Balance it turns out, was the problem and not the goal.

I have been looking for that work/ life balance since I had a family and work to share my time. Lately it has become clear to me how I need to get through my days. It turns out that it isn’t about balance after all. 

Mindful in May

The names I have for it just don’t sound as lilting nor peaceful, but “mindful segmentation” is the key. 

While it is a lovely sounding word, balance is actually a juggle of multiple objects and by nature, a constant process. It is exhausting. No wonder all of us who are searching for this elusive, kind sounding “balance” are tired at the end of a day. All the focus and energy is on is on the act of balancing itself. 

What is working for me is good old time management. While it still takes focus and energy, that is now spent mostly on the tasks at hand and not just trying to keep everything from crashing down. There is time to work, time to chill, time to parent and so on. 

Breaking everything down into time blocks means that I am not looking at the whole, nor just focused on the end, but present in the moment. This way, I am no longer overwhelmed by the enormity of everything I do. While writing a new ebook might seem impossible, writing a paragraph is simple. Ebooks, blog posts and even my presentation for Click Away in September are just paragraphs put together. I can do a paragraph. And then I can do another. So I do. With little goals and realistic deadlines, I can reward myself as I reach them instead of berating myself for failing again. Eventually I get to the end of the book, post, presentation.

I used to try to multitask. There are times that I still must, but I really try to avoid it. I really thought it was such clever use of my time. In reality, multitasking just means that I half do something at the same time I half do something else. So now when I am working, I am doing just that. When I feel like I have hit a creative block, I put a virtual bookmark on the page and check my list for something else I can do. I switch my gears and move on. After that productive break, I can circle back to my big task and pick up where I left off. 

Now when I do multitask it is things that I don’t care about. For example, I am a wiz at folding laundry while drinking wine and watching crappy reality TV. None of those things would benefit from my full attention. Really, not even the wine as mine at home comes out of a box in my pantry. Trust me, it is actually better when had with reality TV to distract me.

mindful in May

When I get to 3pm on a weekday, it is time to turn off the laptop and get ready for mother mode. That gives me half an hour to decompress as I go grab the kids and make the transition between my roles. When the kids are home, I can be there for them when they need my attention. I can read with them and help with homework without having half my mind trying to escape back to my computer. I used to try to work again after the kids all went to bed, but that rarely resulted in my best stuff. I will use that time if I have to, but I would rather just relax. When deadlines are looming, I have no choice but I would much rather get up an hour early and finish things when I am fresh. And sleep is something I need. I don’t do well on no sleep…Funny as it seems neither do the people around me. 

Please don’t think that my house is all orderly and things are perfect. That is not the case at all. In fact, when the work load is heavy, the house suffers, but that is because I no longer try to tidy during my work time unless it is what I choose to do to refocus in my breaks. I still lose my temper with the kids and we are are just getting to school on time. Just. Every day.

The other major benefit of this new system is that I am able to really feel every moment. At the risk of sounding like I have gone completely off the rails into Hippyville, acknowledging how I am feeling has made me get things done faster. I used to procrastinate (more than I do now) because I was attempting to avoid unpleasant feelings. What I was doing was just compounding them with additional anxiety. So yes, while somethings I experience are less than pleasurable, I know that they don’t last. Life is fluid until it stops, so good and bad, nothing is permanent. It makes the great things more precious and the horrible stuff less daunting. That is what mindful means to me. It isn’t about just being positive all the time and rolling around in rainbows. It is appreciating all of it for what it just is.

Mindful in May

This miss mash of eastern philosophy, new age crap and plain old good common sense is not novel, nor is it unique to me. I just wanted to share and in May, my family is taking on Mindful In May. Alec, and myself will be doing the challenge and we will help the kids to do as much as they can. This is the perfect opportunity to show them that the world is much bigger than their tiny safe neighbourhood and that they can make a difference in not only their lives, but the lives of others when they stay calm and learn what is really important.

There is more to where this has come from and I look forward to sharing the journey here and on both Facebook and Instagram. I would love to hear from you and how you are making changes in your lives. We can do this together.

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  • Lucy - I agree with this entirely. I have come to realise that all the multitasking I attempt to do is counterproductive and I’m working on focussing on whatever I’m doing at the time and learning to cut out everything else until it comes to the time to move onto the next task. So glad to hear it’s working for youApril 30, 2014 – 8:43 pmReplyCancel

  • Alec Tarshis via Facebook - had forgotten today is May 1 – could really do with some good meditation tonight given the week i’ve had here…..May 1, 2014 – 9:57 amReplyCancel

  • lou - Rach, I’ve been thinking about this post all day – mulling it over… Truly, it is pure wisdom. You’ve hit the nail exactly on the head for where I am at as well…I’m trying to be all about the balance, simultaneous work and parent and it just doesn’t work! It makes me a crappy parent and a crappy worker because I’m only half there in each task.

    Thanks for saying exactly what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it. Time to make some ch-ch-ch-changes 🙂May 2, 2014 – 1:00 amReplyCancel

  • Cate Brickell via Facebook - I’ve come to this conclusion in the last six months, too. It’s made such a difference to getting things done.May 3, 2014 – 9:12 amReplyCancel

  • Deborah Grinter via Facebook - I really enjoyed this read, Kate. Lots to ponder.May 3, 2014 – 11:29 amReplyCancel

  • Nicole Avery via Facebook - I spend my time tilting between my roles. The last couple of weeks have been family and tomorrow I head away for 6 days for work. It isn’t always perfect, but I am getting better at going with the ebb and flow.May 5, 2014 – 11:58 amReplyCancel

  • Robin Troxell - sounds like a great system. I know that ‘multitasking’ does not help me get more done but sometimes I seem to fall into it as I run from one task to the next, thinking I have to do something before I forget it, then realize I forgot why I walked all the way across the house…. just being more mindful is the first thing I need to work on, I think.May 11, 2014 – 1:22 pmReplyCancel