WRITTEN BY ALICIA KOCH, FOUNDER OF THE LEGAL BELLETRIST
Life can be overwhelming.
With our day-to-day jobs, our hobbies, our families, and our digital lives, our to-do lists grow ever bigger. Suddenly it feels like we are swimming and swimming but failing to reach the shore. And life – inevitably – begins to feel a little out of control.
But when it does, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many of us swimming – all at once – with our respective shores firmly in our focus.
Some of us require inflatable “armbands” to help with the swimming, knowing that these are just aids to help us get to where we are going.
These armbands can be in the form of seeking professional support in the form of coaching – Frieda Levycky of Braving Boundaries is perfectly poised to lend a hand when you feel the reins on your life begin to slip. Or perhaps these armbands come in the form of support from a medical professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Whichever armband works for you, works for you. There is no right or wrong way (not really) to gain control over your life. Sure, the thought of seeking professional support can be overwhelming, too “serious”. So, instead of giving you a long list of people you should see or how you can rein in the reins, we thought it may be better to simply set out some tips to get you on your way.
Simple. And to the point (because when you’re busy, short and sweet is the ticket).
10 tips to regain control
When we look at restoring balance in our lives it encompasses our normal daily routines (which will include our online habits) as well as how we approach both our professional commitments and our personal ones too –
Don’t start your day by looking at your phone – for a lot of us the first thing we do when we open our eyes is look at our mobile phones/tablets. And suddenly, the number of things we need to do, the meetings that may be coming up in the next day or so, World News (which can often be negative), social media posts about people who look like they are living their best lives (while not actually working), all come flooding in. And suddenly you feel overwhelmed. Where do you even begin? And this is before you even leave your bedroom. Its enough to send anyone diving back under the covers. Give yourself a break – who needs to take on all that first thing in the morning? Instead, start off your day with a good old stretch, take a quick walk around your area, meditate, enjoy a good healthy breakfast (whatever that means for you). Add a positive daily affirmation to your routine (Oprah’s 40 Positive Affirmations are a great source of inspiration). Start your day on the correct mindful footing.
Set your goals – as you begin your day, start by writing things down. Often the simple practice of putting pen to paper engages your brain and you can then start to put the puzzle pieces together. Once you have made a couple of notes, start aligning them to the projects you are working on. And then out of all of that, extract the top two or three most pressing things. Make them a priority. Then with your notes and list in hand, set out your achievable (practical) game plan.
Remember “charity starts at home”– working on the man, woman or person in the mirror first should always be your top priority. Get your house in order first. In other words, while you set your goals for the day, consider how you are going to achieve them in a way that makes sense FOR YOU. Add yourself into the mixture of “most pressing things”. What do you need to do for yourself? Is that going to yoga or gym every morning? Is it escaping into nature for a walk twice a week? Is it finding time for a coffee with a friend once a week? Mentally picture your day the way you want it to be and then make time for the things that are most important. That includes YOU.
Once you’ve set goals, simplify them – yes, this does sound counterintuitive but it’s important that when you set your goals for the day you look at how you can simplify them. How can you make your tasks easier? Perhaps you need to ask for help on a project. Perhaps you need to bring in some extra hands. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. After all, this is about ensuring you get what you need to do and get it done in a way that is simple. That is easy. And that brings a little control back into your life. You can’t do it all alone. Be ok with that.
Set boundaries – this is an important one (especially for the ones that possibly say yes more than they say no). You need to set boundaries between work time and personal time. Especially if you are working from home. Make a conscious decision on what time you will start and end your workday. What time you will take your lunch break. Make a conscious decision whether you will take calls, answer WhatsApp’s or emails after work hours. And then stick to that. Fervently guard your personal and private time. There are very few things that truly warrant a necessary and urgent intrusion on your personal time. By clearly setting your boundaries, you can regain control of your own life. You can restore balance – and in that balance – you can feel peace. Work is an important part of your life – especially when you love what you do – but family and self-care are just as important. Always keep that in mind.
