As the end of January approaches, there has been one area of my life this year that I am focusing on: maintaining a work-life balance. Many times, I have spent more hours at work than I intended and figured I would eventually take time off. That type of hopeful aspiration never happens. What usually happens is I aspire to fulfill these goals, but I get burned out from striving to keep them up. After listening to a podcast from Stuff Mom Never Told You about New Year’s resolutions, I found out why. For years, I had been setting goals, but never had action plans. Last year, I found my commitment to affirmations instead of aspirations worked very well. One of the reasons for this success, I found, is because of my commitment to get where I wanted. In order to continue the spirit of affirmations along with advice from the podcast, I decided I would start out by setting a schedule on Google Calendar to arrange my blog, study, and work schedule. Arranging my calendar, I thought this seemed like a great way to incorporate some of my action steps for keeping up with a work-life balance. Did it work? Well, sometimes . . . There were times when I found myself struggling to keep up or not stay a couple of extra hours at work to finish assignments. Does this mean I should give up and forget about planning entirely? Rather than completely throw planning out the window, I decided to give it a second chance.
While starting the new year, I thought I had it figured out. A Google Calendar with my schedule along with writing everything down in my planner seemed like it would be enough. What I found is that planning and goals are ideal, but they don’t account for the mess life can throw at us. One of my goals to stay healthy, for example, was to work out for one hour every day. Right. Great aspiration, but not always easy to achieve when you have a pile of books to read, cover letters and resumes to write, along with several press releases and social media posts. At first, I thought this whole planning idea was incredibly wrong. If I can’t stick to a basic calendar and a goal of exercising, then why keep trying? Instead of giving into defeat, I decided to take a step back and examine why I wasn’t following through on the goals I set. I soon realized that my action step of working out to live a healthier life wasn’t happening because of other obligations or staying late at work when I meant to leave at a specific time. I began to see that instead of working against a schedule, it might be more beneficial for me to be open to adjustments so I could get back on track towards balance.
On Thursdays, for instance, the museum I assist is now open late. This means that I will have to be flexible about the time I workout rather than berate myself for not making the time to head to the gym. Examining my calendar closer, I realized I also struggled with finding time and energy to adequately prepare blog posts and work on my social media platforms. I decided to implement the same idea and instead of working against my schedule, find a way to work with it. Thursdays and Fridays, in particular, were hard times to focus on my blog since homework and events at work took precedence. I also found that homework might have to be done on different days so I could incorporate everything I wanted in each day. These weren’t the action steps I had planned on, but it worked much better with my schedule rather than fighting it and wanting to fit a puzzle piece that wouldn’t fit. In the end, I had to compromise and balance out my schedule by realizing I couldn’t do it all like I had planned.
Isn’t compromise just giving up and throwing in the towel? Not for me. I determined I could continue to feel bad for not achieving what I set out for myself, but realized that attitude would get me nowhere. If there is anything I’ve learned from graduate school, it’s that resetting the course and adjusting expectations are a normal part of the process. You can still accomplish your goals, just not how you set out to do. Redirecting your course when things don’t work out is completely normal. And, there may be times when you realize the goals you set may not be the best for you as you continue on your journey and things change.
Finding a work-life balance is never easy, and as I’m discovering, there is no clear pathway for it either. I still use my Google Calendar, but I know I can adjust it when I need to. My planner still has due dates written in it, but some of my writing is in pencil, that way I can erase and rearrange when it’s necessary. Looking at my planner now, there are deadlines that have changed and crossed out, but I don’t necessarily see it as a failure or distraction. Examining each goal I set, I realize that what I want is possible, it’s not completely out of my reach yet. Plans are good to have, but having the action steps for them and realizing when you need to change course is even more important.
What do you to do fulfill your goals? Do you like to plan or leave things open?