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May 5, 2009

How To Get Balanced When Life Freakin’ Explodes At You

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours.  Too much comes at you at once, and you wonder how the hell you’re going to handle it all and keep everything in balance.

(This is the part where the typical productivity blog would tell you not to worry, for there’s seven easy steps to keep everything in check and get all those cats herded.  But I gotta say it ain’t so.  Sometimes there’s a stampede.)

Life Is Either A Balancing Act Or A Disaster Area

When you’re faced with a nice, wide open chunk of time – like a week’s vacation, or “every Saturday for a year” -  you have plenty of latitude to decide how you’re going to get everything balanced.  But life doesn’t always hand those opportunities to you.  More often than not, you’ve got a tight schedule and a seemingly unmanageable set of tasks.

Time is in short supply, and you’re just going to have to do the best with what you have.  And that means dealing with a very uncomfortable truth:

You’re Gonna Have To Let Some Of Your Goals Go.

Yeah.  Tough words.  I never said you’d like them.  But you may be at the point in your life where you have to face this.

Perhaps the reason you’re so overwhelmingly busy is because you’re treating too many goals like must-haves, when in reality they are just things you want.

And there’s nothing wrong with “things you want.”  Wanting is good.  Taking action to get what you want is even better.

But wanting it all is a sure path to insanity.

You Can Do Anything – Just Not Everything.

As much as productivity gurus would like to sell you on the “You can have it all” mindset, it’s just not realistic.  You’d need a dozen clones and a dozen lifetimes to scratch the surface of what you want.

So maybe you want too much.  Not in a “you’re greedy” way, but in a “why did they put pictures on the menu oh crap everything looks equally good I’m hungry for it all” way.  But here’s the thing – you can only put so much food on your plate in one sitting.  Too much and you’ll get full before you get a bite of everything.

And you can only stack so many goals on yourself before all you can do is take one bite out each one.

That sucks, but it’s life.

And if you’re so busy you can’t see straight … maybe you’re just too busy by design.  Maybe life is exploding at you because you’ve over committed.

And the painful truth is that the way out of that isn’t to become “more productive.”  It isn’t to chase after 100 goals that look equally good.

It’s realizing that all your goals aren’t equally good.

Some are critically good, like spending good time with your kids.  Some are damned important, like building up a savings account to protect yourself against the economy (or to just get yourself the hell out of a career you’re not thrilled with).  And some are important, like chasing this opportunity or this project or whatever.

The challenge comes when we forget that a lot of the things we think are critical … aren’t.

In truth, you could let a lot of important stuff go, a lot of important goals fade, and you’d be happier because you’re nailing more of the “critically good” ones.

Not easy to deal with.  Read The Power Of Less, by Leo Babuta.  It’s helping me.  It’ll help you, too.

Think about it this way – what goals, if you missed them, would make you feel like crap on your deathbed?

Chances are those aren’t what are causing you the majority of your stress right now.

I’m not telling you you need to do anything right now, except listen to yourself.  Listen to the rhythm of your day.  Ask yourself if this is what you really want.  Get honest.

And that’s how you start getting “balanced.”  By realizing that the reason things seem to be exploding, is because some things shouldn’t be on your list of goals in the first place.

More later.  This is a lot to think on now.


13 Responses to “How To Get Balanced When Life Freakin’ Explodes At You”

  • May 5, 2009 Sean Platt

    It’s been both raining and pouring for me for a while, but the clouds are thinning because I have FINALLY come to the realization that all goals aren’t created equal and it IS okay to let some of them fade. For a guy who likes to cross things off his list, this is hard. Turns out though, I’m starting to cross a lot more things off the list.

    Sean Platt’s last blog post..7 Steps to Squeaky Clean Copy

  • May 5, 2009 Mark Silver

    Dead on there, Dave! The issue is “capacity” and we often have a WAY unrealistic view of our capacity, even in the good times, much less when things explode.

    Mark Silver’s last blog post..Escape from Cubicle Nation by my friend Pam Slim

  • May 5, 2009 Positively Present

    I love the idea that “you can do anything, just not everything.” Life is filled with twists and turns and all sorts of complications. You never know what’s going to happen and, while it’s important to keep your goals in mind and continue to work toward them through difficulties, it’s also really important to know that you can’t necessarily do it all, all the time. Thanks for this post — filled with lots of great insights!

  • May 5, 2009 Deb Owen

    Great reminder for me today, Dave! Seriously! I have a tendency to treat way too many things with equal importance. I think I’m gonna take another look at the things I currently have on my plate. ;-)

    Of course, sometimes life throws things at you that you didn’t expect (and those can be good things!) and then it’s time to readjust.

    All the best!

    Deb Owen’s last blog post..a course on the artist’s way

  • May 5, 2009 Tom

    “You can do anything – just not everything” is one of the best lines I’ve seen in a while. It’s amazing how people forget that when their life gets completely out of whack! I’ve seen wayyyyy too many people try to do it all and drive themselves in the ground. They’re miserable! Happiness comes through an attitude and outlook on life, not just getting a million things done!

    Great post (as always)!

    Tom’s last blog post..Why You Need an Online Backup Solution, and How to Make It DEAD SIMPLE.

  • May 5, 2009 Andy Fossett

    This is just so freaking right.

    I’m one of those people who desperately need an ‘OFF’ switch for their minds. I’ll get a little inspiration and then I won’t be able to sleep because I’m thinking about all the things I’d like to do with that spark. The hardest thing for me to admit to myself is that I’m not meant to use (or capable of using) every “brilliant” idea that pops up in my head. Some of them are, for whatever reason, just not going to work out.

    And the critical thing for me is choosing. It’s exactly as you wrote here – there’s a lot of stuff I want to do, but most of it isn’t important – most of those ideas are not ever going to be real goals.

    It reminds me of something I saw on 43folders not long ago: Priorities are like arms. If you think you have more than two, you’re insane. (Or something like that.)

    Andy Fossett’s last blog post..Broaden Your Search

  • May 6, 2009 jaclyn turner

    just what i needed to hear. you never let me down when i nice a nice swift kick :) thanks for that!

  • May 6, 2009 Chris Williams

    This is a subject that I suffer from. I am a known (to my wife and family) projectaholic. I love projects, mainly the idea of them and the things I “will be accomplishing…” So thanks for line about being able to do anything, not everything. That is what I need to hear, especially at a time I need to be focusing in on what is really important.


    Chris Williams’s last blog post..Rubber Ducky

  • May 25, 2009 Miguel | Simply Blog

    Right on, I agree on Less is More, it’s worth reading and applying. Leo does an excellent job with helping you to lock in on the essentials. After reading it, I found that I kept asking myself if whatever task I was doing, was essential?

    This goes for writing, reading online/offline, events, who I spend my time with and so forth. I also like your statement about doing anything but not everything. Bravo,


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