Do you have balance in your day? This is something I am constantly asking myself. Today is a weird day. I have found it difficult to focus on anything. My head is all over the place. I am struggling to pay attention to one thing. Not mindful at all. Not present. Should I tidy the house? Should I clear a cupboard? I am so close to finishing a book on mind body connection, only 60 pages left, but the last chunk is heavy going. I want to stick to writing 300 words a day, to build my blog stable up; prep for a couple of clients, plan for family dinner, do my exercise, sit and mediate, listen to a podcast with Rich Roll talking about happiness and living longer, take puppy out, do some puppy training. These are all things that I would like to do today but for some reason I don’t know what to start with. Normally I am so attentive to structure and accomplishing a number of things each day. I have a tight list and then tick the items off as I go. Today it’s not happening.

So, what is stopping me?

The first thing I am going to do is write a list of everything I want to do and expand it to include everything that I do in a day.

Get up make bed A
Wash etc. V
Have tea P
Feed animals P
Empty dishwasher A
Sit outside and read for 30 mins A P
Scan emails and texts A
Check what’s for dinner A
Lunch for Nick A
Make coffee for hubby Nick who is working from home P
Research for work A/P
Write Blog A/P
Read Medium A
Meditation P
Finish “ The Body Keeps Score “ A V
Jo Wicks work out A
Walk dog A
Dog training A
Walk for me with book or pod cast P
Prep for this evening’s clients A
Clients A
Walk dog walk dog with hubby P
Make dinner A V
I have labelled each task in the above list as follows:

A Things that I have completed, I get a sense of accomplishment
P Things that I do that I find pleasurable
V Things that I do that I value

I picked this exercise up in a number of places. Like spaghetti Bolognese, it’s always served up a little bit differently. But the essence is the same. The purpose is to increase our awareness of what we are doing, to see if we have enough balance in our day. This can help us notice when we might be stressed. We can then do something about it. Make changes to our day.

I do this regularly with clients and I watch the light bulb flash on as they realise that all they do is work. Yes, they have a sense of accomplishment. But maybe they are exhausted or drained. I am guilty myself of wanting to do too many things. I think that is the case for many of us in our 24/7 lives. Accomplishments are good, they create a good feeling, but not when it is stressing us out. My day could be so much better if there were more shavings of pleasurable activities, or things that I truly value. Things that are for me, things that encourage me to pause.

There is no right combination for the lists. We are all different and some days we do have to work solidly as we have no choice. But look at your own list and see what it says to you. Maybe there are simple tweaks you can make that would give more pleasure in your day or make it more meaningful.

A helping hand

  1. Take an ordinary day and list everything you do from getting up, to feeding the dog to showering, to eating to working. Write down everything.
  2. Label each item as I have done with a letter. Identify things that are accomplishments A, things that are pleasurable P, and things that you value, or are meaningful V. You may find some things have a couple of letters or even 3. The list may change depending on the day and your mood.
  3. When you have finished look at it. Do you have enough variety? I know we all have to work but perhaps we can still sprinkle our days with a few extra pleasurable things. Even if it’s just slowing down for a cup of coffee, sitting outside on a bench, or a 10-minute phone call with a friend. Or a 15-minute walk round the block. Mindfulness practices are also helpful, don’t take long, and can be done anywhere. ‘Headspace’, and ‘10 percent Happier’ are useful apps with lots of free content.
  4. Maybe think about being pre-emptive. As you plan your day with detailed precision in your Bullet Journal or Best Self Journal etc. Scan your items, label them as above. See if you have enough things that you enjoy doing, things that when you complete will give you a feeling of accomplishment, and things that you value. Use this tool of awareness as a stress check.

Looking at my own list; I think what was holding me back was simply me wanting to get too much done and telling myself that these things ‘must and should be done.’ The reality is that a lot of the things on the list are not ‘musts and shoulds’ they are more “it would be lovely to get this done but it’s not life and death if I don’t.”

As I finish drafting this blog. I realise how lucky I am that I have these choices for my day. My best friend called for a catch up before she started work this morning. She works for a major respiratory charity, working all hours at the sharp end for months, absorbing peoples’ anxiety and pain daily. My life is so simple and safe in comparison.