Why “balance” doesn’t work for me

Hi friends! Happy humpday 🙂 Hope you’re having a great morning. 

Remember when I did that blogiversary survey this past summer? I am so so thankful for all of your ideas and feedback, and have a giant list that I’m making my way through. I’ll often check whenever I feel like writer’s block is creeping in. I have stars by the most popular requests, and by far, one of the overwhelming themes was some variation of this:

How do you balance it all (work/family/motherhood/health)?

It makes me laugh because I seem to read comments/questions like this when I’m feeling most like a hot mess. On these frantic days, I feel two steps behind, with hair in a grimy top knot, and am trying to get through the basic necessities while everything else is put on the back burner.

As far as the above question goes, here’s the short answer:

I don’t really balance anything. Instead, I try to prioritize. 

Balance 1 of 1

For a long time, I convinced myself that everything *needed* to be in balance. Work, life, motherhood, friendship, and self were these pieces in an equally weighted and beautifully choreographed dance. For a long time, it stressed me out. I felt like if I wasn’t giving equal attention to everything that somehow I was a failure. That, my friends, is how I was failing. I eventually realized that the concept of balance is unattainable when it comes to life, and also unnecessary. Sometimes certain things NEED more attention to others, and that’s ok! So, I ditched the concept of balance in favor of prioritization.

For example, during the day, my babies hold the majority of my focus and attention. I’m making sure they’re healthy, fed, clothed, hydrated, loved, and safe. Somewhere within that realm, I’ve also got an eye on myself, making sure I’ve had some food, consumed water, and if I’m lucky, taken a shower. When I’m at work teaching, I’m not worried about my babies. Sure, I miss them like crazy, but I know they’re home safe with the Pilot. I’m focused on keeping my class safe, giving them an effective workout, keeping my energy up and trying to avoid any technological malfunctions. (Like for spin, I somehow ALWAYS kill the battery, so I have a AAA with me at all times.)

When it’s naptime, I have my work hat on. I crank through as much work as possible and when work time is over, that’s off the priority ladder until it’s time to work again, usually late at night.

As far as health goes, it’s something that’s very important to me, for myself and my family. I definitely like to have fun here and there, and try to keep moderation in mind. If I want a treat, I eat it but don’t go crazy; if I need extra rest, I take a day off; if I’m feeling sluggish, I take it easy, and if I’m feeling great, I push myself. I learned a long time ago that I need some movement each day, or I feel cranky and sad. I make a little time each day to fuel myself well, and move.

As far as “balance” goes, my focus is where it needs to be at that moment, and that’s it. 

Back in the day, when I was trying to balance everything, it distanced me from the present moment and what was needed from me right then.

Some of the things that help me stay in check, avoid stress, and still get things done:

-To-do lists. I scribble down to-do lists and notes in my Erin Condren planner, and will include a time frame of when it needs to be done. This helps me avoid over-scheduling, and allows me to complete the tasks I need to do, whether they’re work/teaching, kiddo, house, or event-related.

-Planning ahead like a mofo. This is under the “list” category, but if I can make it or plan ahead, I like to do it so I don’t have to worry about it later. For example, if it’s nighttime and I’m packing up dinner, it’s an easy time for me to convert some leftovers into a lunchtime salad and pack Livi’s lunch. For the week, I like to plan out our meals and snacks and dedicate some time when the Pilot is home to make everything I can in advance. This helps us to save money and ensures that we have healthy options on hand.

-If it takes less than 2 minutes to complete, get it over with. It’s more stressful to think about tiny tasks than to just do them.

-Give myself a break. I feel balanced when I’ve had a second to do the things I enjoy amidst the to-dos, chores and lists. Even if it’s just 30 minutes to read a book, a meditation session, a yoga flow, coffee with a friend, or catnap, I feel centered and present, even when things are a little crazy. I’m pre-writing this post before baby #2 arrives, so hopefully re-reading this will be a reminder to just get in a second of “me” time, because in 24 hours, there is room for 30 minutes to do something for you. <3 [I say this now, but I have a feeling the sleep-deprived zombie of my current state will roll her eyes and chuckle a little haha.]

So tell me friends, do you believe in the concept of balance? What helps you to stay on task and feel centered, even when you have a busy lifestyle?

I’m excited to read your thoughts!!

xoxo

Gina

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Comments

  1. I actually think that what you said about prioritizing the things that need more attention IS balance. Achieving balance in your life doesn’t mean making everything equal, it means giving the higher priority things the extra time and attention they need and the least priority things the lesser time and attention.

  2. Great tips!

    I get asked this question a lot when it comes to work / life balance: “how do you balance work and life when you work from home? Especially when some of your hobbies are the same as your work?”

    So much of it comes down to the mindset that we use. If we think about it more as BEING than balancing, and less about trying to manage everything separately and more about how to integrate things so that the different areas of our lives mesh and overlap, that can make a big difference.

  3. I used to be the same way as you- trying to balance everything equally and that just didn’t work! In my opinion things come in seasons- sometimes work is my main focus, sometimes my social life, etc. Right now I’m home with my baby and on maternity leave so that’s my focus. I want to focus on fitness when I’m cleared at six weeks and then I go back to work!

    Organization and prioritizing are the keys for me- here’s a post I wrote on the little systems I use to attempt to keep everything in place. 🙂 http://www.livehalffullblog.com/2015/04/14/life-automated

  4. Such a great way of looking at this topic Gina! I’ve always struggle with what does balance mean and how are you supposed to give everything in your life equal attention. Like you I’ve always done the best to prioritize and do what I can, when I can. Thanks for putting a fresh spin on this topic!

  5. great tips! A planner really helps me 🙂 Lists! Eating healthy foods to feel my best plus some treats in between! Also… Essential oils.. I recently started using them daily & they just brighten my day!

  6. I so agree! I hate the words “balance and moderation”. They don’t work. And I’ve been reading so many articles on the subject of balance being a false belief. If that’s all you’re working for everyday, you will never get there. That’s the point of life and what keep it “exciting” or unexpected. Just go with the moment and take each day one by one! There is no perfect balance!

  7. Isn’t amazing how our outward appearance can be so drastically different than reality? To me, you’re the epitome of what I want to be: beautiful mom to two awesome daughters, taking care of your health, and running your own business! All of that is so incredible Gina, and if I am close to the woman you are, then I know I am doing something right.

    I think your notion of prioritization is huge, and it has really helped me become more productive in my own life. I try and do all of my work as quickly as I can, but that ends with my mental health suffering. Recently I have learned that both are important and it is okay to toss myself into bed early if it means I am taking care of myself.

    As always, love your thoughts Gina. Thank you for being so honest with your readers.

  8. I am such a list maker! It helps me to have an outline of what needs to be done each day and each week. Hopefully I can keep that up once my twins arrive.

  9. I used to use the word balance, but then I realized from your post I really don’t I’m more about prioritizing what needs done, what’s important to me and then what’s leftover. I am a list maker too! It really does help with stress and organization of those things that need to be done!

  10. Very good point, to prioritize and pay attention to exactly what you are doing right now, and not worry about the others things. There is often guilt, when too many things needs attention, seemingly at the same time.

  11. I love this! I follow several of these methods myself – planning and to-do list making in my EC life planner, getting 2 minute tasks done right away – and it really helps.

  12. I feel like us ‘type A’ people worry so much about not being on top of things, it really fuels our ability to keep all the plates spinning. I don’t really think about it, I have ingrained habits for housekeeping, finances, cooking, parenting, etc.

    Where I still struggle is exercise. It’s the one area where I constantly feel like whatever level I’m doing is either not enough in time or intensity or I dislike it and can’t imagine doing it forever so I let that stop me from doing it today. I just need to get an ingrained habit of “this is my minimum and it’s OK to not do more” and just not expect miracles from it. It doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy it. But I don’t enjoy housecleaning or flossing but I do those for the benefits, seen or unseen. I don’t constantly question, “Am I housecleaning right? Am I doing it enough? Is it even worth it?” lol

    • Fitnessista says:

      haha that is so true. do you follow a cleaning schedule or just do what you need to do?

      • I do a list of things every Sat. and the rest gets done as I notice it needs it. I wish I could look at my triceps and say, “Those need some attention”, and whip out a set of dips and then be “Ah, much better!”, like cleaning a toilet. LOL

  13. Loved this! I’d even go as far as saying that prioritizing is how we end up with the “balanced” life we envisioned, but had no idea how to achieve!

    Also a good reminder to not include things we don’t really care about (aka don’t prioritize) when looking at what balance means to each of us.

  14. to-do lists and planning ahead are my JAM. I don’t have kids (thank goodness!) but i have my hand in so many different projects and worlds and commitments that I try to stay focused on the task at hand. To be able to do that, I have to look ahead and plan and make lists. that way, im not busy focusing on what i need to do when i get home, bc oh theres a list. i can instead focus on my work/run/soccer game!

  15. I needed to read this today! Lately, I have been feeling stressed and frazzled for no real reason. I am definitely a Type A personality, so I worry about things that are non-issues or that may be issues in the future. Pretty much, worrying for no reason or worrying about things I can’t do anything about yet. This is a good reminder to be present and approach each day as if it is unique, with its own priorities and needs … and energy levels!

