How can we “have it all”?
- Go to work
- Eat healthily
- Eat wholesome home prepped food
- Talk to your partner
- Read books
- Have pets
- Have children
- Save money
- Have a hobby
- Be mindful
That is eleven items just as a rough start.
We live in a world of “having it all” but at the same time, we must have balance.
Balance has been a key concept throughout time, from the more mystical god and goddess, to yin and yang, Cain and Abel, no darkness without light to the scientific “every action requires an equal and opposite reaction.”
So how do we do it? How do we “have it all”?
Some people are all about the early starts — they get up at 4am, fit in most of the solo parts of the list, and then there are fewer items to slot into the day proper.
For others, it is a case of looking at the list, crossing off the least important, and living without them.
But what about those who want to enjoy both sleep and everything on their lists?
There is advice from all angles, but here are what we have gathered as the ones we feel are most transferable to real life instead of words on a page.
Work out your rhythms
It doesn’t matter if you can actually keep time dancing. What matters is when your body and brain are most co-operative.
Most of us have heard of circadian rhythms which help to regulate sleep cycles, but what about ultradian rhythms? Ultradian rhythms are the cycle during sleep, of REM, deep sleep etc. that move in 90–120 minute cycles. They don’t just affect our bodies during sleep though. These cycles continue throughout our waking time too, and just as REM occurs with an active brain, we will get more and less active parts throughout the day.
Building our days around those cycles can lead to increased productivity over shorter periods of time. Anders Ericsson noted whilst researching these cycles that intense productivity followed by rest, recovery periods were used by individuals who were at the top of their fields.
By spending three weeks keeping track of how you work — which times come most easily, which ones feel like your brain is melting, when you feel like you could go for days or when you can never think of a subject again — you can create your own optimal body calendar. Then use that calendar to work your life around it.
Know when you are likely to have the intense concentration periods, and use it for big projects. When you’re in the more fragmented brain stage, do short tasks. I know that at 2.30pm I feel like my brain has oozed out of my ears — it is then that I need to have a walk, play a game for a few minutes, read some articles, put washing on… anything that doesn’t involve me thinking as such. Once I have had 10–15 minutes of that, I can return to focus and be on a fixed topic for 90 minutes or so.
Know when you work best — if nothing really gets going in your head until 10am, see if there is a way to change your work hours to allow for that, or again, do the more fragmented tasks in that gap. Once you learn your own body and mind, it will become a lot easier to have it all, as you can maximise every moment.
Don’t over plan
We see our lists of jobs and plans, see the number of hours we have in the day, and then we plan.
But a huge issue that many people have is OVER planning, this causes stress. Remember that you need gaps and you need to take breaks. You can not run at full speed for the entire day. Overestimate how long tasks will be so you have buffer zones for unexpected issues. If you have meetings booked between 9am and 10am, make sure to leave 5–10 minutes either side (NOT including travel time) just to give yourself a chance to regroup. Those gaps and buffer times may seem like you are cutting out precious minutes, but again, it is all about the quality of the time used, not the amount.
It sounds both simple and impossible, but taking time from the things that you “should” do to do the things that you want to do is what life is really all about. There is no balance if it is all about the things we “should” do.
Plan time for you to do what makes you happy, be it reading, running, being with friends and family, socialising… Don’t save up your days off to do chores. Do them in stages throughout the week, and use the time off to be happy. This may involve volunteering which has unexpected benefits for you and the people you are helping.
You buy groceries every week — save a list and order it online. Print a list (in supermarket aisle order), and take it with you when you shop.
You separate your washing — put it in different wash baskets so that you can just grab the load and go without separating.
Time your chores
Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how much you get done in that time. When you realise that it only takes 1 min 43 seconds to get the washing machine loaded and running, it makes the process less daunting. Having a real time knowledge of how long things take to do can turn “I only have ten minutes, there’s no time” into “I can put a wash load on and clean the bathroom before I go”.
This should probably be the top of my list, as it is one of the most important to maintain balance, but also one of the hardest to actually do.
If people offer you help, accept it. There are very few people out there who will follow through on offers of help if they were not genuine offers. It isn’t charity. It isn’t failing. It is working as a team so that everyone can have the lives that they should be living. Picking up shopping may be a nightmare for you, but no problem at all for your friend, and on the other hand there may be something that is no issue for you, but brings a lot of trouble to your friend’s life. By everyone working together to help each other, we all can achieve balance without burning out.
Here are 37 more tips from real people, about how to have the best balance.
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