In the last week alone, I was asked by 3 of my friends how I ‘manage everything.’ Internally, I laughed at the question because only I know how far the perception is from reality.
The truth is, a couple months ago I’d once again fallen into the trap of being so busy. I barely had time for a leisurely dinner, exercise, or a stroll with my husband. My ‘busy life’ was taking a toll on my mental well-being and impacting my relationships.
If we are unable to spend time with our loved ones and enjoy the smaller moments in life, the ‘busyness’ simply isn’t worth it. What would be the point of being ultra-successful and rich but have nobody to share that phase of life with?
Here are a few things I have recently begun to implement, right after my trip to the Dominican Republic. The dental mission trip helped put things into perspective and focus on what is truly important!
Start saying no to meetings, phone calls and lengthy social media messages that do not serve your purpose. After launching my book, Persevering, I thought all the questions that strangers would ask me about international dental programs in the US, would disappear. I genuinely assumed most would now read my book and stop asking me the same questions. I was wrong.
People still ask the same questions! However, just because they ask, does not mean I have to answer every time. I have now started directing people to my book and website for answers they can easily find using their own efforts. Similarly, I have also started turning down meetings and phone calls.
We do not have to make time for people who haven’t taken any efforts to read material that is already out there.
Schedule important tasks
I started using my google calendar to schedule important tasks, such as yoga, runs, family, reading and writing time. This system is not perfect. I will occasionally go a few days without getting in my exercise or writing time. However, it is a definite improvement from a few months ago when I’d go weeks before writing even a single word.
By seeing stuff on my calendar, at least I am constantly reminded of them. I can then force myself to stop working for others, and instead work on myself.
A recurring theme at the DR mission trip was to let go off things that do not serve us. A simple concept but very hard to implement. On my flight back home, I sent in my notice to University of the Pacific. While I love working with students on the clinical floor, being at school for a full weekday has been challenging. It takes away a day I could have spent writing at my home office and getting much needed rest.
You don’t have to do everything, all at the same time. Life is long and there is time for everything. I intend to come back and teach at Pacific later on, when my career allows it.
Make time for important people
Isn’t it strange how we schedule zoom meetings and phone calls with complete strangers and sometimes neglect the people closest to us? Now that my work commute is less than 15 minutes each way, I found that I no longer have as much time as I did in the past to connect with friends and family. And because of my ‘busyness’, I was failing to find that time elsewhere in the day.
After I caught myself making all these excuses, once again I began to schedule weekly phone calls with the people I love. We just need to make time for what is important. It may seem like a frivolous, unnecessary thing to do, but those are the precious moments we all live for. Laughter, reminiscing old memories and sharing personal triumphs/failures with the most important people in our lives.
I hope this helps those of you who have been struggling with the term work-life balance.
What I’ve learned through it all is that there isn’t such a thing as balance, it is only that of priorities.
When you learn what to prioritize, life gets much easier.