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:
- What are you naturally good at? (Make a list.) These are your strengths.
- What are the things that drive you and get you excited? (Make a list.) These are your passions.
- What are the areas that those two things intersect? (Write those down.) This is your purpose.
- 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.
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:
(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.
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?Pin It