  16. Lately, I’ve been trying to do the whole if it takes less than 5 minutes to do, get it done! This helps me a lot with making sure I hang up my clothes and wash small dishes in the sink. It’s hard though!

  17. Thank you for your honesty. Daily balance seems impossible and I think a better idea is looking at a period of life and seeing if all your values are there. Of course, your kids are the most important!

  18. “If it takes less than 2 minutes to complete, get it over with”–YES! I just finally learned this over the last few years. Sometimes taking care of low hanging fruit can make a huge difference!

    Sometimes when things get a little crazy (usually at work), I just make a point to do one thing at a time, very methodically. It helps calm me down

  19. I love this post. It is so spot on for me. With my first 10 week old, I have definitely had a healthy dose of take it as it comes thrust on me. And priorities are key.

  20. I love the tip about getting a 2-minute task over with. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book “Getting Things Done” but he gives a similar tip as well. It’s funny how small things on your to-do list can add up and be nagging you in the back of your mind when you can just easily get them over with.

  21. Thank you so much for posting this! As women, we are expected to juggle a million things, and I certainly agree with you that it’s ok prioritize rather than balance. I recently went back to school, and at first I was trying to balance everything, and I just found myself burned out at the end of the day. Prioritizing has definitely helped keep me sane!

    I really like your tip about just handling anything that takes less than 2 minutes. I need to start doing this, as my to-do list is full of small tasks like this!

  22. I love this. Prioritization is key. I am very much the same, I used to stress so much about doing life ‘right’ doing life ‘perfectly’ Then one day I thought – “Who the heck am I doing this all for?” Then it was more about how can I feel good in my own life. That made everything come into ‘balance’ for me. How can I feel good in my own life. That is going to look different for everyone, and that is perfect and beautiful <3

  23. Thank you for writing about this! I’ve recently come to the realization that there is no “perfect balance.” I also think the idea of “balancing” and the image most people get in their mind is that everything is evenly distributed is toxic for parents, moms specifically. Personally, I’ve struggled through this past year of parenthood because I was trying to give 100% to everyone and everything in my life and I suffered physically and emotionally. Since having the aha moment of “no one and nothing will ever get 100% again and that’s OK” I feel I’ve gotten some of my sanity back.
    Thanks for keepin’ it real, Gina!

    • Fitnessista says:

      that’s very much how i felt, too. i was trying to do everything to the best of my ability, and i realized some days the best = mediocre, and that’s ok. 😉

  24. I have a weekly calendar dry erase board on the fridge that has saved me. I like only having a week at a time as that’s more manageable. I write down workouts for the day, dinner plans and any extra fun things. It’s a real sense of accomplishment to check off the workout and then see a simple dinner idea ready to go.

    I also keep one day a week totally blank (usually a day off) to just wing it. I need structure in my life but I’m totally re-energized by one day of time alone “doing nothing.”

  25. Really great post and definitely what I needed today. Thank you.

  26. Great tips! Your blog has been a great model for me prepping my meals and snacks ahead of time. I get you on this mistaken notion of a balance. I say, if something is really important to you then do it, and don’t worry about doing too much of it! Time spent on a high-priority area will necessarily leave less time for other things.

  27. I love this topic! I hope you make this a regular feature, bringing in other women to share their perspectives on balance. Certainly SAHM and blogger/fitness instructor are work, but I’d love to hear from other women who are balancing hectic corporate jobs with travel demands, 50+ hour work weeks, etc on top of fitness and motherhood. This would be more relatable for your readers as well, I think, who don’t have the kind of flexibility you have to make your family your priority even while you’re “at work”. Just my two cents!

  28. You are so totally totally right. Balance means prioritizing!

  29. As a perfectionist, I am trying to let go more and realize that things will change greatly once my baby comes. I won’t have a perfectly cleaned house everyday, won’t workout everyday, and won’t cook dinner everyday. Some days will be more work-centered, and some will be more family- centered, and that’s ok!

  30. I was recently listening to the podcast Dear Hank and John, and one question was how to balance work, school, and friends, and the hosts immediately stopped using the word “balance” and started to talk about prioritizing. It made me think, is the idea of balance an exclusively female thing? It sounds silly but you never hear male celebrities get asked how they balance family and work, just female celebrities. Although visually balancing life as if it is a circus act of spinning plates is more fun than prioritizing. Maybe we choose the word balance as a way of bragging?

  31. I love this! I follow several of these methods myself – planning and to-do list making in my EC life planner, getting 2 minute tasks done right away – and it really helps.

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