Too Many Demands? Find Balance — Guest: Christina Delay

by Jami Gold on November 17, 2016

in Writing Stuff

Priority mail stamps with text: How to Discover Our Purpose

Raise your hands if you have plenty of time to do everything you want to do and you’re never overwhelmed. Nobody? *smile*

The sad fact is that the vast majority of people feel overly busy, and that sense of just barely treading water can make us lose sight of our big-picture goals. We can spin our wheels on unimportant tasks that don’t get us closer to the life we want.

Luckily, we have Christina Delay here today to help us sort through the clutter of life and identify what we really want. She’s also generously sharing her tool that will help us visualize how we might need to re-prioritize our time in a way that matches our goals.

*rubs hands together* Sounds great, right? I’m excited! Please welcome Christina Delay! *smile*

*****

Achieving Balance by Stepping Away

Do you ever feel life is spinning away from you, like one of those spinning tops you used to get when you were a kid? You’d spin it and watch all the colors blur together and it’d teeter-totter away from you.

Sometimes, you’d catch it. Sometimes, it’d get stuck under the couch and eaten by the vacuum cleaner.

Is Your Life Being Eaten by the Vacuum Cleaner?

A few years ago, I was working at a good job with an awesome team, amazing boss, and great pay…a really good job, that was such a horrible fit for who I was that it was sucking away all my energy. After an hour commute each way, in traffic, I’d come home and step into the role of wife and mother and chef and then, after my daughter was in bed, I’d sneak away and pull on my fifth role of writer.

I was thirty years old and I felt, and acted, older than my seventy-eight-year-old grandmother.

I overcompensated with depression, crankiness, and taking “Christina Holidays.” Days when I called in sick, stuck my head in the proverbial sand, and cried, “No, no, no, no, no,” at all the things pulling at me that I couldn’t possibly face.

My body was on crash mode. Total adrenal failure. After extensive tests, it was confirmed that my body was acting as if it was eighty.

My Aha Moment

Driving to work one morning—in traffic—I yelled at Bon Jovi on the radio, “This was not what my life was supposed to be!! THIS IS NOT A LIFE!”

My lifestyle and total lack of balance was killing me. Even worse, my joy in my family and my writing was being stolen away by all the other demands.

Maybe some of this sounds familiar to you. Maybe, at times, you feel a little—a lot—overwhelmed with all the tugs on your time and life.

Maybe It’s Time to Step Away

I’m not talking about stepping away for a “Christina Holiday.” Those do nothing other than delay the inevitable ka-boom in your life.

I’m talking about reorganizing your priorities.

I’m talking about finding your purpose.

I’m talking about taking a focused life break to better evaluate your life’s direction.

Are You Headed Where You Want?

In ten, twenty, thirty years, if you continue along the path you are on now, are you going to end up where you intend to be?

If not, you’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

For me, the answer to that question was a big fat no. There were women at my job that I could see myself becoming if I’d stayed the path. Overweight, unhealthy, miserable, cranky, never-take-a-vacation women.

The Ultimate Life Break: I Quit My Job

Realizing I wasn’t headed in the right direction, I knew I had to get off my current path and find a different one. Now I am not suggesting you quit your job. I am suggesting that, if you are feeling overwhelmed and your needs are being under-served, take a life break.

Take a purposeful vacation—by yourself. Even if it’s to a tent in the woods for three days. Wherever you go, do the work needed to find your purpose. Because once you settle on your purpose, your life begins to find balance.

4 Questions to Find Your Purpose

My suggestion is, and something I teach writers in my workshop, “Support Your Writing Habit,” the best place to find balance is the point at which your passions and your strengths intersect.

Below are some questions to help guide you along:

  1. What are you naturally good at? (Make a list.) These are your strengths.
  2. What are the things that drive you and get you excited? (Make a list.) These are your passions.
  3. What are the areas that those two things intersect? (Write those down.) This is your purpose.
  4. Which of those areas are you most excited about? (Circle, star, highlight and sprinkle glitter over it.) This is your ultimate purpose.

Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

What’s Your Why?

If your why is writing, do you have enough space in your life to give it the dedication it deserves?

If your answer is no, but…and you start lining up the excuses, stop. You are given one life. The point at which your passion and your natural strength intersects is your purpose in life. Stop making excuses for not doing your purpose in life.

Have I stepped on your toes? Good.

What you were put on this world to do is so important that I hope I step on your toes. Our world needs people like you. People with passion and purpose, who are doing good, creative work.

This cannot wait for retirement. This cannot wait for your life to conveniently and magically become conducive to this work. Stop dreaming.

Think: Purposeful Redirection

Some of your redirection may be painful. For me, I quit my job and accepted a work-from-home position that was a 50% pay cut in my family’s income.

That hurt.

But it was hurting worse to be a miserable wife and mommy who never saw her family.

In three years, I’ve never recovered that salary. But I’ve recovered my life.

My family actually enjoys being around me. I’ve had time to take care of my body and my mental health. I’ve had time to dedicate the best parts of my day to my writing…instead of the leftover parts of my day.

I’ve started a new business—Cruising Writers—where my natural strengths of organizing and planning meet my passions for travel and writing.

I’ve written two award-winning novels.

I’ve achieved balance.

I think I’ve come out ahead.

None of that happened because I wished for it. Action—for me, drastic action—was necessary. But it was all thought through and carefully planned.

Step One of Planning: I Created The Life Bank

And you can get a free download of The Life Bank worksheet (or get it in a PDF version if you prefer) that helped me change my life. In my aha moment, I realized that part of my problem was that I was over-scheduled.

Your time is much like a bank account. You have a limited amount of funds (hours) in your account, and they will be used up by the end of every day. How are you spending your time? Is it supporting your life’s purpose?

Or is your life getting sucked up by the vacuum?

Take a look and fill it out. Here’s an example of mine:

Example of The Life Bank

(Click on the image to see full size.)

Your life’s purpose should dominate this worksheet. If it does not, you are spending your one life on things that are in contradiction to what you were put on this earth to do.

And that is going to require you to step away. Change your surroundings and go to a place that you can free your mind of all the things pulling at you.

How to Re-Prioritize

Here’s your prescription:

  • You will need more than one afternoon. Plan to step away for at least 3 days.
    • Why three days? It takes a day and a half for most people to disconnect from the addiction of busyness and the internet. Your second day and a half will be your most productive because by that point, you’ll be truly in your own head.
  • Take a notebook. You use a different part of your brain when you write by hand versus typing.
  • Turn off your phone and your internet connection. You’ll feel anxious. Do it anyway.
  • Remain open to all the ideas that reveal themselves to you and realize that it takes time for ideas to mature.
  • Forgive yourself. You’re going to feel guilty for stepping away. Let it come, then forgive yourself. Know that this time is necessary to do your life’s greatest work and let go the guilt.
  • Step outside, surround yourself in nature’s quiet, and breathe.
  • Go for a purpose-driven walk. Much like you allow your brain to figure out a plot problem while making your body do some sort of physical work, do the same thing for your life’s plot problem.
  • At the end of your life break, evaluate. How do you feel? Do you have more direction? Do you have confidence in your conclusions? Do you have an action plan?

My prediction is this: If you take this life break and make it purposeful, be honest with yourself, and do not become scared of your own dreams, you’re going to come home changed. You’re going to have a plan of action. You are going to fulfill your life’s greatest potential.

The key is balance. Balance of life and love and work. Balance of purpose and happiness. Balance so that you no longer feel as if you are wearing five or six or ten different hats, but one. A synergistic life that supports your purpose.

Go forth and do creative work. Fulfill your why.

*****

Christina Delay

About Christina Delay:

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.

Check out the descriptions of workshops she’s created here.

About Cruising Writers:

Cruising Writers brings aspiring authors together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor together on writing retreats. Go to France with us in April and stay in a historic chateau with Margie Lawson, agent Louise Fury, Shelley Adina, Kobo Writing Life, and Literary Translations. Or cruise with us to Grand Cayman with Lisa Cron, Angela Ackerman, agent Michelle Grajkowski, and editor Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks!

*****

Thank you, Christina! I’ve definitely struggled with the issue of over-scheduling, and many of my health issues this year hit me all at once because I was trying to do too much, so I definitely agree with the need to re-prioritize. *smile*

I love how Christina asks the right questions to get at the heart of what we want to do and how we can get closer to our purpose. Even if we don’t have the freedom to take big life breaks, especially on any sort of immediate schedule, the better we understand our goals and our bigger purpose, the more successful we’ll be in moving toward them.

Just because we suddenly understand our purpose doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to quit our day job tomorrow. Instead, knowing what we want means that we can make choices that will get us closer to rather than further from our purpose.

Christina’s The Life Bank lays out in a black-and-white, easy-to-visualize way that our time is limited and that what we do with that time comes down to choices. No matter our life’s situation, we’re trying to maximize the amount of time we spend on our purpose.

If we complete that worksheet and discover we spend almost no time on our big dreams because we’re fitting it in around everything else, that’s when we know to re-prioritize. Hopefully, we can find the path that we should be on and take at least the first step along that path. *smile*

Have you already discovered your why? Or are you in the process? Have you ever stepped away to really question what you want? What did you discover? What are your tips to maintaining balance once you’ve achieved it? Do you have any questions for Christina?