Learn to say yes to you and no to others – there is a certain power in saying “no” to others. One you will come to appreciate the more you do so. Saying no helps you to maintain the equilibrium you need. Stop doing things out of guilt or obligation. Instead, make more room in your life for the activities that are meaningful to you and that bring you joy. But saying “no” is only part of this equation. You need to learn to say “yes” more to the things that you need. It’s important to have fun, to relax, to spend meaningful time with your friends and family. In fact, it’s essential to a balanced life. Therefore – like with setting boundaries – make sure that you set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy and set aside one night each week for something you know will rejuvenate you.
Let things go – as you mindfully plan your day and envision how you want it to turn out, you will often find that the things that you thought “have to get done” no longer need to be done. At least not in the time frame you first believed. Is it necessary to work until midnight to put the final touches on a report or on a draft contract? Do you really need to wake up at 4am just to get everything done in the day? Start by recognising the things that don’t really have much impact on your work (and your life) and then allow yourself to let them go. It’s hard. But being strict about this will help with balance and gaining control.
Rest – we often neglect our health, ignoring the niggles here and there and chalk them down to “overdoing it”. But the truth is, your body needs down time to restore, to replenish and to unwind. Even if that means for an hour during your day you read a chapter from your new book. Don’t ignore the niggles that can turn into big no-no’s. Rest when you need to. This includes planning for holidays. They are important – staycations included. So, plan ahead and schedule your holidays. If you are able to, a regular meditation practice is a great way to take a mind break and bring yourself back into balance. And if you can’t meditate, perhaps just a quiet moment to yourself with a cup of tea will do. The point is – give your mind a break.
Concentrate on personal wellness – put positive habits like fitness and reading above the hectic work schedule. Placing importance on wellness can bring about a sense of normalcy, making it easier to concentrate on work when things feel a little out of control. Personal wellness includes communicating your stress or mental health struggles with those that can help. If you feel overwhelmed by your workload, raise it as an issue. Communication is key. And getting help even more so. You are replaceable at work but not at home.
Be fluid and flexible – sometimes all our best laid plans are for naught. Life is unpredictable. Things happen. And even our most mindful to-do lists that tick all the right boxes to regain balance and control, fall apart. Learn that that’s ok. Be flexible and fluid enough to know that opportunities come and go. And move forward from that point. Regroup. Replan. And redo. Life can change significantly from one day to another. Learn to have vision and know that sometimes starting over is ok.
The thing that needs to be driven home – while there are things you can do to bring balance and restore a sense of control in your life, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything we have set out above. That can also cause overwhelm and turn a mission of restoring balance into one that does not achieve the equilibrium we so often desire. Not ideal.
Take deep breaths. The purpose of this article is to help you, not hinder you.
Author Nick Harkaway said –
“Peace is not a state – it is a choice, and you have to remake it every day. It’s possible to get a sort of stability, a habit of peace, but it’s like an egg balanced, spinning, on its point: lose your momentum, and your equilibrium is gone, too”.
Achieving balance in your life is a process. Often a journey filled with a hundred small steps. So, take one small step each day towards attaining balance, towards achieving control over your life – especially when life feels so out of control.
But remember this – we simply can’t control every aspect of our lives (despite wanting to). As we know – life happens. Shit happens. And we often need to roll with the punches. That may not seem very comforting, but it actually is.
Because – while we can’t control every aspect of our lives, it doesn’t mean we can’t work towards achieving a better balance, a better sense of equilibrium, a better sense of the calmness we crave.
We’re not saying you should aim to achieve a 50/50 work-life balance– because that’s not entirely realistic. What we are saying is this –
- Don’t always favour one aspect of your life and neglect another e.g. work over family or health/fitness over time with friends. Every aspect of your life needs attention.
- Don’t always put others’ needs before your own needs. You matter.
So, nurture each aspect of your life with care, knowing when to say yes to the things you need and no to the things that you simply cannot do.
About the Author, Alicia Koch, Founder of The Legal Belletrist. Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism.