12 October 2011

Finding a Balance

I recently decided that I needed to simplify my life.  I was getting too bogged down with a million little tasks that kept me running in a hundred directions at once, getting nowhere in the process.  Though I was constantly busy, I found I was becoming less and less productive, and even when I managed to actually accomplish something, I didn't feel a true sense of accomplishment, because more often than not, I was working on projects that meant more to other people than they did to me.  When I found myself crying at the end of each day because I felt like I hadn't done anything, even though all the boxes were checked off my "to do" list, I knew I needed a change.

I'm a writer by nature, but lately I've let a host of distractions get in my way, and I haven't been writing as much as I wanted to.  So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to attend a Writer's Digest University webinar by Rochelle Melander (author of Write-A-Thon) titled "Making Time to Write." 

The webinar was fantastic, and I walked away with renewed motivation and determination to make writing a priority in my life.  Her entire presentation was wonderful, but the absolute best advice from the webinar was to create an "Absolute Yes List" - the 5 things you will always, absolutely say yes to, no matter what.  And if something is not on that Absolute Yes List?  YOU CAN SAY NO!

Rochelle pointed out that "when we say yes to the things that matter least, we often are saying no to the things that matter most."  That's not what I want in my life, but that's exactly where I was.  I kept saying "yes" to the pet projects of friends and family members, trying to make life easier for them, but in the process, I was saying "no" to almost everything that really mattered to me.  That's why I felt so disheartened at the end of each day.  I wasn't moving forward with my goals.  I was spinning my wheels, digging myself into a deep rut as I worked hard to make sure everyone else in my life got to do and be what they wanted.

I immediately sat down and wrote up my Absolute Yes List:

    1. My family
    2. Service in church (reading scripture daily, attending church & the Temple weekly)
    3. Writing
    4. Exercise / My own physical health
    5. Friends

I'm still working on finding a balance on these priorities.  For instance, it's important to me to spend a few minutes each day with my children.  I want to hear about their dreams and wishes, and I want to know all the exciting things that they learned about in school.  But I've learned that I simply don't have time to volunteer for every class party, every field trip, every PTA committee.  And I can't always drop everything to take my child to the store because he earned some money and wants to go buy a new toy.

Serving the Lord in my church callings and responsibilities is vital.  But do I really need to spend 10 hours or more each week for 3 months planning an activity that only 25-30 women will attend? 

Friends are so important, and I can't pull myself into an isolated bubble away from the world.  But I also can't say yes to every invitation.  I don't have time to participate in book club, writer's group, girl's night out, playgroup and knitting club, still making time to visit with a friend I haven't seen in a while or call a friend who lives far away.  As much as I'd like to, I can't do it all.

So maybe I need to make that Absolute Yes List much more specific.  Which friend-related activities will I always make time for?  How much time will I set aside for my family every day?  How often do I really need to make personalized pot holders for every member of my class at church, as a reminder of the weekly lesson?

Balance is a tricky thing, but I know I can do it.  I just need to start finding the courage to say "no."

What about you?  What are your Absolute Yes priorities?

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