On Balance and Perfection

Many busy professionals, and especially entrepreneurs, express exasperation at the notion of achieving life “balance.” Some even say the concept of balance is a myth. Before approaching the questions of whether balance exists and how it can be achieved, there is an important distinction that must be drawn. When people say they are in search of balance, they oftentimes use the benchmark of perfection. Using perfection as a standard automatically sets up the individual, who by this point is usually tired and somewhat frustrated, for failure.

Balance vs. Perfection

Balance is a scientific concept. It requires adjusting the distribution of weight to remain upright. While the positioning may not appear to be ideal or comfortable to onlookers, the end goal is to remain upright and stable. Therefore, achieving balance may not necessarily feel pretty at first. It may require strengthening muscles you’ve never used before, doing exercises that are not necessarily comfortable in the beginning, and stretching yourself in ways that may seem painful, but will eventually help you move more efficiently. The perfect illustration of what balance looks like is ballet. Anyone who has taken a ballet class knows it is not the most comfortable dance art to learn and requires a great deal of conditioning. But once dancers achieve a certain level, the beauty of the art form is undeniable. Like many areas of our lives, the beauty of ballet is all based on the foundational concept of the dancer being able to readily identify his or her center of gravity and move in ways that allow him or her to remain in a balanced state. You can always tell when a ballet dancer is not balanced because he or she will bobble or even fall. In these ways, life and ballet are very similar.

The Problem with Perfection

Many of us seek perfection, but oftentimes people achieve what they perceive as perfection only to realize “perfection” ain’t so perfect. How many times have we thought someone lived a perfect life until we saw what goes on behind the scenes? Some of us have thought we would be perfect if we were to gain or lose 10 pounds only to discover the weight did not necessarily go (or leave) wherever we had intended it to. Some of us chose the perfect major in school and later discovered we hated it; others of us may have even graduated and discovered that the chosen course of study was not necessarily the most employable degree, or perhaps you graduated just as job demand in that particular field changed. All these examples illustrate that we have to set benchmarks that are firm, but flexible enough to be adjusted to accommodate changing conditions. Otherwise stated, identifying an ideal and striving for it is a fantastic idea; however, in doing so, it is important that we spend time thinking about how we can incorporate a sense of balance into that equation.

What Does Balance Look Like?

Balance looks different for everyone, but it is generally characterized by a lack of chronic stress. If you find yourself constantly stressing over the same thing (money, relationships, weight, work-life balance), there is usually something you may be doing or allowing that is no longer working for you. An effective approach to discovering what may be contributing to imbalance is to evaluate every area in your life, write your findings down, and even track your moods and behaviors over the course of a week. Many of us have taken on practices that are in direct opposition of our overall goals and objectives, but we are unable to readily identify which part of our life is out of alignment because we adapt and continue to repeat counterproductive behaviors until they become habits. I should note that achieving a state of balance will not necessarily mean that you will not have to make sacrifices. Oftentimes, living a balanced life may mean cutting back on work to support children in their after school activities or enfing the party earlier in the interest of getting home earlier and waking up at a comfortable time to prepare for the upcoming workday. Once you achieve balance, you will know. Your basic needs will be met, you will feel less “strained” in certain areas of your life, and you will generally be at peace. Experiencing your personal version of true “balance” will ultimately compel you to continue to prioritize things in your life in a manner that allows you to maintain your newfound peaceful state.

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Brain Dump Strategy – Creating a Chronological Notebook

Most of us can relate to having stray thoughts that emerge throughout the day while we are trying to complete our scheduled tasks. For some, these thoughts come one at a time and are generally not too bothersome. Others may be plagued by nagging recurring thoughts or a mind that constantly races and makes focusing on any task a challenge. This particular method of brain dumping is a quick way to transfer stray thoughts from your mind onto paper. By transferring things from your head to a physical page, you can permanently save the thought and revisit it later when you are not attempting to focus on another unrelated task. Storing your thoughts on paper can also help ease the anxiety that drives some people to replay the same thought over and over again. When you have written the idea down on paper, you no longer have to burden yourself with repeatedly reminding yourself of it.

How to Maintain a Daily Brain Dump Notebook 

 

  1. Select a small, portable notebook, and keep it accessible throughout the day.
  2. Begin a new page each day by labeling the page with the current date.
  3. Whenever you have difficulty focusing, write down all stray thought, reminders, recurring ideas that enter your mind and distract you. Make a note if the thought requires revisiting.
  4. Once the thought is written down on paper, give yourself permission to move on and complete the current task at hand.
  5. At the end of each day, set aside 15 minutes to review what you have written on the current page of your brain dump notebook. Revisit all thoughts that required further evaluation or action. If you have written yourself reminders, transfer them to your upcoming to-do list and/or daily calendar.

OPTIONAL: Reserve the first two pages in your notebook to create a running index. As you fill in pages chronologically, update your index by labeling each week or calendar month and listing the page range that covers it (example: “January: Pages 3 to 32” or “January 1st – 7th…….Pages 3-11”). Labeling your index according to corresponding dates will help in the event that you need to review your notes from several weeks or months ago.

Organizing Your Life 101: Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep

There is a subset of people who describe themselves as “very disorganized” and generally feel the need to start completely from scratch when attempting to bring order to their lives. For individuals who relate to this sentiment, I recommend the idea of gradually creating structure. The key is to do so in a manner that does not feel “confining.” Keeping track of the changes you are implementing and recording their effects will help you determine if your new system is truly beneficial and whether further adjustments are required.

