I was spending a lot of time on my phone or computer and not as much time in the real world.

One thing was clear: it was time for a course correction, and that meant a chance to set goals. I thought about my bigger ideals and the kinds of pursuits I like to have as part of my life. I thought about my seemingly endless to do lists and how I was so discouraged by them that I'd stopped trying to do anything on them because I knew I couldn't do everything on them.

I thought about how balance means being able to achieve a variety of goals, rather than focusing too much on any one particular area. I may not be nearly as good at playing the piano as I am at writing (not that I'm proclaiming myself to be good at either one), but I enjoy both of them, and both bring me joy in different ways.

And with all of those thoughts in mind, I tried to come up with a balanced list of ten simple things I could do every day to make progress toward all of my goals at the same time without feeling overwhelmed.

Want to know what made the list last week? Here it is:

1. Pray and read scriptures
2. Write one Jane Journals entry
3. Play one song on the piano
4. Go for a fifteen-minute walk
5. Do something nice for someone else
6. Do one thing on your author to-do list
7. Do one thing on your regular life to-do list
8. Tidy up five things
9. Count five blessings
10. Spend two minutes appreciating something beautiful

Some of them I left intentionally vague to allow me to focus more on one area than another on any given day. And I purposely set the bar low in each area because I wanted to make sure I could actually achieve each of these things every day. The point was not to excel in any one area, it was to stay balanced. And you know what? It worked.

I actually finished my list four days in a row (Monday through Thursday). Most days I did more than I needed to on some of the items. I'm pretty sure I played more than one song on the piano every day, and I decided it was okay to go a little bit overboard as long as I did all ten things.

My goals sort of fell apart over the weekend, but I decided that was okay because life happens and I can't be perfect all the time. Overall, though, I was really impressed with myself. I liked having the structure. It was nice to be able to cross things off my list quickly and go on to the next thing.

This coming week I've decided to keep the list going, with only minor revisions. I finished the first draft of the second Jane Journals book (currently untitled) on Thursday, so that item will be changed to spending at least twenty minutes reading over what I've written and making notes or revisions.

I've also decided to add one item to the list, and it's an important one.

11. Write one email per day to connect with someone personally rather than en masse.

I love this blog and how it helps me stay connected to friends and family all over. But between blogging and social media, I feel like I mostly connect with people in the aggregate. I post updates that are for everyone, not for one person specifically. I miss that one-to-one ratio. Jesus taught large multitudes sometimes, but he also connected with people on an individual level. I know that He knows each of us individually and wants to maintain a personal relationship with each of us.

As clever or open or vulnerable as I think I'm being on my blog or social media, it can never be as real and personal as a conversation with a single other human being. That being said, a lot of my close friends live far away. I miss them, but I'm terrible about keeping in touch (hence the need for a blog). Since I can't physically spend time with all of these people, I've decided to compromise a little bit. I could've made a goal to call one person each day and connect that way, but I have a phone phobia. I think I mentioned it in this post. At some point, I'll probably have to get over my phobia, but I'm not ready to tackle that goal just yet.

Instead I decided that an email was less daunting than a phone call but would still give me that one-to-one connection that I've been craving. I thought about texting, but that didn't seem long enough to really connect. And I thought about writing a physical letter, but I knew I'd get hung up on tracking down addresses and the logistics of envelopes and stamps. There are still people I want to send Christmas cards to, I just haven't gotten around to it. And seeing as how it's nearly October . . . yeah. Mailing physical letters is a great idea, but I think it would throw me off balance.

Emails on the other hand, are achievable. I already spend a good portion of my day writing emails. Well, one email actually. Every week at work for nearly my entire professional life, I've started a new email on Monday that I send to myself at the end of the week. It's my version of journaling while I'm at the office. Sometimes they're short; sometimes they're long, depending on how much downtime I have that week. But they're my way of processing what's going on around me and what I want to accomplish during the day or week.

So this week in addition to my email to myself, I plan to email other people too. At least one person each day. I started with my sister Ali today. She's on a mission in the Netherlands, and I'm always forgetting to write her until I see her email in my inbox on Monday mornings.

Sorry this post is so long. I just wanted to warn you guys in case you happen to see a random email from me this week or in case I message you on facebook and ask for your email address. I know I still need to work on in-person connections with people, but for now I think emailing is an achievable balanced way to start. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Sunday! And good luck in your own attempts to find balance!

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