As I write this, it’s just three days before my 50th birthday and this post will go live on the big day. I can’t believe it’s almost here! As it has gotten closer and I’ve had other things on my mind, I’ve become less stressed about moving into a new decade and more accepting of it. As many people say, it’s only a number, plus it’s better than the alternative!
It’s hard to think that I probably have less of my life in front of me than behind me and that perhaps my best days are in my past, but I’m trying to develop a more positive perspective on it. I don’t know what the future holds and many people have told me that they are happier and even healthier in their later years. Plus, as my husband says, on my 50th birthday I will be just one day older than the day before! He loved turning 50 and it didn’t bother him at all, so maybe I need to follow his example.
I’ll share more thoughts about my birthday after it has passed, as well as what I want for myself in this new decade of my life. But today I’d like to give you an update on how I’m doing with my theme for 2016, balance. My last balance update was about two months ago, so I feel it’s time for another one, as these reviews help to keep yearly theme top of mind (and hopefully also remind you of your goals and where you are with them). Rather than go through all of my balance goals one by one, I will instead share my wins from the past two months, as well as my challenges.
Let’s start on a high note with my balance wins, which fall under five main categories that are listed in no particular order.
Paring Down Backlogs
Since my last balance update, I’ve made great strides in paring down my backlogs:
- My email in-box is far more manageable and I rarely allow it to get over 75 messages these days. Instead of letting it get to the point when I have to spend hours addressing a backlog, I now dedicate some time to going through it at least a few times per week.
- My Feedly blog reader is no longer out of hand. The “saved for later” queue gets pared down at the end of each month and if my list of posts to read becomes too lengthy, I delete some of the articles without even reading them. In the past, I would have been too concerned with FOMO to do so, but now it doesn’t stress me out much at all. I still subscribe to a number of blogs, but as long as I’m okay with not reading some posts, it’s not that big of a problem.
- I’m no longer using the Pocket app and I deleted the backlog without reading it. This was my biggest information overload triumph! When one commenter suggested that I delete the queue, I felt anxious and thought I could never do it. But about a week later, I did just that! I had to catch my breath a bit when I hit the delete key, but then I breathed a sigh of relief. What’s more, I deleted the app completely from my computer, iPad, and smartphone. The simplicity of saving things to read with just a single click was too dangerous for me and created a queue I didn’t really need to have.
- I’ve made some progress with my bookmarks. Two months ago, I had 7541 bookmarks in Google Chrome. When I said I was an “information junkie,” I wasn’t kidding! In one 1.5 hour session, I managed to pare down my bookmarks by over 1300. Yes, I still have a long way to go, but I feel good about the progress that I made in such a short time. I need to block out some time each week to pare down further. There’s no reason to retain thousands of bookmarks, especially since most of what we need is available via a quick Google search. I could probably delete all of these, too, but baby steps…
Less Time on Facebook
I’m spending less time overall on Facebook and am being far more deliberate about my time spent on that platform. Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch with our friends, connect with new people, and gain information, but it can also be a huge time sink. I value my friends on Facebook, especially the lovely ladies in the “End Closet Chaos” private group, some of whom I got to meet in person last month. However, due to joint issues, I’m limited in how much time I can spend at my computer. Thus, I have to aim for quality over quantity in my interactions there. I don’t judge those who wish to spend a lot of time on Facebook or any other social media site, but I have to do what’s best for me and it felt right to cut back on the time I was spending there.
My goal was to decrease the time spent on Facebook from over 20 hours per week to 10-12 hours, and I have achieved that goal. In July, my weekly average time spent on Facebook was 10.7 hours. I know that may still sound like an excessive amount to some of you – and it is still a lot, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I enjoy my Facebook connections and I still don’t have much face-to-face interaction with people, so it serves an important need for me. I still have some challenges with Facebook, though, which I’ll outline below, but I’m proud of the fact that I have cut back and am being more purposeful about my time there.
Getting Out More
I have been successful in getting out of the house almost every day as of late, even if it’s just to go for a short walk over to the water. I used to have far too many days in which I didn’t go anywhere and that was depressing. While it’s true that I don’t feel well much of the time, it does boost my spirits to get out, especially if I get to see the water, the boats, and the birds. Yes, it would be nice for me to develop more hobbies, interests, and in-person friends (I have tons of friends online!), but simply pushing myself to get out each day has positively impacted my psyche quite a bit and I’m grateful for that. I think it helps my health, too, in that I get some fresh air and exercise.
Positive Health Changes
I continue to experience a lot of health challenges, but I’m at least somewhat more hopeful than I was a few months ago. I think I’m getting closer to some answers which will hopefully enable me to feel better. I’ve been seeing two new doctors who have been able to help me more than others have. In July, I did a three-week cleanse and this week started on a new diet which is geared toward reducing inflammation and addressing and overcoming food sensitivities (learn more specifics here). I haven’t noticed much of a difference yet, but it’s still early days. Improving my health would make the greatest difference in my life balance and would supersede all of the other positive changes I’ve been making. Fingers crossed…
Better Time Management
Time management has long been my Achilles heel, but I recently found a tool and a method that are helping me to use my time in a much more effective manner. First the tool… When I was at the hair salon getting a deep-conditioning treatment last month (this one – it’s only available through stylists, but it has brought my hair back to life!), another woman there mentioned something called “The 5-Minute Journal.” I was intrigued, so I checked it out.
While I haven’t started using the 5-Minute Journal yet (but I plan to…), I did order the other product that is produced by the same company. It’s called the Productivity Planner and I just started using it this week (NOTE: I am an affiliate for this product, but I only recommend things that I strongly believe in). The Productivity Planner includes pages for weekly and daily planning, as well as questions to help you review each week so you can increase your effectiveness over time. Here’s a snapshot of what the daily pages look like.
In tandem with the Productivity Planner, I’ve also been using the Pomodoro Technique, which is recommended in the introductory pages of the planner. The Pomodoro Technique is simple and very “old school,” but it really works. It allows you to work with time instead of against it, manage distractions, and eliminate burnout (because it makes you take breaks). Although there are smartphone apps out there for the Pomodoro Technique, I began by using a simple kitchen timer and it works just fine that way.
I’ve only been using the Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique for one week, but I feel that my time management and productivity have already dramatically improved. I’m doing a lot better at prioritizing my tasks, allocating my available time, and being deliberate in what I do. I believe that as I continue using both of these tools, I will become more and more efficient and effective, which will lead to increased life balance. A lot of times, I feel guilty because I don’t get enough done, which results in my staying up too late to try to “catch up.” My goal is to get my most important tasks done during the day so that my evenings can be freed up for relaxation and enjoyment, as it should be!
In addition to the wonderful balance wins that I outlined above, I also continue to experience some challenges that I need to address. These challenges will sound familiar to you, as I have written about them before. I may sound like a broken record (do those under 30 even know that that is?), but my hope is that if I continue to write about my balance issues and work on addressing them, I’ll see improvement, much as I have with the wins I shared previously.
Staying up too late and lagging in the mornings
I continue to stay up far too late on many nights. While I’ve managed to do better with this some of the time, the bottom line is that I am still sleep-deprived. The late bedtime tends to have a domino effect, too. I get to sleep late and end up waking up late as a result, which sets back my entire schedule for the day ahead. Hence, I don’t start working on my daily tasks until the afternoon some days, so it’s no wonder that I find myself still sitting in front of my computer by the time it gets dark.
I’m hoping my Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique will help turn this counterproductive pattern around, but I also need to commit to staying off the computer late at night, which is the single biggest contributor to my late bedtime, especially if I get on Facebook. When I do that, I seem to be propelled into some sort of “rabbit hole” and the next thing I know, it’s the wee hours of the morning. If I make no other commitment than to have a hard and fast computer – or at least Facebook – stop time, I feel confident that I’ll do better with sticking to a healthier bedtime.
