Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Question of Balance

I am a big fan of resolutions. My #1 New Year’s Resolution for 2006 is to “Incorporate writing more fully into my life.” One step in that process was starting this blog, and already I am glad that I did so. Thanks to everyone who has welcomed me into the blogging community. I look forward to a continued interaction and sharing of ideas with each and every one of you!

In addition to my “top” resolution, I also made about ten smaller resolutions, including, “Balancing time more effectively.” I made the resolution on a whim, with a vague idea of accomplishing more: seeing friends and family more, writing more, exercising more, crafting more, traveling more, and so on. Basically, more more more of everything!

At the end of January, when I was writing a quick evaluation in my journal on how my 2006 resolutions were coming along, I began to rethink the concept of “Balancing time more effectively.” The “balance” I’d achieved during January was lopsided. I spent the first two weeks of the month writing and reading extensively but accomplishing little else. I spent the last two weeks in a schizophrenic rampage of activity. I was trying to make up for those first two weeks when I’d neglected all of the other things I like to do. What I ended up feeling was a winnowing sense of my creative self. I had done X, Y, and Z, but I had not done much journaling, writing, or reading. I was losing touch with myself and my writing, as I’ve done so many times before. And as I’ve resolved NOT to do so many times before.

So the question of balance comes into play. How do I find a balance in my life that will make me feel content and accomplished? How do I decide how to spend my time? After thinking and journaling on this subject, I’ve decided it definitely does NOT have to do with doing more of everything. I have, however, come up with an idea for achieving balance that has three parts: 1.) setting priorities, 2.) blending secondary interests and obligations around these priorities, and 3.) maintaining realistic expectations.

First off, prioritization. My priorities become evident when I ask myself these questions: What are my long-term dreams? What are my short-term goals for achieving those dreams? At the end of this year when I look back, what will I be disappointed in having not done?

In my case, a writing career is what I dream of and smaller writing projects make up my short-term goals. The last question is a bit more tricky. I certainly would be disappointed if I looked back at 2006 and hadn’t written much. But I’d also be disappointed if I hadn’t spent time with my friends and family. And so, my main points of prioritization seem to be writing (and this also includes reading and journaling, which go hand in hand with my writing life and without which my writing life seems impossible), family, and friends.

On to the second consideration—blending secondary interests and obligations around my priorities. Obviously there are things I must do (i.e. going to work) and want to do (i.e. biking, crafting, dancing) in life besides writing and spending time with my loved ones. Indeed, outside activity is necessary to give me things to write about! I enjoy these secondary interests, and I wouldn’t want to do without them. But (and this is an all-important “but” in my life), I don’t have to do all of those things all of the time (okay, except go to work).

I have the silly tendency to want to be absolutely fabulous at way too many things. I think that if I am going to crochet, I should crochet a scarf a week. If I play piano, I must practice for an hour every day. In reality, I can have these things in my life without making them a set-in-stone routine in my life. I’m working to set these interests around my main priorities so they do not interfere with my main priorities.

And the final consideration—having realistic expectations. There are people who can be very good at a very large number of things. There are people who can get by on 6 hours of sleep per night. There are people who can wake up, be a flurry of activity and social interaction all day long, and end the day feeling peaceful and fulfilled. Unfortunately, I am not any of these people. What looks do-able on the pages of my calendar, and what may very well be do-able on the pages of someone else’s calendar, may simply not work for me, when I think realistically of who I am and how I operate. Since I know myself and my limitations better than anyone could, I feel that it’s important that I take care not to overwhelm myself. I know that I “refill” during my time alone, so when creating a healthy balance in my life, I’ve got to make room for this.

Here’s a quote I read by chance smack-dab in the middle of thinking about the question of balance. It served well to solidify my ideas:

"Success depends more on how you develop your talents than on how many talents you have."

--John Marks Templeton

So my “new” resolution is to “Balance time more effectively: by focusing on the things that matter most to me and letting myself slide a bit on everything else.”

Here’s to the development of the talents that matter most to you!


  • Erin, I especially liked the question you pose, "At the end of this year when I look back, what will I be disappointed in having not done?" I believe we have to get to the bottom of the well, to find out what it is we must do...after all, just going to the grocery store can eat two hours of our precious "free time." And at the end of the year, what did we do? Bought groceries! Necessary, but what happened to my novel! Ooops, I think I'm wearing it around my middle! My goal for the year is to create more time and space. In my blog i'm gonna try and examine how that's getting done. I'll read your posts with interest. Beth

    By Blogger beths front porch, at 9:35 PM  

  • It sounds like you're getting it all figured out, Erin. Like Beth, I'll be watching to see how it all plays out. Moreover, we will all gain strength from each other. Here's to YOU!

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 10:06 PM  

  • Well, Erin, I wish I had your organizational skills. I tend to be more of a seatofmypants sort of person, and I suspect much of my life could have been more rewarding had I used my hands and brain rather than my rear end. Still, I like to savor moments, too, and hope that one day I can make sense of all those moments and write about them. When I am writing, the time collapses in on itself and I am constantly shocked at how much has elapsed while I ply my craft. That's definitely living deep in the moment(s) I guess.

    Love to see the plans you are making - maybe I can learn something!


    By Blogger Vicky, at 1:07 AM  

  • Ah, Vicky, et. al: there's also something to be said for using your rear end? :-)

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 6:15 PM  

  • Ah, Vicky et. al.: There's also something to be said for using your rear end! :-)

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 6:16 PM  

  • Beth--I love your point about going to the grocery store. That's just the sort of thing that seems to take time away from thinking and creating! Maybe the trick is to win the lotto and hire a chef / personal assistant? :-)

    Vicky and Theresa--there is SO much to be said for the rear end. Vicky, if you can learn something from my organizational skills, then I can certainly learn something from your ability to savor moments. I have a tendency to plan too much. It's easy to miss out on today when you're already busy planning tomorrow and the next day.

    Thanks to all of you for your thoughts!

    By Blogger Erin, at 7:49 PM  

  • Erin, your post called to mind the old story of the "big rocks" where the teacher uses a jar as the allegory for life and an assortment of rocks, stones, pebbles and sand to represent the things that fill our lives. The idea (and I'm attempting to succinctly paraphrase here) is that, in order to fit all the things into the jar, we have to put the biggest things in first. In your case, writing, friends, family. Then the stones and pebbles, perhaps crafting and exercising and the like. Finally, the sand - which, in my case, tends to be the "have to do, but don't wanna do" types of things - bills, groceries, etc. Something that brings me great joy is mixing the rocks with the stones pebbles. For example, our Progressive Crafting Club - spending time with friends while completing crafting projects, or planning upcoming projects. Exercising is also good for this (and to that point, I do fully intend on sharing walks with you in the springtime!). Shopping can work, although I find I actually need more focused concentration to shop for groceries than I ever would want to admit. Also, keep in mind that through the magic of blogging, you are building connections with friends and family at the same time that you are writing. Ah, life is good. :)

    By Blogger e_doe, at 12:02 PM  

  • Yes, so much to say about the rear end that I needed to say it twice, it seems. Oh dear! Anyway, I remember what a planner you were in your classes, Erin. I also remember how hard you worked and how much your writing means to you. I am still waiting for you to have that big epiphany that will bring everything triumphantly together for you. It will happen.

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 2:03 AM  

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