I can’t seem to figure out how to make enough time for all of the demands on my schedule. I want to balance my time between family, work, church and community volunteer commitments, and personal time. However, I always seem to come up short and end up borrowing from one area to pay the other. Is there a way to make it all fit together?
I applaud you for your desire to balance the many aspects of your life. Your question reminds me of the words of eminent historian, Will Durant. He wrote of the human need “to seize the value and perspective of passing things … We want to know that the little things are little, and the big things big, before it is too late; we want to see things now as they will seem forever—‘in the light of eternity.’”
The efforts expended to understand these differences are not wasted. However, recognize that it’s not possible to fit in everything that calls for your time and attention without giving up some things.
It’s not uncommon as people age for their perspective and priorities to shift toward those things which bring deep joy and happiness. These things typically don’t include working more hours, accumulating more stuff, or indulging in more luxuries. Instead, priorities shift to deepening our most important relationships with family, friends, and neighbors.
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether children and families need quality time or quantity of time. Experience and research show that the most ideal setup is for children and families to spend both quality and quantity time together.
In order to improve the quality and quantity of time spent on your most important priorities, it’s important to carefully scrutinize where you currently spend your time. You may discover that saying “no” or “not now” to a few less critical commitments can provide space to re-evaluate your time distribution.
As you decide how to spend your time, recognize that with some forethought and creativity, many of your activities can be bundled together. Dr. Jeff Hill, a Brigham Young University professor of family life, suggested, for example, that “you might choose to get your individual exercise while on a walk with your spouse while you strengthen your marriage by resolving a family problem while on a walk with your one-year-old in the stroller and walking your dog, all while getting Vitamin D from the sun!”
Even though it makes sense to combine some activities to make better use of your time, please recognize that some of your most important priorities require your complete focus and attention. This is much more difficult these days with so many “electronic leashes” keeping us tethered to work and other demands. When was the last time you ate a family dinner without answering the phone? How many vacations have you taken without answering your cell phone or opening your laptop computer? Do you count watching TV as spending time with your family? Often, your family members will feel cheated when you are present but not available.
There are often reasons that people aren’t willing to cut out overwhelming commitments. These fears are important to examine. For example, you may overwork because you’re afraid that you’ll never have enough. You may have difficulty turning down requests from others because you don’t want people to see you a certain way. Ask yourself what would happen if you slowed down or stopped the pace you’re currently keeping. Does it create anxiety? Fear? If so, it’s important to examine these beliefs and emotions as part of your solution to balancing your life.
Creating harmony with all of your priorities requires a consistent and intentional approach. Even though there are many real demands on your time and energy, becoming conscious of how you spend our time and where you use your energy will provide you with the balance you desire.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT. Please send questions for future columns to: [email protected]. Geoff maintains a blog, article archive, Twitter feed, and Facebook page which are available at www.geoffsteurer.com.
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