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Finding balance in the busy

The other day I received a message requesting me to join a photoshoot. I replied that I would get back to her “soon,” but failed to do so. When I realized I hadn’t followed up, I sent an apology to which she responded, “It’s okay! I know you’re busy.”

Immediately I felt even more guilty and began to wonder if this person accepted the “busy” excuse because she could relate to having a full plate and also occasional forgot an email or text that got lost in the mix. I found myself thinking about whether my lack of follow-through was because of truly being too busy or an oversight because I didn’t make a note in my cell phone and planner.

As young movers, doers, thinkers and creators, we often find ourselves attributing our lack of time or availability to being “busy,” but what does that mean?

It means that we have appointments and dates to keep, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, emails to answer, texts to reply to, calls to make, events to plan. It means that we download apps on our smart phones to organize all of those things, fill our planners with times and locations, send thank you notes and confirm engagements, all while sitting at a red light.

It means that we look at our calendar and know automatically there isn’t room for even one more thing, because we are already “too busy.” At least, that’s how I feel sometimes.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself in the “I’m too busy” scenario when looking at everything you have on your proverbial plate.

So how do you go from a place of feeling overwhelmed by your schedule and commitments to intentionally creating balance, while staying active? How do you maintain authentic and fulfilling experiences while still staying laser-focused on your goals?

Here are five steps I follow when I need to “balance my busy”:

1. Prioritize

Start by taking 10 minutes a week to prioritize what takes up the most space on your plate, from your personal life (health, quality time with family and friends, self-development, spiritual growth, social activities, etc.), to community and service, to your professional life and career (networking, events, deadlines, projects, etc.). Each area is part of your daily “diet.”

Ideally you want to fill your plate with activities that leave you feeling accomplished and fulfilled. Ask yourself: What are my values, and how are they prioritized in my schedule?

2. Find harmony

Realize that the amount of time you spend on the different areas of your life will inevitably vary from day to day. The key is finding harmony between what you NEED to do, WANT to do and HAVE to do.

Ask yourself: How can I be more intentional about creating the experience I truly want to have no matter how I feel about the task at hand?

3. Ask for insight and advice

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or struggling to figure out what should get your time and energy (because they are your most valuable resource), ask someone you admire how they prioritize. Seek out a mentor in the community or a more experienced colleague at work. Send a quick note, ask him or her for coffee or lunch and be transparent about which qualities you see in them that you want to develop within yourself. 

4. Do what works for you

Finding a process that fits your personality and goals will take you from feeling overwhelmed to feeling more controlled and intentional about where you need to focus.

Pay attention to when you are the most productive and to what grabs your attention. Ask yourself: What do I do to prepare and thrive during the times when I am productive and feeling accomplished?

5. Put more joy in

Injecting joy in your daily life has to be intentional if you want to create fulfilling, authentic experiences, whether they’re personal or professional. If you know taking a walk and breathing in fresh air puts you at ease, incorporate that into the parts of your schedule where you know you’ll feel overwhelmed or experience more pressure than normal.

Ask yourself: What activities bring me joy, and when will I incorporate those things into my day or week?

Of course, there are things we have to do that we don’t necessarily want to do. Those things can still support our personal and professional goals without leaving us stretched too thin or feeling too busy to actually enjoy the life we are creating. When you are intentional, prioritize your goals and create the process that works for you, you can achieve the balance in the busy.

Sharee McFadden, chief officer of fun with The McFadden Co., is a York-based soulpreneur and founder of a lifestyle empowerment brand, InJOYourLife. She is a public speaker, experience concierge, mentor, community advocate and media personality.

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