A is for Act

SnailSpeedPart 2 of this B-A-L-A-N-C-E Your Life series.

One of the best ways to balance your life is to act – take action – when you need to. I add “when you need to” because sometimes it pays to do things now and other times it pays to wait. It’s one of our greatest challenges, deciding when to do things.

When you have a lot going on in your life, you may feel overwhelmed, helpless or even paralyzed. Often when there is too much going on, it is hard for your brain – and your body – to sort out and prioritize things. Here are some thoughts on how to be productive and balanced at the same time:

Decide what is important both long-term and short-term. A long-term goal could be “To finish my college degree.” The key follow-up question is “By what date?” Once you attach a date to the goal, you are committed. If there is no date, the long-term goal then becomes a lifetime goal. “To finish my college degree sometime in my life” is not a targeted goal because it lacks a fixed timeframe. When the goal is stated with focus and purpose, and you break down that goal, anything is achievable. “To finish my college degree in the next 12 months” gives you a specific timeframe to achieve that goal. How many course hours are required to meet graduation criteria? How many hours can you handle managing the other priorities in your life? A short-term goal usually can be accomplished in one day, one weekend, or one week. It could be “To organize my office this weekend.” That can be a huge task, depending on the current condition of your office. You may want to break it down to “To spend four hours cleaning off my desktop (your real desktop, not your computer desktop). When you finish that first task, focus on another task like “To record last month’s expenses.”

Break down large tasks into smaller chunks. This is a tried-and-true time management tip that’s been around for decades and it works just as well today. Large tasks can feel daunting if you give them that power over you. Create a step-by-step process that will work for you. Prioritize. What comes first? Second? After that?

To act or not to act? What a great question! You may choose to read another chapter in a book to clear your mind rather than start that big project. That’s okay. Other times you may prefer diving into that big project over reading a book. It’s up to you. You decide what you need to balance your life.

Reward yourself. It works with adults equally as well as it does with children and pets. Surely there is something special that you consider a real treat. Think of relaxing and enjoying that treat. Then back track and think of what you did to earn the right to enjoy that treat. If you love Cherry Garcia ice cream (double scoop, of course), then picture yourself enjoying that ice cream right after you have finished your goal, like cleaning your office. Graduating from college? Well, that deserves a much bigger reward like a weekend away or an overseas trip.

When you stay ahead of life’s curve balls (they are always coming at you, you know) and act on the most important things first, then you will find time to do the others. It requires discipline, focus and action.

Ask yourself: What have I been putting off that I have really wanted or needed to do that, once complete, would give me the freedom to do other things? When you get into the rhythm of taking action in small bits and rewarding yourself, you will notice that your approach to those tasks will be much more positive.