Balancing Balance, Part IX: Which Extras Get to Be in My Life?

The other posts in the Balancing Balance series:

Did you notice my last mind map, the one with the color coding, and how many of the “extras” were also ringed with pink because they “rarely actually happen”? Coincidence, you think? Ahem. I think NOT.

A partial mind map of the partially-fictitious tasks in my life when the kids were young

My friends, we are looking at the old 80/20 Principle in action. We are looking at a woman’s largely needless guilt. We are looking at a problem that has solutions. We need a new map, one to help us reach some conclusions. We can work our way through a short series of questions to determine whether or not our extras should stay in our lives. Once you’ve done a few, you’ll find it fun, empowering, and liberating. Pick a task from your life and run it through this flowchart:
First, am I doing this task for a worthy bottom-line reason? This fundamental question is easy enough to ask, but answering it can be squirmy. For most things I do, there are several reasons why I do them. For example, I write because:
–There are few other things I do that give me as much satisfaction – Creativity, use of talent
–People tell me often enough that my writing has helped them in some way — Service
–It is the way I figure out what I think about things – Self-understanding
–I would like to leave some evidence of myself behind – Legacy
–It challenges me – Personal growth
–Others compliment my work — Acclaim
I can list the various reasons I do what I am doing after only a few moments’ thought, but the squirmy part is choosing the bottom-line answer. I usually know it – I just sometimes don’t want to think about it enough to admit it to myself. That’s counterproductive, though, from both practical and growth perspectives. I write mostly because I find it one of the most satisfying things I do and because I want to help others grow, but also I write because I like the acclaim I sometimes receive.
Once I have my bottom-line answer in hand, I need to send it through my personal filters to decide whether or not it is worthy of inclusion in the way I spend my irreplaceable time. Remember, I am not deciding whether or not the activity is worthy of anybody’stime, or even of my time in another period of my life – I am deciding whether it is worthy of my time at this time. If I believe it is worthy, I move on to the next question.
Second question: Is it necessary for this task to be done? This is pretty easy to answer as long as I give the task a fresh look and don’t just answer automatically. Canning tomatoes is an activity that fits into this category for me. Several years ago I would have said, “Of course it is necessary for me to can tomatoes. It saves us a lot of money each year and gives us a superior product.” However, I began shopping at a bent and dent store where I could get very cheap imported Italian tomatoes. My answer was no longer true, but I kept canning tomatoes for a couple of summers before it occurred to me that I could and should stop. So, yes or no? If no, I still am not off the hook. I do plenty of tasks that are not strictly necessary, but I fit them into my life because they bring pleasure to myself or others I love, they stretch me in ways that are good for me to be stretched, or they simply make life more pleasant. If I decide an activity is not necessary but I still desire to do it, I can continue asking questions to see if it will fit into my life, but if I do not want to be doing it in the first place, I can stop right there and feel peaceful about my new free time. And if my answer to “Is it necessary?” is “yes,” I also need to continue with questions.
Next: Am I able to do this task or is only possible for me to do it? There is a greater difference between these two words than might be immediately apparent. If you are southern, you may grasp the distinction without definitions, but for those of you not so fortunate as to have been born in that great region, here is help. My grandmothers and several of my great-aunts frequently said to one another or to their daughters, “Honey, you’re not able to do that. You’re goin’ to break yourself down!” My mom’s mother said this all the time to Mom when she felt her daughter was working too hard physically on the farm. Gradually, I came to understand that she believed Mom’s stamina and health were finite commodities being consumed with farm work and someday when Mom’s store was used up, she’d be left “broken down” – her health ruined for the rest of her life. This seems to have been a fairly common belief among people of that generation. Then everyone started jogging and learning about how our cardiac systems work and the view gradually shifted to the “use it or lose it” way of looking at health and energy. It is probably more appropriate to look at manual labor and exercise that way, but Ma-ma knew what she was talking about regarding the consumption of our time and, in fact, its relation to our health and stamina.
It’s no sin to sit down every day!
There are lots of things it is possible for me to do. It is possiblefor me to work full-time, nurse a baby, deliver children to and from day care, volunteer on committees, cook hot meals, keep a spotless house, iron all the laundry, and teach Bible class every week. If I never exercise or sit quietly to pray or read, if I eat all my meals while I am doing something else, make all phone calls while I drive, and sleep only four hours each night, it would be possible for me to fit all those things into my life. But is it a good idea? Am I able to do it, to manage all those tasks in a way that leaves me with enough rest, health, and equanimity to meet my responsibilities cheerfully and energetically? That is a very different criteria than what it is possible for me to accomplish.
This question, even more than the first two, must be answered in light of my own and my family’s unique situation. Some people have boundless energy and thrive on a packed schedule of deadline after deadline after deadline. Some people just do not and a very little time with a too-full program will teach them the truth of it.
If I decide I am not able to do task I really need or desire to do as my situation currently stands, all is not lost. There are four further options to consider:
1. Can the task be modified/simplified? Can I do less of it or do it less often? Is there an easier way to accomplish the same result? If no, then…
2. Can it be delegated? Is it reasonable for one of the kids to do it, or can we hire it out, or can the work be shared with others? If no, then…
3. Can it be deferred to another time in my life? I may have a strong desire to raise bees or quilt or travel extensively, but now may not be the best time. But if it cannot be deferred, then the last option is the one nobody likes but with which we must make peace:
4. I must choose some other activity to remove or modify in order to make room for this one.
Were you hoping for a magic way to stretch time? Sorry, I’m just not that talented. Using time as wisely as we can is the challenge before all of us. We can often figure out the puzzle of how to achieve balance intuitively, and there is much to be said for doing it that way, but if we run into trouble a little systematic analysis can be enlightening. I hope you find this helpful. Go ahead – run one of your tasks through the flowchart. Tell us if it goes or stays.

This entry was posted in Balance, Family. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

    Enter your email address:

    Or subscribe via feedly:
    follow us in feedly

    Or subscribe via RSS

  • Connect on…

  • Categories:

  • Have a blog button…