The Art of Re-Balancing Life and Priorities

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After my last relationship, I suddenly realized how much time I had in my day. To minimize some of those feelings of loneliness that inevitably pop up after a relationship ends, I re-focused my energy into activities that would elevate me as a person. I came up with a strict publishing schedule, took on more freelance clients, started a new digital product for my business, worked out for approximately 2 hours per day, committed myself to reading 1 book per week, and took on a writing practice every day. My schedule was flooded from morning to evening with self-development activities, which were in addition to my pre-existing routine (ie. meditation, reading articles from various blogs, journaling, etc.).

In retrospect, I can admit that it was a lot, but I was filling an empty void in my life. This was also in the midst of COVID19 when I wasn’t able to see many friends or engage in social activities I normally would, which left me with an abundance of “me” time. I was out for an evening walk with my sister one night and she said, “Em, you don’t have to spend all of your time on activities that are self-development focused; you can permit yourself to unwind. It’s okay to just watch a few episodes with RuPaul without updating your tax spreadsheet on the second screen simultaneously.” Although I did agree with her sentiment, I also enjoyed pouring myself in activities where I was actively learning. I got a high off it and I really started to see the needle move in my work, finances, and physique. I started to see some success with my writing on Medium and even got a bit of publicity from one my articles, which lead to a write-up by NBC.

Then work started getting busier, Phase 3 in Toronto rolled out, and I needed to shift some priorities in order to make room for social activities again. But what has to give? I was so happy with all the activities in my day that I couldn’t figure out what to sacrifice. If I wrote less, I would feel guilty. If I read less, I would feel like I wasn’t feeding my mind. If I worked out less, I would feel like my workouts were being cut short and chastise myself for being lazy. 

Does this sound familiar or relatable? It’s a bit of a weird sense of self-guilt, but one that I’m currently dealing with at the moment. So how do we re-balance our life and shift some competing priorities around? One of my best friends is also dealing with this. She’s in the process of writing a book, regularly publishing blog posts to her website, and regularly posting content on social media – and this is all on top of being a VP of Marketing with a highly demanding job. She feels guilty when the work just keeps piling up and she needs to put her passion projects aside or scale back on the time spent on them.

Since I just started getting into investing, I thought this would be a perfect analogy to explain the act of rebalancing. Also the perfect opportunity to brag about the fact that I got into investing. Kidding. I currently have a portfolio of 80% stocks and 20% bonds. Every month, when I invest more cash into my investments, I need to re-balance my portfolio to keep the ratios the same. I pull out my spreadsheet, look at the $ market value and the current asset allocation, and then figure out how many unit orders I need to buy of each in order to get back to the 80/20 split. If I didn’t invest in my portfolio in a particular month, I still need to rebalance periodically since several variables can cause market swings and tip my portfolio out of balance.

This may seem a bit robotic for most, but for other neurotic type A’s like myself, I work best when I can track my time and activities from a systematized perspective. Rebalancing my priorities is a big work in progress for me and I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out the best way to do this. Re-shifting priorities makes you take a step back and realize what’s worth investing in, what makes you happy, and can you do things for you without being served a side of guilt?

Applying similar principles as my investment strategy above, I can instead apply this to the activity through time logs. So for me, this would be my breakdown of priorities:

1. Freelance work
2. Start-up work (Oneiric)
3. Relationships (time spent with family, friends, partner)
4. Training
5. Personal projects (writing, community management, producing content)
6. Leisure activities (reading, meditation, hockey, relaxin’)

After determining my priorities, I take these pillars and break them down into average time spent per day and apply a percent. Here’s what my breakdown currently looks like: 

  • Freelance work – 4 hours: 17%
  • Start-up work (Oneiric) – 3 hours: 13%
  • Relationships (time spent with family, friends, partner) – 2 hours: 8%
  • Training – 2 hours: 8%
  • Personal projects (writing, community management, producing content) – 1 hour: 4%
  • Leisure activities (reading, meditation, hockey, walking, relaxin’) – 2 hours: 8%
  • Other (basic daily tasks including showering, eating, cleaning, etc.) – 2 hours: 8%
  • Sleeping – ~8 hours: 34%

Total = 24 hours / 100%

Seems pretty balanced right? I have a good mix of work, passion projects, leisure time, and time spent with family and friends each day. Now this breakdown doesn’t accurately reflect every day, but it does provide a good representation of my daily time breakdown. Tracking time using time logs is indeed tedious, but an important process that I need to do at least once a quarter to check-in with myself.

As I get older, I get a better idea of how I want to spend my time. Allocating time to activities that are important to me (ie. training, personal projects, leisure, relationships) is why I am self-employed. I have control over my schedule, but the double-edge-sword that comes with self-employment is that I continuously need to be cognizant of how I’m spending my time.

Similar to my investing strategy and analogy above, I need to be able to rebalance my life and time spent on each daily activity when specific instances come into play:

  1. A new opportunity or issue arises (new relationships, work opportunity/project, training for an upcoming race, etc.);
  2. An issue arises in my life (family emergency, financial issue, etc.); or
  3. Periodically check-in with how I’m spending my time and make sure the ratio fits with my goals and values (usually once a quarter).

Whenever a new input arises, I need to rebalance. The big issues for me that causes deep unhappiness is trying to take on too much and sacrificing activities that affect my physical and mental health – which range from my training, to my sleep schedule. I need to always check-in to make sure that I’m making time for my health. Otherwise, nothing else matters. 

Since I’m introverted, nurturing my relationships sometimes takes the backseat and I can go a whole day without conversing with a single human being. After a couple of days in this rhythm, I feel anxious and lonely and need to make sure that I’m spending some face-to-face time with people that are important to me.

I don’t meticulously track my time each day, but I think it’s an important activity for us all to engage in periodically. The act itself can give us a more holistic view of our life and how we want to spend our time. It provides us with deeper insight into the activities we’re engaging in and evaluating whether they truly make us happy. The act of rebalancing is an ongoing, lifelong process and I encourage you all to give it a try. Check-in with yourself often, measure your moods, and make sure the activities you’re engaging with align with your core values and give meaning and purpose to your life. Also, it’s cool if you want to watch a few episodes of RuPaul and eat cereal on your couch in your underwear from time-to-time, totally guilt-free 🙂 

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