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28 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Diana A Hicks November 17, 2016 at 11:53 am

What a great post! Thank you. I needed this today.

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Christina Delay November 17, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Hi Diana! Yay! I’m glad you found this helpful :).

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:31 am

Hi Diana,

I’m so glad I could share Christina with everyone! 🙂

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Julie Glover November 17, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Time management is such a challenge for me! But it’s a great exercise to just look at where you’re spending your time and see if it fits into your goals.

I think we have a tendency to respond to what others believe is urgent or important, rather than purposefully setting out — as Christina says — to do what we want with our lives. Thanks for this great reminder and a terrific tool!

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Christina Delay November 17, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Hi Julie!! I’m so glad this was a good exercise for you! Time management is a challenge for most people, I think!

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:32 am

Hi Julie,

Yes, that feeling of what others want can certainly override our own instincts if we’re not careful. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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Laurie Evans November 17, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Very timely post. I need to make some changes.

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Christina Delay November 17, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Hi Laurie!

Kudos to you for recognizing the need for change. Change is scary, but I truly believe those that are willing to take the steps are so very courageous.

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:33 am

I hope this helps, Laurie! 🙂

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Ria November 17, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Oh…ma gawd. I’m so glad to have read this! Yes, yes, yes!!

I left my job three years ago when I couldn’t avoid the fact that the toxic environment was literally killing me. Being an anal retentive plotter, I outlined my exit strategy (yes, I am that woman) a year before leaving and executed it flawlessly. *self serving pat on the back*

My adrenals were in total failure by then, which was tanking my thyroid despite being on meds, something I think happens to a lot of women because we DO take on way more than we should, while not doing the the things that make us happy. When creative creatures fail to fulfill that aspect of themselves (and I believe every woman is creative by nature and genetics) it is a literal slow death.

We keep drinking the Kool-Aid ™ that tells us we can do and have it all, and while that may be true for a while, nobody tells us the price we pay. It took me a good two years to recover from the 21 years I spent as a judicial assistant, and when I look back, I can’t say it was worth it.

I can’t second Christina’s words enough quite honestly. Being good to yourself first IS being good to your family and your world, whatever that encompasses. A happy mom, a happy wife, a happy person benefits everyone around you.

Thank you Christina for this post (and the free DL… I LOVE IT!) and thank you Jami for hosting such an important topic. You always find the most amazing people to bring here. Hope you’re reading and applying it to yourself as well *G*
{{{{hugs}}}}

Ria

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Christina Delay November 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi Ria!!

Can I just hug you?? I’m so happy you had the courage to quit after 21 YEARS and redirect your path! It does take time to recover, especially after an adrenal crash – how well I know! And this – “When creative creatures fail to fulfill that aspect of themselves (and I believe every woman is creative by nature and genetics) it is a literal slow death.” – SO TRUE!! OMG – SO TRUE!

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:34 am

Hi Ria,

Yay! I’m so glad this resonated with you. And thank you for sharing your story!

(And LOL! I’m trying to take this heart. 😉 Thanks!)

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Marla November 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

I tend to take on way more than I have time for, and then get completely overwhelmed and depressed because I can’t get it all done. For an experiment, I filled out The Life Bank according to the time I try to dedicate to everything I should (or what I guilt myself into doing) on a regular basis. I overbook my schedule by 5 hours every day! Some days are overbooked by 9! No wonder I never seem to accomplish anything and am exhausted.

Time for some reprioritizing with a purpose. Thanks for this much-needed post and reality check!

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Christina Delay November 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Hi Marla!

I’m so glad you took the time to fill out The Life Bank! It is a great way to reveal where our time goes – we can only do so much! And overbooking ourselves sets us up for failure, because it is not physically possible to do more than what we have the time for. I feel you on this one – I was guilty of this for so long and spent so much time feeling guilty for not getting everything done! It’s taken some time to change my overscheduling habits, but it has been so worth it!

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:35 am

Hi Marla,

“What I guilt myself into” — That is so me. LOL!

Thanks for sharing your insights, and I hope this helps! 🙂

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Serena Yung November 17, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Oh for me, I’ve always had the opposite problem: I’m goal and purpose-oriented to a fault! In that I am so stingy in where I put my time and energy, that I miss out on a lot of life experiences that could enrich my writing (and career). I often feel like I’m stunting my growth by being so obsessively focused on my life goals. I’m not the only one who thinks I’m that way, though. I’ve had criticisms that I’m so excessively focused that I’m not exposing myself to more new things.

On the rare occasions where I DO expose myself to new experiences, I found more often than not that I learn new things, and they inspire and improve my writing. Or they at least enrich me as a person, and I become smarter and more creative, more thoughtful too. So I’m not so stuck in my own world.

But over the past few years, I’ve been trying to get more different experiences, mostly social ones (e.g. student organizations/ clubs.) It’s amazing how quickly I mature and become wiser by talking to lots of new people and hearing different perspectives.

That said, I’m NOT implying that we shouldn’t care about our goals. Just saying that some people, like me, might be OVERLY goal-oriented that they become too stingy with their time, and miss out on a lot of experiences that could enrich and improve their writing! So it’s all about finding a balance. I still feel like that by denying myself so many experiences that a lot of other people have, I’m having a stunted growth, but oh well. I don’t need to experience everything there is in life!

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Serena Yung November 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

I forgot to add that I do something similar to the life bank sheet. I would note down the minutes and hours I’ve spent on psychology/counselling, writing/reading, or drawing throughout the day. And I would mark these numbers down on the calendar. At the end of each week, I total up what I got for psych, writing, and drawing. After a year or so, I add up all the weeks’ totals. In a document, I add up all the hours (and minutes) I’ve ever done since I started counting some years ago. And then I calculate how many hours I still need to do to reach 10,000 hrs in that field, haha. I’m thinking of the 10,000 hr deliberate practice rule of developing world class expertise. I know it’s more complicated than simply getting 10,000; for instance, there are so many different skills in writing. You might be fabulous at one (because you have tons of experience in it), but not be so great at some other skills (because you have less experience in them.)

Still, this calculation to the 10,000 hours is very exciting and motivating to me! I actually don’t believe in natural talent–I think it’s all about very specific, and productive, practice. (So not just ANY practice.) But that’s only my belief, I’m not trying to impose this view on anyone here! However, what we’re passionately interested in MAY be at least partially innate? I don’t know and I wish someone would do research studies on the nature vs nurture on interests!

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Christina Delay November 18, 2016 at 8:22 am

Hi Serena!

I love what you said about how you “miss out on a lot of experiences that could enrich and improve [your] writing!” I cannot agree more with this statement! Something else I talk a lot about is how critical it is to the creative brain to flood it with new experiences on a frequent basis. New experiences, like travel or meeting new people, affect creatives on a brain chemistry level – it’s imperative! Through Cruising Writers, I help authors do just this – take them around the world to give them new experiences and deepen their craft – you should check us out! http://www.CruisingWriters.com

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Serena November 18, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for your reply! Yeah, I definitely feel that meeting new people is increasing my mind’s creative power. 😀 It makes my mind feel more complex and deep too, if you get what I mean.

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:36 am

Hi Serena,

What an interesting insight! And yes, that’s why balance is key. 🙂

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Clare O'Beara November 18, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Thanks, it’s important to fill each day and learn something if possible. But as you say, not to waste this life being tired and depressed. I know housework will expand to fill the time available, but probably nobody notices when we do it except us!

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Christina Delay November 18, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Clare – I was in Mexico last week and ran across this poem. I think it speaks to what we are both saying :).

Dust If You Must
by Rose Milligan

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

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Jami Gold November 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

Hi Clare,

Yes! I know some people keep “gratitude” or “happiness” journals to focus on good things each day, but I’ve often found more satisfaction in “what did I learn today” thoughts. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Jo'Anne Griffiths December 6, 2016 at 1:13 am

Hi Jami and Christina,

Thank you for this wonderful and ever so timely blog post. I am the epitome of over-scheduled. I have never learnt to say ‘no’!
No to others, and no to myself. Just like that cute little blue fish who says ‘I am going on a diet! … Oh look, chocolate!’ and a few others as well *smiling and blushing* I think an examination of our life’s purpose, and taking some serious time out to do that is an excellent idea. I know I won’t do this properly this side of Christmas, as I am leaving on a cruise next week with my family, including elderly parents. Then hubby is having a heart operation in the first week of January. However, I intend to take one full week out of January, with internet closed down, taking calls from family and friends the old-fashioned way, and really have a ‘social media fast’. I believe that this is the only way that I can adequately examine and process what my life’s purpose is, why it’s not heading in the right direction, and how can I now change things around to achieve that all important life balance.

Thank you again for a fabulous post *big smiles*
Josephine-Anne (aka Jo’Anne)

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Jami Gold December 6, 2016 at 9:05 am

Hi Jo’Anne,

Yes, I was just reading an article about how we sometimes have to unplug to deeply concentrate, so that sounds like a great plan. Good luck and thanks for chiming in! 🙂

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