Balance Made Simple: Tips for a Well-Balanced Life

May 27, 2024 | Aging Successfully

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Flamingo balancing on one legWe can all agree on this: We can tell when things are off or unbalanced. Something feels wrong, or life seems out of proportion, like the tail wagging the dog.

I remember once declaring that I was out of whack.  Know that phrase? (I can hear my sister, in teasing retort, saying, “Out of whack, as opposed to being In Whack?).

How do we remain balanced, optimized, and even-keeled? What we are studying today are some ways to achieve balance. Let’s begin with the term we all recognize (because it may be over-used): Work-Life Balance. We are taught or socialized that we must have balance in our work or in our lives. We should work to get it and then to keep it.

That assumes there is, or will be, imbalance. Instinctively, we know when we don’t have it. -When we are out of whack.

 Want or need to regain balance? Want to avoid imbalance? Even better.


What Is Work-Life Balance?


We’ve all heard the term “work-life balance” thrown around so much. To some, it’s become a cliché, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

Good balance can preserve your sanity when you’re facing stress, whether you are in work-life or what some might call life-life and trying to balance.

For those of us still working or who maintain commitments such as caregiving or volunteering, there is a want and a need for a healthy balance. As for work, studies have shown that work-life balance is the main determiner of career success for both men and women. Unfortunately, other surveys have found that one-third of workers believe maintaining their work-life balance is harder now than ever.

While that begs the question, how can you get a handle on work-life balance in your life?

For the purposes of our topic today, let’s loosely define ‘work’ as ‘Commitments’ such as traditional work (career stuff and ambition), caregiving, or volunteering.

Let’s then define ‘life’ as  ‘Lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual times).

Lastly, let’s refer to our goal as ‘Balance’ and go with that. K?

I am drawing from Wikipedia’s definition: “Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).”

With this definition in mind, we must now define what constitutes the “optimized” balance. 

Is it exactly a 50/50 split between commitments and lifestyle choices? Is it so you don’t get stressed out while devoting time to commitments? Is it so you can go on vacation when you want to? Is it temporarily borrowing from one so you can have the other later?

To a large degree, this balance is deeply personal and highly individualized to each person. We have to take a look at ourselves, what we are doing when we have it and when we don’t. If needed, resolution (“re-solution”) can be devised from that.

Here are some ways to achieve or keep Balance.

By the way, “Take What You Need and Leave the Rest” is the caveat in any of my conversations with you.


Four Ways to Achieve Balance


1. Set Boundaries Appropriately

Setting boundaries means that you have limits with regard to your commitments. At certain times and days, you won’t engage with the commitment because you’ve set that aside specifically for personal and lifestyle interests. Setting boundaries is an attractive concept, but it can be easier said than done for many career-minded individuals who are “married” to their jobs.

With that in mind, here are some actionable recommendations on how you can set boundaries to keep commitment-time separate from your lifestyle time:

  • Don’t do any commitments-related tasks after a certain time in the day. It is OK not to work after hours or on weekends, despite what you see on TV or social media.
  • Don’t respond to any business-related messages or emails on your phone (since your phone is going to be with you all the time. It is OK to let calls go to voicemail, really. That is why voicemail was created. To not miss a thing. To keep us in the loop but in control).
  • Take official “break times” during the commitment day to allow yourself time to decompress and recharge during your day. (I have a nephew that I admire who casually told me, “I walk outside every day at 6:00 PM.” Well, I began to do it, too. It is quite nice, that lil break).
  • Use the entire weekend for personal life activities, whether that’s family time, meditation, or catching up with your favorite hobby. It is OK. (I used to first clear any commitment/work on Saturday mornings in hopes of getting to the leisure part. Now, I make different choices, using some of these ideas I am sharing today.)

It is A-okay to respect the fact that you can’t pursue commitments nonstop. Boundaries have to come into the picture to allow for a healthy balance. Otherwise, you risk burning out.


2. Become Productive

Productivity is always on the minds of career-minded persons who understand that it empowers them to accomplish more in less time. 

Being productive is the key to stellar balance, as getting more done on the commitments side means you’ll have more free time. These productivity ideas I am about to share help with balance whether you are inside commitment or lifestyle endeavors.

  • Organization – Here we are talking calendars, everything from your own, be it paper or online, whether your own or with those of others. Whether it’s the family chalkboard or combined electronic calendars that we can reference on our phones. In my work/commitment time, I utilize reminders and alarms to help me to prepare or log in for a meeting. There are elaborate tools that can help to organize your life, such as Evernote (think of it as your go-to, one-stop filing cabinet in the cloud). For tasks, there’s Todoist (a task management app). I enjoy using ColorNote, an app that let’s me jot notes using my phone – great for meetings, or dictating into it if I need to capture the Next Big Idea, or remind myself to call someone later. Plus, I am pleased that it looks like a little yellow legal pad – it makes me happy somehow.
  • Theming – When you theme your days, weeks, and months, you automatically take the work of thinking about what to do for that given period of time out of the equation. This leaves you with extra time, as you can immediately get down to the tasks you need to do at your business. For instance, Monday can be a commitment day, and Tuesday could be something different. I keep my Friday open for creating structured time for writing segments like this, research for a project, and planning a leisure outing or trip. Something that seems “free” of commitment.
  • Time Management – Knowing how to manage your time efficiently and schedule your commitment and lifestyle time accordingly will give you lots of breathing room. It helps to block off parts of your day for only specific tasks, so you know exactly what you’ll have to do at any given time without having to waste time thinking about it. Time blocking or timeboxing strategies certainly help me make the most of my time. I can vouch, I block commitment time, research time, development time for speaking and writing… it goes hand in hand with Theming, I know what day I have a chunk of time I can be available for this or that. As a result, my calendar, my availability, and my mind are not all will-nilly. I feel more in control.


3. Learn to Prioritize

Prioritizing means honestly and intelligently determining what tasks demand your immediate attention, the ‘needs’ versus the ‘wants.’ Knowing that, keeping it clear, will empower you to get the crucial tasks done so you don’t feel overwhelmed. This strategy isn’t just an ingenious way to get the most important things done; it also helps in identifying what’s truly important and what’s not.

We can become overwhelmed because we lose our “sorting.” We default into thinking that we must get it ALL done, and we drive ourselves.

When you can prioritize commitment tasks in this manner, you’re able to better decide what you can postpone to a later time or nix altogether, leaving more time for your personal life.

The trick with prioritization is that it also takes a bit of extra time and work upfront—but you’ll reap the benefits of more time to do the things you want later on down the line. When prioritizing, ask yourself if the task is crucial (meaning it can’t wait or bad consequences will happen) or just important, implying that it can be postponed because you still have some leeway.

When I worked in cubicle-land, in a call center, I once had a coworker who had earned 110% on her productivity. I went to her to ask how she did it. She showed me some of her methods, including timeblocking and automation. But when it came to prioritizing, she said, “I ask myself a simple, silly but absolute question: I ask myself what things do I must do first so I don’t lose my job! Then I take another look at how I can do those things well –  faster, better, with organization and time management, hacks and tricks. Then, once the commitment was honed and completed, I could add in the rest because there was more time.”

The more you get into the habit of evaluating your tasks in ways like this and being intellectually honest with yourself, the sooner you’ll get to a point where you have choice a choice over what you want to do because all the must-dos have been completed. That brings better control, ease, and with it choices that are more fun. You may then decide if you want to use your extra wiggle room for self-improvement, rest, or spending time with your friends and family.


4. Minimize Distractions as Much as Possible

This one is a real challenge for me. I respond to dings and screen notifications; I at least look at the phone when it beckons, and then I have a choice to make.  

During your commitment hours, anything that doesn’t contribute to you getting your tasks done more efficiently is essentially a distraction. If it gets in the way of doing the task fully and properly, then it’s a distraction.

The dilemma is that distractions abound more than ever in our digital world. We are plagued by:

  • text messages
  • emails
  • social media
  • smartphone notifications
  • phone calls
  • alarms (that we ourselves have set!)

Yes, the above [those] could be relevant to a part of your commitment time if it’s specifically related to that. Some communication is necessary as you execute your tasks and responsibilities. The same goes for social media. If you’re using it to promote your commitment and only during that time, then that’s justifiable, too.

The distractors I am talking about are problem uses of these actions, such as texting your friends or family during commitment time, constantly checking emails, using social media to while away the time on the job, failing to turn your smartphone notifications off, and taking inappropriate calls during the workday.

