One of my goals for this year is to find balance in my life. While it might seem like this statement is so vague as to be entirely useless, I kind of planned it that way. I get so caught up in my goals and working on projects that I find it difficult to split my attention or to stay focused on big goals instead of little ones. So, instead of giving myself narrow, specific goals to work on or work towards, I’m keeping them general and focusing on the big picture. Instead of trying to lose weight this year or trying to prioritize my mental wellness, I want to be healthy. Instead of updating my blog every day, working on a book, or running three D&D campaigns, I want to create. Instead of trying to stay three weeks ahead in blog posts or reading a book a week, I want to find balance between work and relaxation.
I’m trying to prioritize my health and well-being this year while recognizing that life isn’t an all-or-nothing game. I can split my time, split my attention, and work on multiple things at once without sacrificing anything. In fact, if I succeed, I’ll probably be better off than I have ever been.
What this means in my day-to-day life is that I’ve created a rewards system to help me aim for balance. Instead of using my standard budget to allocate money for going out, buying snacks, and picking up new video games, I’ve broken down a bunch of good habits I want to embrace into bits that are all worth one dollar. Something like getting to work on time, going to bed on time, working out, and spending an hour relaxing are all worth a dollar. Writing this post is worth a dollar, as are any of my other blog posts, fully preparing for any one of my D&D campaigns, and working on a book project for four hours in a week.
There are no streak bonuses, no prizes for checking every box, and everything is worth the same amount because some days, I probably shouldn’t work out. Some days, it is better to get to work late so I can get a little extra sleep. Some weeks, it might be worth spending more time resting and recovering than trying to get a blog post finish. Some days I need to file my taxes and work on my car more than I need to work out and, even though there’s no reward for filing my taxes and fixing up my car (turns out the coolant was low), I don’t feel like I should be working out instead of doing those things.
It’s also a good way to encourage changes to old, somewhat negative habits. For instance, I’ve always picked at my nails and cuticles when I get anxious. Even now, nine weeks since I last picked my nails, I still feel the urge tug at me. Now, instead of picking them or biting them, I have developed a habit of pressing my nails into my palms or whatever desk/table I’m sitting at. Every week I don’t pick at my nails is worth a dollar. Once that falls off the list, not picking at my cuticles every week will be worth a dollar.
Keeping the prize low is helpful when you’re trying to fight a habit that’s as old as you are and as natural as breathing. That way, if you slip up, you don’t get upset with yourself, you cross off your prize for this week, and you keep trying again. I’m also trying to make time to meditate more frequently, even if it’s only for a short time, so I get rewards if I do it three times in a week or if I do one session for an hour without falling asleep. That’s pretty much all I’ve got right now, but it’s a good system so far. I’ve been working on it and improving it since the beginning of the year, along with my other new habits.
In addition to my daily journal, where I wrote most of my poetry and work through most of my issues, I’ve got a “concepts” journal for writing down big ideas, questions to ponder, and topics to consider. I don’t use it much since I’m pretty micro-focused most days, but I get the occasional macro-thought that’s worth exploring and it feels weird to do that in my daily journal since I rarely re-read or look back on previous entries in it. In my concepts journal, I peruse the whole thing most of the times I open it, checking in on my bigger reflections and the general course of my mind.
I’ve also got a day planner for habit tracking, jotting down important events, and holding myself accountable for how I spend my time. I don’t track anything to the degree that most people do in bullet journals, but it’s a good way to notice when I’m not sleeping enough or when I might need a work-from-home day because I’m having a hard time getting myself into work. It’s also very good for pointing out how much time I spend on things like wasting time on my phone or lazing around in bed before I get up to prepare for the day. It has proven to be very useful so far this year, though I have a hard time filling it out regularly when things get very stressful (like the week after I confronted my parents or the two-weeks when I had meetings all day at work). The irony is, of course, that those times are when I need it most, but I’ve managed so far. It’s an evolving system.
We’re only through two months and a week of the year, but I’m hoping this new focus will help me get a better handle on my life. Or help me accept the handle I already have. Or maybe help me learn how to live life without needing to feel like I’ve got everything under control. Any or all of the above would be welcome and could, conceiveably, come out of this year of renewed focus on balance and self-care. I won’t really know what to expect until I’ve give it all some more time. I can’t really base a prediction on how January and Febraury went on account of being incredibly anxious about confronting my parents and then dealing with two stressful work weeks that left me incredibly worn out (and which happened a week after confronting my parents).
It’s been a hell of a year already and it’s not even Real Spring yet in Wisconsin. Fake Spring just started and already I feel like I should be preparing myself for another winter. My perception of time is very messed up these days, but it’s getting better, I think. It’s hard to tell.