This is the final section of the How to Do It All Series.
Get the How To Do It All series as an ebook. (Currently in version 2.0, 3.0 coming soon!) You will also get a weekly newsletter on the latest posts and a peek behind the scenes.
So far, we’ve gone through some practical groundwork on what gets in our way when we try to do it all.
We got dreamy about our dreams, priorities, and values.
We went practical to see if it is possible to do all the things we want to do in a week.
Now, let’s find the balance.
The problem with schedules
Some people (you might know them as type-As) love schedules. That’s all they need to get it all done & feel great. If it works for you – that’s awesome.
You might find that exercise make you feel rebellious or anxious. That’s fine, it might not work for you as the final step. (In which case, read on!)
Or you might be somewhere in the middle. You can love the idea of a schedule, and find that it seldom works out.
The schedule becomes either an excuse – “I can’t do the whole schedule to a T, so I might as well just watch TV and play games on my phone”. Not that I’d know anything abut that…
So how can we do it all, without so much pressure or anxiety?
Finding calm while doing it all
A schedule works in an ideal world, but that’s not where we live. You get sick. You go out of town. The seasons and weather change your plans.
Basically, life happens. And through all life’s challenges, we still have things we want and need to do.
I can hardly claim to have solved this problem, but there are 2 concepts that can help. And so can keeping everything in perspective.
Intention & balance.
Being a dietitian, I’ve been steeped in ideas around balance (and it’s cousin, moderation). It’s so hard to actually define, and even harder to explain in a useful way.
Balance has several different definitions. From Merriam-Webster dictionary (online), balance means: “a state of equilibrium between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements” or “mental and emotional steadiness” or “to bring into harmony or proportion,” and a few others besides. But that isn’t very helpful.
“Balance” is a way to describe the idea that a little is good, but more isn’t always better. Chocolate is delicious, and if you want to eat it, you should be able to (unless you have an allergy). But if that was the only thing you ate, you would suffer. Your health would be terrible, and you would feel worse.
In the bigger picture of your life, ‘balance’ could be a balance between focus and rest, between solitude and socializing, or any number of the seemingly opposite needs we have. But more than anything, it is a feeling.
How does balance feel?
Balance is peace. It is a feeling that every task has its place. That all your needs are met. Eat, move, grow, rest, connect, and mindset – all are accounted for. There are ups and downs, struggles and triumphs. And in the end, you feel that you are moving in the right direction.
The same description could be given to The Good Life.
The word, ‘intention,’ has been coming up often for me recently. It is wrapped up in ideas about balance. It is wrapped up in ideas about ‘intentional living’.
You could set intentions using a word of the year or word of the month.
At the start of each day, or throughout the day, you could pause and ask, “What is my intention for what I am doing?” Or ask, “What is this for?”
You could also express your intentions through your values, dreams, and schedule.
Remember the values exercise we did earlier? Bring that out (and if you haven’t done it yet – what are you waiting for? 😉 ).
This exercise can help you see what balance looks like for you. When you look at what you have been doing over the last week, does it match the pyramid of values you made?
Life is more than one thing, which is why we have the pyramid of values. When your life and the choices you make match YOUR pyramid, you have a better chance of feeling in balance, and at peace.
Are you setting aside time each week to move closer to your dreams? Are you doing the things that your future self would want you to do?
I know that when I start to feel stagnant or out of balance, a little crazy perhaps, I know I need to pull out my journal. And without fail, the conclusion that I come to is that I haven’t been doing things that will move me closer to my dreams. It’s time to prioritize doing something that matches my dreams and goals for the future.
I already mentioned that a schedule is not a strategy for everyone, but it can be a useful tool. It can clarify things.
You could track your time for a few days helps to show the difference between what you are doing and what you want yourself to do. Again, this strategy is not for everyone. But if you can track your time for a couple of days, it can shine a light on your usual patterns – if you can do it from a place of curiosity, not judgement.
If you do try to change your routines or schedules, take an experimental approach. Try it on for size. Whether that means getting up a little earlier. Or spending a little bit of time working on a pet project first thing in the morning. Or walking to work. Or getting an old-fashioned alarm clock so you can leave your phone out of your bedroom so you’re not tempted to use it before you even get out of bed.
I come back to journaling time and time again because it has made such a big difference in my life and my mental health. On one hand, it is such a powerful tool to put your thoughts into words and see them staring back at you. It gives a different perspective so you can take a different path.
AND, it invites you to take action.1 It shows you where you aren’t doing the things you say you want. And it shows you where you are contradicting yourself. When this plays out in your mind, it’s hard to see it – and easy to ignore it. But once its on the page staring back at you… It calls you to take action.
You can also use your journal to track personal experiments.
- Consider the outcomes that you would want – better energy, having a flow to your day, feeling a sense of balance in your life.
- Think about what might be keeping you from what you want. What assumptions are you making?
- How can you test your assumptions? Brainstorm week- or month-long experiments that you could try.
- Test it out and see: Did it work? Did it not? Why might that be?
Once you start doing experiments, you’ll get to do them your whole life. Because your situations will change. You will change. So what you do will, naturally, have to change as well.
Talk it out
Talk to people – and yes, I say this as an introvert who would love to live like a hermit in the woods. At least sometimes I do.
Talk to the people you trust. Tell them what you are feeling, what you want to do, what you are trying. Keep your eyes open for people who seem interested in the same ideas or projects.
Look for people in your life who seem to be trying some of the same sorts of experiments. Reach out to them. Ask them what they have going on.
Find people who are on the same path or who are interested in similar paths as you. Set up weekly or monthly check-ins (in person or by video chat) with the people you connect most with. Here you can share the things you are learning, ask for advice, and be each others’ support when it gets tough.
Remember to keep it all in perspective
You are trying to do a bunch of different things. You are trying to do it all. But you are human. Life happens. So try to keep it all in perspective.
- It is all an experiment – you can change and you can change what you do
- Self-care is important
- You can do hard things
- And you can choose not to do things
How you look at life matters
It’s popular to say that life is short and unpredictable. That we should take the bull by the horns. YOLO. There is truth to these ideas. And if that makes you feel energized and motivated – that’s awesome.
And it is also true that a year is a long time. A decade is even longer. A lot can be accomplished in that time. Our average lifespan has never been longer, medicine is amazing, and, for the most part, we are pretty safe in here in North America. You are young and you have your whole life ahead of you. The possibilities are endless and you get to decide which way you go from here.
Neither of these statements is the whole story. The whole story is some messy grey area in the middle.
Remember this is YOUR life
You get to decide what is important enough to do.
You get to decide how you are going to proceed.
You get to decide what it means to “do it all”.
You get to decide whose opinions matter.
You get to decide if you make the decisions by yourself or if you include others.
You get to decide because it is your life.
The underlying message of this series is: You can do it all, but not if “it all” means doing everything that everyone else thinks you should do. If it is important to you, you can find a way to make it fit into your life. But if it is not important to you, you get to let it go.2
This is what it means to “follow your dreams”. It means respecting your values and striving for what you want, not what the world thinks you should do.
Let’s figure out this thing called the good life, and how to do it all. Together.
Until next time, be good.3
You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.
If this interests you, join the newsletter to be the first to know about updates, new articles, and to try out tools as they are developed and improved. I hope to connect with you soon.
- You can only write about wanting to start a blog and what you would do if… before you actually do the thing – or perhaps that is just me. :)
- Apologies to anyone who now has that song stuck in your head.
- I was a teenager when I first remember my mom saying, “Be good,” when I left the house. When I left for university, and to this day, she ends most of our conversations in the same way.
Yes, she meant, ‘I love you’ and ‘stay out of trouble.’ But she also meant, ‘do what’s right.’ Follow what you know to be true for you. Learn from life and how to do things better.
Now that I’m trying to understand and evolve my philosophy of life; Now that I’m trying to help other people strive toward living the good life; I want to share that phrase, “Be good,” with you. Be good. Live the good life in whatever way you define that for yourself.