Finding balance with baby steps

Is your life out of balance? If you’re like me (and God I hope someone out there is) certain situations in your life keep repeating themselves in different ways. These reoccurring themes aren’t the parts of life you enjoy – more like the barriers you can seem to find a way around. So, if your tired of going in circles, and want to create more balance in your life, read on.

These same issues are repeating over and over for a reason – life is letting you know that you’re out of balance.

I’ve outlined four steps to get you back on track. These steps have worked for me. In the past I’ve tried to do too much at the same time. I’ve tried to lose 20 pounds, while also creating all organic, healthy meals for the kids – which coincidentally they won’t eat, while also renovating the house and writing a full length book. All of this on top of my regular day-to-day obligations. The goals were too big and too many. I kept falling behind and giving up.

Step 1: Prioritize your goals

Select 2-3 things that you really want to focus on and create mini-goals. Small, obtainable goals that will bring you towards what you want. Recognize that doing twenty things half-heartedly is not nearly as worthwhile as doing a few things well. The key is to make the goals obtainable – take baby steps – because trying to run a marathon without training for it will only  guarantee failure.

Six months ago I set three priorities: getting back in shape, blogging, and having more regular play dates for my boys. These goals weren’t realistic for me when I was caring for an infant full-time, but once both boys were sleeping through the night – and more self-sufficient during the day – exhaustion was no longer a viable excuse. The home renovations were done. And I vowed to be a little more relaxed about what my kids were eating – I wasn’t winning that battle anyways.

Step 2: Set yourself up for success by recognizing what isn’t working

When I first started exercising, I took yoga classes. I used to be an advanced practitioner – used to, not anymore. I struggled with accepting where my body was and ended up leaving the classes more frustrated than I came in. It wasn’t working. So I joined a gym and started with cardio. My kids liked the childcare at the gym (added bonus – guilt free mommy time) so it wasn’t too hard to make this a routine. And I started with just 20 minutes at any pace I felt like. As my cardio improved I added weight training exercises and laps in the pool. Recognizing that yoga wasn’t working for me at this time, allowed me try other things and set myself up for success.

As for my other goals, I set up a Facebook group for play dates and joined another already established mommy and me group. The boys enjoy our regular play dates, and I finally realized that the only thing that was holding us back from meeting other families was me. I needed it to be a priority for it to happen.

Step 3: Re-evaluate every 3-6 months

My blogging goal has been the least successful of my priorities. It’s nearly impossible for me to write for more than a few minutes when the boys are awake. It took me awhile but I finally accept that this isn’t a priority right now – writing is, but not blogging.

I wasn’t sure how to keep up a regular writing practice with small children in the house. I tried getting up before them, but that brought me back to a barely functioning state of exhaustion. I tried writing after they went to bed, but I always had household tasks to take care of and would end up all night and exhausted and grumpy the next day. So  finally, I tried setting up a space to work where I could see the children, but not be actively engaging them. This was the most frustrating for all of us because if I am in the room my children, they expect my attention. No amount of bribing, pleading or yelling will change their minds. I needed to be more flexible with my time, but still working towards my goal.

In short, if you don’t feel more balanced and in control of you life, your needs may have changed and it’s time to go back to step one.

Step 4: Track your success to keep the momentum going

When I was first trying to create a regular exercise routine, I’d mark the days I worked out on my calendar so I could count up each week and if I hit my goal by Saturday, I’d take the day off. I still do this, but rather than looking each week I try to hit a certain number of exercise days each month – and if I fall behind my husband gets lucky.

I didn’t realize there was a name for this,  but recently learned from a fellow writer that it’s called The X Effect. Basically The X Effect technique is simple. You mark fifty boxes on an index card and every day that you work on a particular habit that you want to form/or break you mark an X. More complete instructions here

I’ve decided to adapt The X Effect to my writing practice. I’ll mark and X every day I write. It doesn’t matter for how long I write – or whether I’m working on my book or blog – only that I’m writing. I won’t track when I miss days, but when I hit 50 X’s I’ll reward myself. I want to set myself up for success by setting a simple goal. And my big payoff is that I’m going to book a weekend trip to for myself, to work on my writing, once I’ve reached that goal.

Click on the image to print a copy of “The baby steps method” and then post it up on your fridge or anywhere you will see it regularly to remind yourself of what you need to do to achieve balance in your life.

BABYSTEPS

Now you have all the tools you need to create balance in your own life. What will you do next?

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