Balance Starts With You

One of the most common questions I hear from professional Christian women is: “how do I get more balance in my life?” Usually when women ask me that question, they’re looking for a to-do list. They say, “balance,” but what they really want is for me reveal how they can get more done, without as much stress. Most are a bit shocked when I tell them that they need to focus less on the things (or people) they need to take care of, and more on themselves.

Because balance starts with you.

To get more balance in your life, you need to know yourself well, manage your commitments, and steward the gifts God has given you.

Know yourself. You cannot expect to make good decisions about your time, talents, and resources, without knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and what motivates you to be your best.

At several different stages in my career, I’ve made it a point to critically assess my personal and professional strengths, weaknesses and goals using resources like the Myers Briggs personality assessments, or the Strength Finders program.  By doing so, I’ve learned that I thrive best in situations that call for practical, process-based problem-solving, that I’m a natural relationship-builder, and that I value open communication and challenging, collaborative environments. I’ve also identified workplace “essentials,” like respect for my faith and my family focus. Having this information helps me to be more effective with my time and energy.

Knowledge is power here. We all talk about wanting “balance,” but balance isn’t a static thing that you achieve or don’t achieve, it’s really a series of decisions that you must make in any given day about how to allocate your limited resources.

For some, each of those decisions will be fraught with doubt, and stress, and even guilt. But if you know yourself well, you’ll make better, more confident decisions about when, and how, and where to spend your time and energy.

Manage your commitments. As you probably already know, your career alone could easily consume you. Add in family responsibilities, volunteer requests from community organizations, and all the ways your church would like you to get involved, and all of a sudden you’re more than spent. If you say yes to everything, you won’t be putting in your best efforts anywhere. In order to make your commitments count, you must learn to say “no” to a lot of worthy causes and endeavors, and instead pick a few key areas of focus that provide the most value.

Remember that there is a time and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11). You may be in the stage of life where focusing on your career and family is all that you can do well. If you can take on some other commitments, choose carefully. I never served as room mom for my kids classrooms because I knew it wouldn’t have been a good fit, but I did lead a few scout troops and I even coached my son’s basketball team for a few years (until I felt like the boys had gotten better—and taller—than me!).

By not over-committing, I’m able to do a better job at the things I am doing, and I can set and enforce boundaries much more effectively. It also helps others to respect those boundaries when they see that I’m exercising good judgment over my commitments.

Be a good steward of yourself.  You are God’s unique creation. Your health (and sanity) are resources that God has given you, and they should be stewarded accordingly. When life gets crazy, it often seems expedient to put everything else first, but over time that approach will burn you out and cripple your ability to manage. In the long run, martyrs don’t make good managers, mothers, wives, or friends.

Maintaining balance between work, family, and faith requires energy, creativity, determination, and a healthy dose of optimism. A halfhearted or crippled effort simply won’t do.  You’ve got to be in fighting shape. That’s why you must guard your physical and emotional and spiritual health if you want to succeed. Nurture your relationship with God, exercise regularly, eat well, and set aside some precious time for pure joy and relaxation. A little investment in “you” will yield huge dividends. You’ll have more energy, a clearer head, and the emotional capacity needed to balance all that life throws at you.

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What's your best tip for balancing your life?