Here we are at the start of a new year. For many, this is a good thing as the past year was quite the anomaly. However, I’d like to caution you against wishing any of your days away, even those in a rough patch like 2020.
As Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Read it again and let it sink in.
Yikes. That is a powerful thought as our days are often filled with work, bills, groceries, appointments, laundry, and the list goes on. Many of us move through the daily hustle to live a little on the weekends and dream about retirement. Then throw in a year like 2020, where each day has somehow held the intensity of ‘normal’ life, but wrapped in a Snuggie of listlessness as we are encouraged to stay home. It was very easy to want this time to pass as quickly as possible, but isn’t that wishing our lives away?
The reality is our time is finite. Nothing is guaranteed so we must make the most of each moment. Instead of longing for the future we can find joy in today, even when joy is slightly more hidden among the minutia of our days.
I am not suggesting we all quit our jobs and throw caution to the wind. I’m saying it’s up to us to know our priorities, value our time, and take steps to be present in life while still being productive, especially when times are tough. So, how do we do that?
Consider the following steps for living a joyful life of better balance:
- Define what is important, personally and professionally. What really matters to the bottom line and your happiness? Given the past year, this question may be easier to answer as clarity often comes from chaos. Once you know what is most important in your days, give yourself permission to prioritize it.
- Write a plan each week to achieve it. Every Friday write one plan for the week ahead that includes all set appointments, tasks, and deadlines for both work and life. We remember more when we write it down and accomplish more when we cross it off, so I recommend putting that plan on paper.
- Schedule recharge. In addition to what you need to do, be sure you include what you want to do. Being so connected can make it hard to disconnect, but recharge is critical to our success. You would not use your phone all week without charging it, so stop doing that to yourself.
- Include buffer time in your plan. Leave a little extra time in each day in case plans change. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that plans will change so let’s be ready for it.
- Protect your plan. Since time is finite, saying yes to something is really saying no to something else. Don’t feel bad if you have to say no, or not now, as it’s always a tradeoff with limited resources like time. We simply can’t do everything and the most successful people are the ones who enforce boundaries.
As you prepare for another year, remember to aim for balance in your days. After all, balanced days will add up to a balanced life.