The Importance of the Wake-Up

For many people, a critical point of origin on their road to getting organized may be simply defining a set time to wake up each morning. Waking up at the same time has a way of defining and setting the tone for most other activities that take place throughout the day. On the first few mornings of adhering to a new establishing a wake-up time, a person who regularly stays up too late will likely notice the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. The wake-up time can be adjusted, but the person will eventually realize that waking up later may result in limited time to do other things. Therefore, setting a static wake-up time is the also the first step to learning effective time management.

Setting a Bedtime

Once a person finds a wake-up time that allows for completing all planned activities while still feeling rested, the next natural step is to set a nightly bedtime. This is the time at which all daily activities have been completed in addition to a bedtime routine (i.e. showering, changing clothes, and perhaps even having a few moments of quiet time to mentally and emotionally shift gears to prepare for sleep). Like setting a wake-up time, choosing the best time to go to bed may also require trial and error. However, if you are recording the effects your new wake-up time is having on your energy level, it will likely be more apparent when you generally feel the need to sleep.

Creating a Foundation for Better Time Management

For many, establishing the right nightly time frame for sleep can be a giant leap toward organizing the hours during which they are awake. Planning and getting into the routine of an established wake-up and bedtime will help set the tone for a good night’s sleep. However, if health factors make sleeping more difficult, seeking and following the advice of a medical practitioner is advisable. The next post in the OrganizeU series will focus on developing better time management during the daytime and evening hours for improved energy and optimal productivity.

 

Getting Organized to Go Back to School: Backpacks!

One of the most important decisions in a student’s life is which backpack he or she will choose to carrying him/her through the year. Below is a small sampling of backpacks with various useful features at different price points for students of all ages. Most of them are available in an array of colors and patterns.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Clicking on the photos will direct you to Amazon’s product page. Should you choose to purchase from Amazon by clicking AND completing the ordering process, I will receive a small commission for the sale.]

This one has a USB charging port…[Take my money.] I know, right? I could end the blog entry here. But there are plenty more backpacks to see!

This one is water-resistant and fits a 14-inch laptop.

While this backpack does not include a built-in charger, it has multiple specialized compartments and can accommodate a travel charger in a position that will allow for charging externally by connecting the phone through a designated connection point on the bag.

This one has a charging point, is water-resistant, fits a 15.6-inch laptop, and is theft-resistant.

Very budget-friendly mesh backpack; perfect for schools that require see-through bags…also for kids who simply can’t be trusted. No need for random backpack searches when you can see the contents at all times! I’m joking. Sort of.

This one is water-resistant, has a charging port, and fits a 17-inch laptop!

Rolling Backpack with Matching Lunch Bag

Avengers Backpack with Lunch Bag

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Water-Resistant Kids Backpack with Matching Lunch Bag

Handmade Leather Backpack – fashionable gift for a university student

Did you know they make inserts to help keep backpacks organized?

Let’s Get Personal

It’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of people who meet me, especially in a work capacity, view me as a “solutions-oriented” personality. The minute a problem arises, I quickly begin the process of finding and evaluating the best possible solutions. It’s pretty automatic. Sometimes process starts well before a potential problem can arise. Nevertheless, I recognize I don’t have all the answers […at least not immediately?]. In fact, I’ve found that my willingness to be “human” and to share the fruits of my own [admittedly sometimes wacky] trial-and-error episodes brings an added level of comfort and relatability when working with clients. I was at a workshop for startup founders and entrepreneurs tonight when the obvious occurred to me: I should be bringing that level of humanness to my blog. And with that, I’d like to introduce the #ItsPersonal tag!

My journey as an entrepreneur is fertile ground for the very same lessons and principles I impart to my clients day in and day out, week after week. I’m a believer in teaching and encouraging by example. Tonight, in a lightning bolt-esque moment, it occurred to me that others may also be able to learn and grow by getting an inside look at my own exercise in diligently applying the life-changing concepts I’m always sharing with others.

Through my #ItsPersonal posts, I will aim to share more of my personal insights as a young business owner (along with other more personal stories that impact me as an entrepreneur and as a pro organizer). I hope my stories will leave readers feeling motivated, inspired, (and maaaybe a little entertainment…).

In closing, I will highlight a particular principle that especially rang true for me today and inspired this post (…and the #ItsPersonal posts that will follow): sometimes you just have to pick a starting point and GO!

I’ve probably coached hundreds of people in taking the initiative to “launch,” whether it was the beginning of an organizing project, researching a next move, pursuing a dream, going abroad, applying for schools… But very recently, I’ve been quietly struggling with having several business-related ideas and choosing which to pursue…and in what order. After narrowing the  list down to the most immediately feasible, I still found myself procrastinating and unnecessarily dragging out the regular tasks on my daily to-do lists–anything to avoid taking decisive action.  Today, I was reminded that there comes a point at which there is one thing left to do, and it’s to take the first step forward. After taking that step, however large or small, you can always step backward, continue along the same trajectory, or even go left or right. But once you’ve planned, deliberated, and identified a goal, there is one guarantee: the act of standing in place won’t bring you any closer to it… #ItsPersonal