Balance. Philosophers have quested after its achievement. Religions have taught to seek after it. Cultures have swayed by reaching for it.
The word “balance” conjures images of the edge of a knife, a ballerina on her toes, a rock on a ledge, or a game of Jenga. It is no easy thing to achieve or else why would so many seek after it.
It has been called the key to happiness, the key to health. It can also be as elusive as grasping that moment when night becomes day.
We all have several spheres of responsibility in our lives, family, work, and school being the most prominent. We give our dues to work or we won’t have the necessities of life. We give our dues to school or we don’t make the grade that grants the degree to give more dues to work. Where does family factor in? Let me give you an idea—no one ever engraved a headstone with, “He wished he would have spent more time at work.”
So with these other responsibilities how do you make time for those close to you? I won’t suggest that you set aside work and school. Surely they must be priorities. I will suggest that if you don’t make time with those close to you, you may not be making the best use of the time you have. And, you will never find balance unless you can. I have tried numerous tactics to achieve the balance that includes the quality time with my family. Some have failed miserably. Here are some suggestions that have yielded a fair measure of success:
- Organize, organize, organize. This is something that I’ve had to train myself (sometimes painfully) to do. I have a planning session at the beginning of every week where I examine the calendar and all the potential obligations to my time. I have also forced myself to have a daily five minute agenda check, which has saved me more times than I can count. I operate my school schedule off of a whiteboard as a line item checklist—it works like a charm.
Key to success—keep your schedule visible whether by smartphone, calendar, whiteboard or whatever works for you.
- Schedule them in. Maybe it sounds impersonal to block out sections of the calendar as family time. I thought so the first couple times I did it—reasoning with myself that if I couldn’t spontaneously spend time with my family I was a bad husband and dad. The reality is that if you don’t schedule them in—you’re scheduling over them. Now my wife and I have a date night each week and we have one family night per week as well. Sometimes its dinner and a movie, others just a walk around the block. Whatever time I have made means a lot to them and our relationships are healthier than ever.
Key to success—make it a regularly scheduled time slot.
- Prioritize. Life doesn’t always fit on a calendar or a checklist. It is then that you have to make a choice. When the fire is on your feet, who will get your time? Surely you can’t break in the middle of a timed exam, but if you’ve prepared well enough you can take a break mid-essay.
Key to success—make the choice before the incident occurs. It shows your family what is most important to you.
- Sacrifice. Last but certainly not least you must realize that sacrifice is what it takes to find balance. If my teenage daughter simply has to tell me about her day at school or my nine-year-old absolutely can’t wait another minute for that putting lesson I must accept that I will stay up later to stay on my school schedule. They will know they are first in my life, our relationships will be healthy, and I am happier for it, if just a bit tired.
Key to success—accept that sacrifice is a necessity for any measure of accomplishment particularly in the home.
No matter the phase of life you are in I hope that these suggestions can help you to find the balance you may seek.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” –Thomas Merton.