How to stay sane and maintain a semblance of life order

how to balance lifeI am a terrible procrastinator. I am also a stressball, a low-energy type of person and despite the fact that I have neither kids nor any regular extracurricular commitments, often find myself wishing science would hurry up and invent a real life Time Turner.

Nonetheless, through a crazy uni schedule, multiple jobs, shift work and now 9-5 work, I’ve come up with a few things that are working for me.

Cooking

I shop once a week. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. On Sunday night I make up lunches for the next couple of days, if not the whole week. I ate sandwiches for most of my school years and am ever so slightly over them (except for elaborate, gourmet type ones, which I have not the patience to deal with).

I much prefer a cooked lunch – couscous, fried rice, roast veggies – with the odd salad (it must have serious carbs or protein in it, however, in order to earn its place in my stomach).

I’m not very good at cooking in big batches (hence why we don’t entertain all that much) so it’s rare that we have leftovers for dinner. But those evenings are AWESOME. Can you beat coming home and heating up a lovely homecooked-meal in minutes? I think not.

I also try to keep some basics on hand at all times – those quick-cook pasta meals in packets, noodles, bread, peanut butter, eggs etc.

Exercise

Compared to most, I’m pretty slack on the exercising front. I say find what suits you, and stick to it. For a while I did free Zumba classes with a friend every Wednesday. I don’t like it enough to pay for it, though. Running has always been the one physical activity I’m kind of good at, and so I go with it. Plus it’s free! I’ve tried running in the mornings. Doesn’t really work. Pre-breakfast, I don’t get far before feeling queasy and light-headed from hunger. Post-breakfast, I just can’t run that soon after. I also do not do well running after consuming spicy food. What I DO do is try to run once on a weekend afternoon and once on a weekday evening (hence the importance of a filling lunch). I also do a few stretches and other exercises on my bedroom floor most weekday mornings (weekends are for lazy rising).

Sleep

Sleep is sacred. It comes only second to food in my world. Nothing gets in the way of my sleep. NOTHING.

Me  time

I need alone time like some people hate the idea of marriage equality. Me time is for reading books. Blogging. Playing guitar. Baking. Until recently, watching Buffy. Consuming content that’s relevant to my industry (career development? self-improvement?). Whatever your thing is, make time for it and do not let others impinge upon it. I often turn down weeknight invitations, even though my only plan is a hot date with my food processor, mixing bowl and oven.

Cleaning

I hate cleaning with a passion. I should be cleaning more often, eg, in that midweek slump (you should see the state our house descends into by the end of the week. One day when I’m all grown up I will have a monthly cleaner to help out…). At our place, cleaning usually occurs on a Sunday evening so we have things looking nice to start the week and then it’s all downhill from there.

I have an excellent book that lays out tips to keep on top of cleaning, like filing away paperwork as soon as it arrives, sweeping hard floors every day, wiping down things in the bathroom every couple of days, etc. Good advice to follow. But if you’re like me, nobody will strike you down dead with lightning for your slatternly ways. Personally, I only remember to clean the windowsills when a property inspection is forthcoming.

Relationships and friendships

I would be happy if every night ended with me engrossed in a book and T watching TV before falling asleep. Apparently, though, sometimes it’s good for me to put my book down and interact with him. (J/K, sorta.) Occasionally we manage a bona fide date night, and that’s always lovely. I recommend scheduling those in. I also suggest the same kind of standing arrangement with friends; regular get-togethers are more likely to succeed.

Last year I set myself a goal of texting one friend a week. You might be like me and be better at being pursued than doing the pursuing. I’m slack at reaching out, because, well, I’m lazy. (And perhaps because I have a deep-seated need to be liked and fear rejection.) It would be so much easier if they were all into social media … But anyway, regularly reaching out to friends is a great thing.

Sensing a pattern?

Organisation is key. I plan most everything ahead and am constantly making fresh notes in my calendar or reminders in my iPhone. I listen to my body, because it likes routine, and so does the smooth running of my life, really. I have nothing on some of you guys with your hardcore day planners, but in my world, if I get the bins out in time for the rubbish collection, that’s a win.

OTHER STUFF

Know yourself. You know your limits and you know your priorities. Honour those. There are people who thrive on a busy life, with constant houseguests, frequently entertaining at home, going out after work every night, training for a marathon, travelling frequently, kicking ass at work. I’m not one of them. And I don’t try to be.

Set boundaries. People will always want more from you. It’s up to you to say “NO. NO MORE EMAIL CHECKING ON THE WEEKENDS.” Say no. And stop responding to Facebook events with ‘maybe’ if it’s definitely a no.

Have things to look forward to, both big and small. Everyone needs goals, dreams, motivation. Mine was getting into the degree I wanted to pursue. Then it was graduating and getting a job and having more time and money. Then it was finding a job with better hours. Now it’s travel and a wedding. There are little things, too, like a mini staycation or visits to a favourite restaurant. Whatever yours is, keep it on the horizon.

Have less stuff. Okay, this may not work for everyone. I live with a horrible materialist. Where I didn’t want to tell anyone we were burgled the last time that happened (because it’s a rather embarrassing story), he wanted to brag to friends about his shiny new TV (thanks to how fast technology moves, we got a bigger one for what the old one was worth). But the more stuff you have, the more time and money it sucks up. T’s RC car, motorbike, etc need maintenance. Which is fine, as it doesn’t involve me (although I still end up being the one to remind him that this or that needs taking care of). Also, stuff can be stolen, as I too well know.

Not sweat the small stuff

I’m working on this: stopping obsessing over BS and stopping beating myself up about mistakes. Because we all mess up. We’re human. Fall off the moneywagon? Pick yourself up and try again next month. Letting someone’s disparaging throwaway comment haunt you? Ask if they really matter – and if they actually know what they’re talking about. Adulting has an excellent post on this.

THE FINAL WORD

I truly believe that you cannot do it all at once. Balance to me, is fluid. Are you going to spend exactly an hour exercising every single day, an hour socialising, an hour cooking, 30 minutes reading, 15 minutes tidying the house up, or whatever? Your priorities, and thus your balance, shifts over time. Sometimes you’ll need to turn up the dial on work for a while. Then that might quiet down and you can focus on health or friends. When you’re training for a marathon you need to step up your game on that front, then you can pick back up on other things once that’s behind you.

What do you find helpful in keeping your head on straight and your day-to-day life on track?

13 thoughts on “How to stay sane and maintain a semblance of life order

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie May 1, 2012 at 13:38

    Sleep *is* sacred!

  • Reply lkrant May 1, 2012 at 14:15

    I try to keep a routine and use lists for those things that are out of the ordinary.

  • Reply My Broken Coin (@MyBrokenCoin) May 1, 2012 at 15:48

    This post resonated with me. Deeply. I was reading it and thinking that it is all about me. lol It amazed me how much alike we are. Great, great post!

  • Reply findingserenity2010 May 1, 2012 at 15:19

    very nice post. I envy your easy-going personality and wish I was less high-strung! I especially love the part about not beating yourself up over little things. I tend to dwell on that a lot myself and should stop it!

  • Reply addvodka May 2, 2012 at 02:43

    Ahhhmazing post. Me-time, and sleeping are on my list FOR SURE. And definitely having things to look forward to!

  • Reply Earth and Money May 2, 2012 at 03:27

    Terrific post! Balance is everything. I think its important to check in with yourself now and then, and ask yourself – “Is what I’m doing right now contributing positively to my life?”. If the answer is yes, then keep going and put aside the guilt for a little while. If the answer is no, then its a good motivator to switch what you’re doing.

  • Reply fromshoppingtosaving May 2, 2012 at 04:03

    I like this! Sometimes there is just so much going on and it’s hard to make time for everything, but these are the most important things – cooking, cleaning, sleeping, exercising, me time, friends, etc. My BF and I do a lot together yet we do not have many friends in our city so I’m always texting my friends who live 8 hours away from me. It’s nice to be able to keep in touch with others when my daily routine is pretty mundane – work, exercise, eat, sleep. I do like a routine though!

    Oh and I’m with you on cleaning — I HATE IT!

  • Reply serendipitysavings May 2, 2012 at 07:22

    I sincerely loved this post. I want to print it out and hang it up in my house somewhere. You’re right, different things take up different time and balance is going to change. No one can do everything every day. It’s okay to focus on your house one day to completely watch a marathon the next. Balance!

  • Reply Life [Comma] Etc May 2, 2012 at 07:28

    Finally had a chance to jump over to your blog and this was a great first post to read. You have systematically identified all the crap I want to do vs what I actually do… I am all about baking over socializing sometimes myself!

  • Reply Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife May 2, 2012 at 09:10

    Love this – knowing yourself is key. I thrive on being scheduled within an inch of my life – nothing gets done if it doesn’t have a place on my list and a deadline! However… I HATE cleaning too. And I have made room in my budget for our cleaner, because it is that much of a priority for me. 🙂

  • Reply Amy @ Jobcred CV Builder May 2, 2012 at 22:35

    They say that one important skill to learn for success is to determine which among multiple goals must be set aside first. I also barely accomplish any of my tasks at hand when I have limited time. Thanks for this post.

  • Reply InvestItWisely May 3, 2012 at 05:37

    Definitely a great list of tips. You have to know yourself, be true to yourself and know where you need to work on things.

  • Reply Link love (Powered by dumplings and blazers) | NZ Muse March 9, 2014 at 09:28

    […] like that and think it’s very true – you can’t have everything all at once. Balance is a long term thing that ebbs and flows over time, […]

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