A key part of my Foundations of Balance Framework is creating systems for living in balance. I emphasize the use of systems and habit development because they are tools that let us live in balance even when we are tired, overwhelmed, or simply focused on just making it through the day. What is clear from research, as well as many of our own experiences, is that we are more likely to remain functional, balanced, and productive, when we remove decision-making from our lives. Systems and habits remove these decision-making moments and therefore free our minds to work on more important things, like how to potty-train toddlers or how to prepare presentations for work.
Some of my clients expect that we will create complex systems with lots of options to help them live out their essential values. Too often we are looking for the next big life-hack or fancy planner that is going to keep us on track, when in reality it is the small habits and focus on self-care that make the most difference in our ability to healthfully and sustainably manage family, work, and personal fulfillment.
On that note, here are my top three surprisingly simple tips for staying productive and balanced in your life. While many habits and systems need to be personalized to your specific style and personality, these three apply to all of us!
Tip #1: Always have a snack
Researches such as social psychologist Roy Baumeister and Todd Heatherton have run experiments that show a connection between glucose and our ability to make decisions. Essentially, when we are fatigued by a day of decision-making we make poor decisions, but some nourishment can help reverse that fatigue. One way to stay focused and productive when you have decisions to make is . . . have a snack! It can be simple; I always carry around a bag of almonds and dried cranberries. It could be a granola bar, some fruit, or a muffin. If you get in the habit of having a snack on hand you will always be ready when you start to fade and need a boost to help you make it through the rest of your day.
Tip #2: Take ten breaths
Yes, the same technique we use to help calm down young children works on grown-ups too. No matter your personality type, organizational style, or family situation, we can all benefit from pausing and taking ten breaths during stressful moments. The act of pushing oxygen through your body with deep breaths literally forces your body to calm down and minimizes the release of stress hormones. When you are stressed and feel like you don’t have time to pause, that is exactly the time you should stop and take ten deep breaths. Or five, if you are really pressed for time. If you are with your children, tell them you are going to breathe to calm down and then tune them out. If you are in a meeting, simply focus on that breathing while others are talking around you. Once you have taken these breaths you will be more focused, more calm, and as a result, far more productive and effective than you were a few moments ago.
Tip #3: Plan a treat
We all have rough days, and having a treat in the mix helps us enjoy the excitement of anticipation, and also serves as a reminder that we all need moments of self-care. When you make this indulgence a routine, it can be even more rewarding because you always know it is coming and you can count on it. This treat can be as simple as getting a latte after work on Fridays, getting 10 minutes of quiet to read a book or skim social media after the kids are in bed, or planning a weekly or monthly date night with your spouse. You could even use this list of 23 ways to treat yourself without eating or shopping! Once you set-up routines for indulgences you will always have something to look forward to and to help motivate you to make it through the day productively
While we also need to develop systems and routines that match our personal style, these three tips apply to ALL of us! Leave a comment to let us know which tip you find most helpful!