Modern life is demanding! Beyond striving to survive, achieve, meet goals, and check off all the boxes of a successful life, what is the prize we long for past all the hustle? Peace, relaxation, adventure? Many of us fantasize about vacations, sabbaticals, or retirement—time to finally enjoy life aside from endless tasks and stress. Wouldn’t it be nice if daily life could include a greater balance between pleasure and productivity?
Even at humans’ modern stage of evolution, ensuring our survival still demands the largest proportion of our energy. For Americans, this looks like seeking economic security and securing and maintaining our basic needs. In the remaining hours of the day, we have time for other types of tasks. To live a well-balanced life, we need to find time for four main categories of activities:
Paid or in-kind work, such as homemaking and child-rearing. If you have a wage-sharing partner who works eight hours per day, eight hours of your unpaid labor counts as in-kind work. Activities beyond that belong in the categories of Administration or Other-Care. Be sure to include personal preparation for work, drive time, and overtime hours in the Work category. If you do in-kind work as well as paid work, this category of activity takes up a LOT of your time!
This category includes all of the invisible labor you complete to simply live day-to-day, such as maintenance of home and possessions, planning, and organizing. We often under-acknowledge the effort it takes to manage all the ongoing tasks of managing modern life.
We need time to care for our body, mind, heart, and soul. A balanced life requires time for relaxation, laughter, hobbies and interests, physical and mental healthcare, nourishment, love, and connection.
This category refers to time spent meeting others’ needs outside of Work and Administration. Supporting friends, caretaking of parents or extended family, caring for pets and animals, and giving to one’s community are examples of other-care activities. These may be enjoyable and nourishing, and/or they may divert significant time from other valuable activities.
A well-balanced life does not require spending the same amount of time on each category. Optimally, you will do something from each category every day which will help you feel accomplished, organized, nourished, and connected.
It may be helpful to review your current daily activities and assess which categories they belong to. Some people find that the majority of their time goes to work and administration. Might it be possible to put up some healthy boundaries around the time you dedicate to these categories? Or could you delegate some of those tasks to others in a thoughtful way?
Other people realize they spend a lot of time on Other-Care without necessarily realizing how much of their energy is flowing outward. Or perhaps they spend so much time on personal hobbies or interests that their important relationships aren’t being nurtured sufficiently.
Use the following worksheets to assess the current state of balance in your life. You may find that implementing new boundaries or restructuring your days or routines may create more space for the activities that restore your vitality and make life wonderful.