Continued “information overload” and FOMO
Although I have dialed back my information overload considerably, it’s still an issue for me. I continue to have far too many browser tabs open at any given time because I click on links for articles I want to read and I have trouble getting around to reading them all. I also still have an “active sites” folder on my computer desktop which is full of articles I’d like to read and videos I’d like to watch. I probably should just obliterate this folder much like I did with my Pocket app and I just might opt to do that to usher in my 50’s.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is also an ongoing problem in my life, particularly when it comes to Facebook. When I started the “End Closet Chaos” private Facebook group almost a year ago, I had no idea that it would become anywhere near as large and active as it is today. I actually believed that I would have to regularly facilitate conversation there, but that isn’t necessary at all! In fact, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the threads in the group (and its offshoot “chat group”) unless one were to spend multiple hours per day there. There are those who choose to do that, including some of the wonderful admins who have volunteered to oversee the group, but I feel the desire and need to moderate my time on social media and the Internet in general.
Of course, it’s a very individual thing how much time a person spends doing anything, but I do end up feeling like I’m missing out by not being involved in all of the conversation in the Facebook group (not to mention Facebook in general and the other groups of which I’m a member). I also struggle with feelings of guilt because I’m the one who started the group and I’m not even close to the most active member there. I know this is something I need to let go of, but I still have lots of days when it really bothers me. The whole issue really stirs up my long held belief that no matter what I do, it’s not good enough. This is something I’d truly like to put behind me as I enter my next decade, as I’m tired of beating myself up for being who I am and comparing myself to others and coming up woefully short time and time again. I need to learn to do what’s right for me and not worry so much that others will be upset with me. It’s far too tiring to live my life that way.
Commitments for the Remainder of 2016
I could write about other challenges that I’m still experiencing with balance, but I think that if I can overcome the issues above between now and my next update (or even the end of the year), I will be happy and satisfied. So, in summary, here’s what I’m committing to for the remainder of 2016 in terms of balance:
- Eliminate my “active sites” folder, either by reading/watching everything that’s in it or simply deleting it without even looking at the contents inside. I may opt for the happy medium of setting a time limit (say, one to two hours) for dealing with the contents of the folder.
- Continue to get out every day, even if it’s just for a short walk. It’s not good for me to stay inside my apartment all day long. Ideally, I will move toward spending more time in person with other people, but even if I simply take some time by myself outdoors each day, it will do me a world of good.
- Maintain my new lower time spent on Facebook and work to reduce FOMO. I need to realize that we are always missing out on something in life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with everything and it causes far too much stress to even try. Just like with my wardrobe, the best approach is quality over quantity!
- Continue to use the Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique through the end of the year. These methods have helped me considerably with my time management in just one week, so imagine how beneficial they will be over the course of months!
- Get to bed by midnight every night. I can read in bed if I want, but I usually end up feeling tired pretty quickly when I do that, much more so than if I’m up and about. In order to facilitate this bedtime commitment, I will get off my computer by 11:30 p.m. at the latest (and preferably much sooner!). Note: I didn’t do this tonight, as I want to get this post out when I said I would, but I’m definitely going to start!
I wrote this post on and off over the course of three days, so as I’m finishing it, it’s now my birthday! To start things off right, I just went and deleted my “active sites” folder without even peeking at its contents! How’s that for starting my 50’s out on a positive note? Perhaps this is the start of my being more decisive and self-assured. Next up… caring less about the opinions of others and doing what’s right for me. Maybe this upcoming decade that I was so afraid of will be the best decade of my life, when I can finally be happy and free. Others have told me that was true for them, so I’m hopeful it will be the same for me, too!
Now I’d like to hear from you! Here are a few questions to spark your thoughts:
- If you have selected a theme for the year or outlined goals for yourself, how’s it going?
- What would you like to commit to (or recommit to) for the remainder of 2016?
- What life balance suggestions do you have for those of us who struggle in that regard?
- What tips do you have for how to best manage “information overload” and time spent on social media and the Internet? I know I would be interested in your insights and I’m sure others would as well!
I invite you to share your thoughts on the above questions, as well as any of the topics included in this essay. Some upcoming posts include an update on my 2016 wardrobe and shopping goals, my birthday reflections, a photography interlude, and another purchase review (see my last one here), but not necessarily in that order.
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I also invite you to join the End Closet Chaos private Facebook group, where you can interact with others about the topics discussed here.