SEARCHING FOR BALANCE

12 Nov

I used to think I was a pro at getting it all done. I’m uber organized and relish any opportunity to craft a to-do list (and get especially excited when those items are crossed off one by one). But the recent addition of graduate school in my daily routine has forced a more pragmatic approach to what I can realistically check off. It has also inspired a deeper desire for and understanding of life balance.

I really strive for and appreciate balance across four aspects of my life:

Career, health and exercise, relationships and learning.

So with the decision to head back to school to get my Masters degree, you might imagine that the constant struggle to find the right balance across these four value sets has multiplied tenfold. And as I try to add more and more into the daily grind, I’ve found that I can only really do two to three aspects of my life really well – or at a level that I am proud of. Unfortunately as you take on more, something else will inevitably suffer. This is the reality of the culture we live in – obsessed with productivity, accomplishments and taking on as much as we possibly can.

Since being faced with mounting deadlines and what seem to be never ending to-do lists, I’ve slowly started to become more comfortable saying the word “no” to others and myself. In order to stay on top of my school work, for example, I have to be satisfied with only getting to the gym two to three times a week instead of my traditional five. Or not meeting up with friends for happy hour as often. I just can’t do it all anymore and I’m coming to terms with that.

Now I know the balance struggle is something people of all ages deal with, not just 20-somethings, but bear with me here. The desire for balance was actually a key piece of my decision to move back home for the time being – a growing trend for people my age today (see blog post “So What’s a Boomerang Anyway?” on Sept. 29). This article from The Seattle Time’s NW Jobs website almost hit it right on the nose: “Work/study: Sometimes, to get ahead, you have to go back (to school).”

I knew going back to school while holding down a full-time job (and still feeling somewhat good about my other two value sets: health/exercise and relationships) was going to be one of the biggest tests in life balance I would ever face. So I felt moving home and having my family as a central support system could only benefit my new working student lifestyle positively. It also cut my commute down down in half equalling more time in my day, and I have less social distractions since most of my friends live in Seattle.

But beyond establishing support systems of friends and family to be there for you throughout the journey, The Seattle Times article also offered some additional sound advice for going to school while working full-time that I found particularly relevant:

“Everyone has to understand that you must take time out of every weekend, so you may not be as available as you were” – Douglas Arnold, Antioch University

“Many returning students start to eliminate self-care, like not sleeping or eating well. Figure out what else you can cut out — maybe take one class a week instead of three.” – Stephen Coates-White, South Seattle Community College

Find opportunities for your work to double as a school assignment.” – Gerald J. Baldasty, vice provost and dean of the UW Graduate School

So my question today is for all ages and asks about life balance. How do you find it? Do you have any tips and suggestions for getting there? And what life values do you prioritize?

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7 Responses to “SEARCHING FOR BALANCE”

  1. Elizabeth W November 12, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

    I think I’ve also been learning what my priorities are in terms of school. I feel like grad school isn’t just about the grades, not like undergrad was. Yes, I want to be successful, but I need to figure what I hope to get out of classes, not just how to get a good grade. Is reading every single word my priority? Maybe not. I’m still trying to figure out the balance. Exercise has definitely been lacking. Sigh.

    • Jordan November 13, 2011 at 12:59 PM #

      I’m right there with you. But in a way I’m glad I’m going through this now. And I’m learning a lot about myself in the process as I sort through the priorities. So far for me grad school has been less about “getting the grade” and more about applying what we’re learning (whether it be for work, for class, or my own projects).

      And hopefully this time prepares us 20-somethings for an even busier life ahead! I can’t imagine raising a family / having a husband at the same time. Huge props to the working moms / students out there.

  2. TheNoraR November 13, 2011 at 5:34 PM #

    I wish I had any sage advice for you, but I’m struggling myself.

    My last two weeks of work have been 60-80 hours. Everything else has fallen by the wayside and I’ve been seriously questioning my sanity for choosing to start grad school during Q4 while I work at a retail company that does most of their sales during these two months.

    I wish you luck!

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      Thanks Nora! I think we all have to offer each other advice as we go through this crazy time in our lives. And the best is to always think that we’re not alone! If I were you I’d choose to take next fall quarter off! ;-)

  3. Rodika Tollefson November 14, 2011 at 11:49 AM #

    I have a big family including kids so the priorities are a bit different but I completely relate to this, especially the gym stuff! (Used to be a fanatic and very grumpy if I couldn’t go 5-6 times a week and now if I can make 3 days, I’m happy, even if the scale isn’t). I’ve found that blocking off time for school stuff works and I’ve been trying to leave Tuesdays free for readings and catching up (easier to do for me I guess since I can make my own schedule).
    I think what’s helping me so far is making sure no matter what, I leave a little time for myself, or for a coffee date with my husband, or anything else that’s small but helps keep me sane. (and hey, I’ve been known to multitask by doing my class readings while relaxing in a bubble bath, what the heck!)

    • Jordan November 20, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

      I hear ya! It’s the little things that will help us get through these busy times. I also keep telling myself “you signed up for this!” and “it’s not forever.” ;-)

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  1. GREAT EXPECTATIONS, BROKEN « 20-SOMETHING REVEALED - November 17, 2011

    […] the one writer for this one little site, I can only cover and share my perspectives on so much (see BALANCE post from last […]

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