There are distractors during lifestyle-time are real also. Work does and will call, as will needy relatives, unplanned events or emergencies. And we respond.

Guilty here. (Does anyone find it ironic that the distractors may be electronic, but the solution, organizers, may be electronic also?).

Here’s the thing: Distractions are a choice. We can eliminate a lot of them.

Cut down on distractions by:

  • Only checking your phone during breaks or lunchtime. Some jobs have this built-in; phones are in lockers.
  • Limiting yourself to only checking emails once or twice during the commitment-time. Conversely, deny or limit commitment time to spill into lifestyle time. (I know, easier said than done; that is why we are covering this today).
  • Make your use of social media two-faced. Use social media during the commitment time and lifestyle social media during that time. Try hard to split it and self-monitor.
  • Law students and others do this: they install an app that does not allow email to be opened. Or they limit screen time.  Here are a few “focus apps” for your review.   [I will place these links in the notes along with the video]]

I found a few good articles about eliminating distractions [and I will place the links below this video]  and among the ideas was to stop multitasking. (Yep, the opinions on the value of multitasking have 180’d back to being a bad thing).  I read ideas like turning off email notifications (I mean, didja know ya could?), or if in an office using headphones. If in an office setting create a DND, Do Not Disturb sign.  I saw this work somewhat when I was in cubicle-land.

Inside one of the articles called An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit, I found a truth, at least for me. The author was talking about defining our distractions [link will be below this video] and suggested that FOMO lives in every distraction. (Do you know FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out?). It read

Distractions, of course, are often about the fear of missing out. We can’t possibly take part in every cool thing that everyone else is doing, but we also don’t want to miss out on any of it. So we listen or look online for what’s going on, what other people are doing and saying, what’s hot. None of that actually matters. What matters is being content, doing things that improve people’s lives, learning, compassion, and helping. So, let’s let go of what we’re missing out on and focus on the difference we want to make in the world.

Man, that hit me. It gave me permission – to be distracted, explained why I might be distracted, and then went on to tell me what to do about it. (This lady appreciates a problem-to-solution format).

There is benefit to having a plan for interruptions. We can all assume there will be distractors in our lives and in our day. When working on my computer, I keep an open document in the background for intruding thoughts, or in case I need to stop or easily return. I name the document “ PARK IT.”  Whatever I am working on I literally will type the word ‘STOPPED’, in red, so I can quickly pick back up. But the idea is for us to give this a bit of thought, to plan for interruptions. How we can react, tend to whatever may be needed or declare it “for later,” and then quickly and easily resume our task.

Getting Balance Right


The biggest takeaway is that you have to really commit to making this balance work for you. That’s why it’s so important to make definitive decisions, such as setting boundaries, not replying, or reusing to deal with any commitment-related issues after a certain time each day or on certain days (like the weekend).

Secondly, if you enjoy the little wins along the way, as I do, you get to design your routine. Make the decisions. Garner that wiggle room. Take back control. Feel good about your decisions because you have honored your commitments, and now there is ample lifestyle time. That’s the biggest win, the balance.

Keep in mind that it can take quite a bit of experimenting and trying out different methods until you arrive at what works for you, both in commitments such as work or caregiving and in lifestyle pursuits.

Keep at it until you find your unique ways. Your methods, something you find logical, doable, that fits. Talk about it. Others may learn from you, or you may pick up some nuggets from them. I am a work in progress, better than I was, and open to ideas for improvement.

In seven (7) key words or less, here is what we just covered. They all have something very special in common, so pay attention, and I will soon divulge:








Every one of those words represents a choice (how cool is that?). Your choices. You make the plans, ones that work for you.

I hope something I’ve said today helps you move more comfortably forward in your commitments and lifestyle and helps you find and keep balance.

Nancy Ruffner is a patient advocate whose focuses include aging strategy, healthcare navigation, and solo aging. Nancy consults with clients in a triage fashion, offering one-hour consultations to find a path, gain a deeper understanding of “how stuff works” in eldercare, or specifically problem-solve. Schedule your Power Hour now, without obligation of commitment or continuing costs.


As promised:
The 8 best apps to help you focus and block distractions in 2024 (“Focus apps”) 
How to Not Get Distracted Easily
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit