Life can feel like a roller coaster ride, with its many highs, lows, and unexpected turns. While the excitement is great in limited activities, I find that consistency beats intensity for living a successful life. I want to share several ways I have learned to find balance with my commitments. I have work to do to improve my consistency but thank goodness for a growth mindset!
When things start to feel overwhelming, it can be helpful to review one’s calendar and commitments for six months in advance. On pencil/pen and paper, list out the commitments by type (family, school, work, sport/exercise, other) and in order of importance to you, AS WELL AS when that commitment is finished (last day of the semester, race day etc). Getting a visual on what you’re working on, including due dates, can help alleviate anxiety. It may be helpful to use the following matrix as you organize your commitments by level of importance and urgency.
There may be items on your list that need to pause until you’ve completed other priorities. Listing commitments by importance can help you identify the things that are of value but not a priority for the next six months. The second step would be to include the time required each week to complete those commitments. This allows you to plug commitments into your calendar with block scheduling.
“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” John F. Kennedy
Being present can be a challenge in a world full of uncertainty. While my go-to response to stress is to go for a run or a walk around the block, there is more to living a balanced life than running away. I have found the following actions help me find balance and be present for those in my life. I do not have it all figured out and continue to use these practices to build consistency.
1. Be purposeful in what you spend your time one. We cannot do it all, hard stop. This truth does not seem fair but it’s accurate. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. It is better to be selective on what one focuses on then to waste time and energy on little things to cause stress.
2. Say “No” nicely. As women, it can be hard to say “no” to things. I have overcommitted to projects, events, and opportunities disguised as stress over the years. Some of the best advice I read was to learn to say “no” politely, practice saying it before you’re asked, and stick to your “no.” For example, one nice way to say “no” I have previously used is: “I appreciate you thinking of me for this project but I do not have time on my calendar to give it the attention it needs. Would you like me to suggest other people who may be available?”
3. Don’t procrastinate. The cool part about being a human is free will. This is exciting as an adult because you can decide what you want to focus on or do. It can also be a challenge as sometimes we don’t feel like doing anything. While in grad school, I lived by the wise quote attributed to Desmund Tutu; “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” This practical advice of doing a small thing consistently to accomplish big things has become a mantra. If you don’t feel like doing something, acknowledge that feeling and then go do something. A get started mindset means moving for 10 minutes or running a mile; that act of moving is important and will ripple throughout your day.
4. Eliminate distractions. Easier said than done! I can, and do get distracted by the immediate instead of focusing on the important. One of my favorite activities is to think about is: what do I need to work on, for future me, to be the most successful? As women, we tend to put others first which can lead to more distractions in front of our goals. Using the commitments activity can provide clarity on what we should focus on for the immediate to build toward long term success.
5. Listen to your body. Prioritize yourself, your health, and your soul. By adding value to yourself, you can be of value to others. I find that running polishes the rough edges, allows me to think clearer and it calms the soul. The process of consistency of running creates a new layer of skin for you to feel comfortable in. While we shed our old selves, we also grow a new layer of maturity and wisdom – the miles add depth and character.
Consistency beats intensity – the act of consistent running creates a foundation for your life. You feel better, stand taller and are successful in being you.