It’s been an exciting month for us at ThePlanetD. Making the commitment to create balance in both our work and life has been a challenge, but we have made great strides in finding more time to enjoy the little things in life. Old habits do die-hard though so it hasn’t all been easy. It’s going to take time to truly achieve regular balance in our lives, but over the course of this first quarter of 2015, we have learned quite a few things.
If you are looking to create your own balance in life, here are 9 tips that we found helped us begin to manage our lives and work.
Want to travel the world? See our tips on How to Get Paid to Travel
Make yourself accountable
The best thing we could have done was talk to TripIt about our plans. Partnering with them and announcing to the world that we were going to slow down instead of constantly hopping on a flight to the next destination has made us accountable not only to ourselves, but to our audience. You too need to make yourself accountable. Have someone to answer to if you start taking on too much. Tell people at work and tell your family and friends that you have made a conscious effort to make more time for life. Give them permission to remind you when you fall back into old habits and look to them to encourage you to stay on track.
Telling the world we're seeking balance on TripIt
Have a plan
When we decided to slow down last year, we sat down and made a plan of all the goals we wanted to achieve in 2015. By having a clear picture of what we wanted to accomplish, we could then decide what aspects of our lives we needed to focus on. We made a list of the things that were out of balance. We knew we were happy with our careers and the amount of travel we have already done, but we knew that we weren’t happy with our health, our anxiety, and our lack of a circle of friends. So we knew that we could relax a little when it came to working on our business, because this was already going as planned, but we had to make sure to put an effort into giving ourselves more time to enjoy life outside of our jobs.
With our plan in hand, we made a list of things that needed to become a priority. We made an overall list of how we want to live our lives. We put together a vision board of how our balanced life would look and made a point to focus on the spots that were lacking. Health, fitness, friendships and family needed to go to the top of our priorities. Often times we’d make the excuse of being too busy at work to stop and see friends or get outside and do something active.
But work is still important so we also make a daily list of tasks that absolutely need to get done for our travel blog. We make sure to focus on the “must finish” points of our list first and then if we don’t get to the “it can wait” portion of the list before the end of the day it’s ok. Not everything needs to be finished each day, so whatever can wait, goes to the top of the list tomorrow and we turn off our computers no matter what. This keeps us from working until all hours of the night and gives us a chance to have time take care of the life priorities that need more work.
This goes hand in hand with prioritizing what’s important. We have a tendency to want to finish everything on our list even if it can wait. But when we make a strict schedule of having to close our computer at 6:00 pm and that we need to take at least one day a week off from work we have no choice but to let things slide that can wait. These boundaries are important. Otherwise you will find yourself working 18hours a day. Or maybe your boundary is spending too much time on social media. If you are like so many people out there spending hours on Facebook, set a time limit for yourself. Turn off all push notifications on your phone and only check once or twice a day. Messages can wait and you don’t need to be sucked into that empty void of social media. We have found that by setting limits and guidelines, we have become more productive during our workday and actually find that we are getting just as much accomplished as before. The limitations force us to work more efficiently.
Learn to say no
A lot of us probably have similar needs of wanting to be liked and to please the people around us. We often get ourselves into trouble by making plans or taking on work simply because we want to say yes. Deep down we know we don’t have the time to make it happen but for some reason, we still say yes. It has been liberating to say no to many projects this year. We have decided to only take on projects that inspire us or offer a lot of value to our readers. Last year we found that we were saying yes to almost everything for fear of missing out or letting someone down. We can’t do everything, and to put a limit each month on what we can accomplish has helped us enjoy our lives and feel less anxiety. The same can be said for friends or family commitment. If you feel good about the amount of time you see everyone each month, don’t keep making plans just to please them. It’s about balance. You don’t have to suddenly start seeing your long lost friends every single weekend and you don’t have to meet your sister for coffee three times a week. Set boundaries of what you can handle and what is enjoyable for you.
Surround yourself with positive people
Often times we waste a lot of time on people that suck our energy. I know I’ve spent time in the past lending an ear to friends that don’t seem to want to give anything back. It can be exhausting to constantly be the one bringing people up and giving the pep talk. Yet when you have good news to share or need a little help yourself, they aren’t there for you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be there for friends when they need help, but clear out the negative in your life. If there is someone out there that seems to shoot down anything you say or are constantly saying “yeah but” to every idea that you have it might be time to put some space between you and them. You’ll find that you’ll have a lot more time on your hands after you don’t have to constantly feed other peoples egos and you’ll feel better about yourself. You want to be around people that encourage and support you, not those that bring you down.
Exercise is the best medicine for anything. Dave and I have taken our workout regime easier than we hoped for 2015 after he fractured two vertebrae in his back, but we have made a concerted effort to get outside and take a walk each evening. Walking is a great way to stay in shape and I find that I have so many creative ideas when we go outside and get away from it all. We have amazing conversations and find that we are excited and inspired. There are no cell phones or electronics distracting us and we get that heart rate up and blood pumping.
Give yourself a break
We’ve had a lot of failures over the past couple of months as well. There have been times that we ignored our 6pm deadline and kept working through the night and there have been times when we didn’t make it to see friends and family as much as we wanted to. At first we beat ourselves up over it and scolded ourselves for not following through on our goals. But then we realized that changes can’t happen overnight and it will take time and constant work. When mistakes happen or when you fall back into old patterns, acknowledge it and be aware that you took a step or two backwards, but make sure you let go of the negative feelings and start a new day. Once you give yourself a break, you can start fresh and work on fixing the mistakes you made earlier.
Use Apps to help you out
We have become big fans of fit bit. It is a fabulous app that forces us to walk 10,000 steps a day and keeps us on track to staying active. Even though a lot of electronics and Internet can be a time suck, there are many tools that can hep you out too. Like the TripIt app for organizing and planning our travels or the rescue time browser productivity meter that tells you exactly how much time you've wasted online. There is a great article on LifeHack that gives excellent ideas for time management apps.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of the work you do. If you had a good month and managed to balance your work and life, reward yourself. Give yourself a gift for achieving your goals or take an afternoon to completely pamper yourself. Maybe you there’s an art exhibit in town that you want to see or maybe you’ve been craving a night out with the guys watching a football or hockey game. It’s your day, do what you want and don’t feel guilty about it. Life deserves to be enjoyed.
It’s a lot easier said than done. We can attest, finding work life balance in the 21st century is nearly impossible. We’re all plugged in and demands of work seem to be 24/7. People are juggling families with full time careers and friendships are diminishing to quick Facebook updates. But if you make an effort to strike the right balance, you will live a life fulfilled and one day you just may find that peaceful easy feeling that The Eagles seemed to live so well in the early 1970s.