Sunday, September 15, 2013

Balancing Life (and everything else in between)

In July, some of us were blessed to participate in a Writer's Retreat from Choice Literacy. In those days of writing, thinking, thinking aloud, hiking brainstorming and contemplating, we have a chance to push the pause button and rethink important things. As educators, writers, mothers, daughters and other hats we get to wear, our plates are very full. When we find ourselves with time to do some other things that energizes us, that inspires us, we feel we gain enough energy to keep going, to keep on fighting, to keep on challenging us.

But the real challenge is when we find ourselves in the midst of it all....classes are in full swing, the children are ready and their energy reminds us that they are here to learn, the summer days are behind us and soon fall weather with its changes will be here. One of the questions I get asked frequently by my friends is how do I manage to keep things in balance so that it's not all about work, or all about fun, or all about writing and nothing else? The answer is: It's a challenge. You won't like that answer but it's the truth so I believe that the first item on the agenda is acknowledging the fact that living a balanced life is a challenge. Anyone that says otherwise, they're just bragging. Keeping it real here friends.

 Please note: I'm in no way an expert on this topic but so many of you have asked me to write about this experience and so here I'm. I must say though: one of my philosophies in life is to carve out time for you...always...then everything else will be alright. However, having said that, there are still manageable ways and habits that I developed along the way that keep me on my toes.

One of those habits is learning how to look at your calendar/life in terms of chunks (none of this day to day scheduling). Looking at your calendar/days/activities in chunks means looking at a whole week or weeks in advance. This helps me for planning purposes. When I look at my calendar I ask myself a couple of questions:

1. What are the must-do, or non-negotiables commitments after work? Remember that when you say yes to something, you are saying NO to yourself. Choose those commitments carefully. I'm an active member in the Latino community here in my city but I don't have to be at every event. The ones I choose to give my time to are carefully selected.

2. How's time for myself look like this week? "Some ME time" means different things for different people. It all depends on priorities and what makes you happy. For some of us is working out, writing, reading, connecting with our families near or far, networking in our community, etc. I've learned to schedule certain things around certain activities because otherwise someone (that will be) is not a happy camper.

3. Too much going during the week? Then thinking of a small treat/reward for yourself is a must. It'll give you something to look forward and most importantly, you'll still find joy in your  busy life. What does this reward look like for you? For me it can be something as simple as getting ice-cream from Jeni's? or sitting outside on my patio and staying away from electronics for a good 30 minutes? Or it could be cooking that extra-special dish you've been craving.

So tip for today? Think ahead: commitments, time for you and rewards. They're essentials. Life is about living it. Not letting your calendar dominates your life but you controlling your calendar. Try it tonight. See what happens this week.