Monthly review – tilting and balancing

March certainly finished with a bang for me. The last two weeks had me out at least three nights during the school week each and the CrossFit Open finished!

Past experience has taught me February is a month where I tilt towards family. This year as I worked on my habits to help me achieve my goal for 2017 (to invest in my relationships with family, friends and community to bring joy and connection), I started additional volunteer roles at the various schools and had many catch-ups with friends. So not only was February a month where I was tilting away from work and towards family, friend and community commitments, but March was too.

I have written about and you can read about it here, but if you are not familiar with it, tilting is the way I manage the different aspects of my life.

Tilting is about focusing your energies where they are needed most, acknowledging that at certain times, some areas of your life need more attention. Tilting is a longer term view that sees all areas of life have the focus they need over a year for example, but might mean that some months are family focused while others are work focused.

Balance on the other hand refers to a situation in which different areas of you life are receiving equal proportions of your focus, it is a static position. Family life is not static. Balance in family life is something I think is impossible to achieve and stressful to aim for – do you know anyone who at all times gives all areas of their life equal time?

I realise this can sound like just word smithing, but I think it is more important than that. I hear from many women who are trying to find “balance” in their lives and feel guilty for not doing so.

I think as mums we can look at ballerinas for inspiration. If you look at a ballerina when dancing, she is in a state of constant adjustment to keep herself balanced, upright and poised. A ballerina does not spend all her time en pointe.

While practicing balance you need make adjustments if you are feeling that you may be leaning to one side or the other. You will need to adjust to put yourself back to your center without completely loosing the balance. {source}

I think it is the same for us – our focus and attention needs to adjust constantly as required.

If we were to tilt too far one way for too long, say into family for example, it could have an overall negative affect when there is not enough money to pay the bills. Focus too far for too long on work, then our family relationships will suffer.

Aiming for the perfect balance all the time requires extreme concentration and effort, which causes us stress. The stress and worry takes us away from the present and we often are unable to enjoy what we are doing as we worrying about where else we should be spending our time.

When I started to get a sense that March was tilting away from work, I could have responded in a number of ways:

  • I could have ignored the signs and accepted work as if I would have the usual amount of time for it. This would see me working late at night and a lot on weekends.
  • I could have felt resentful for the time my school volunteer roles were taking up.
  • I could have not taken on my usual workload but then proceeded to stress and worry about it, taking my attention elsewhere and leaving me less present when I was with family and friends.
  • Or because I have flexibility with my work, I could accept that March was going to be a month where I tilted away from work and changed my work habits to accommodate this.

In other years I didn’t have the foresight to take the last option, but this year I did. It didn’t make things perfect but it allowed me to get through a month that wasn’t going as I had planned back in January.

I am usually very focused with my work sessions, but knowing I had even less time in a day for work, it increased my intensity and my productivity increased. I declined additional freelance work. I used some posts that had been sitting in draft for emergencies. On week’s when I had a number of friend catch-ups during my work time, I would make up a couple of work hours early mornings on the weekend.

Knowing that I had been spending my time working towards my goal for the year actually made it much easier to keep focused on the task and hand and not start to feel resentful about it.

When I found myself starting to dread the next evening meeting for the week, I would remind myself, that going and contributing was investing time in community relationships. This would help change my attitude.

My happiness depends greatly on my attitude and this simple switch did much for me reaching the end of March feeling a little tired and looking forward to school holidays, but happy with my efforts for the month.

How did you feel at the end of March?

HabitConnection to goalMarch progress
To make three phone calls a week to family and friendsI am terrible at making phone calls. For friends and family that are not near me, this is a great way to stay connected and I have to change my attitude towards making calls.

The best way to change my attitude is to act, so I am going to set a target of three phone calls to make each week.

I also think there will be a natural flow on effect from making phone calls to seeing people in person more too.
I scheduled calls in and then ignored my schedule! I can't call on a schedule.

But I did call at least three family/friends each week - some weeks even more.

I really didn't like the schedule though, so won't bother with that.
To be an active participant in a parent body at each of the three schoolsOver the last couple of years, my focus has been more inward and I haven't been as heavily involved in the kids' schools as I used to be.

This has left me feeling less connected, so by stepping up my involvement I hope to increase my feeling of connection.
March was more work than I planned for.

April has two weeks of school holidays and then I am hoping things quiet down a little for term 2!
To volunteer my time (min 3 hours a month) to a local organisationI find great joy in giving to others. My life is full and we have everything we need, many others are not so lucky.

I want to find a local organisation where I can give my time to help others in need.
My aim was to kick this habit off in March and it didn't happen.

I have made a choice not to try for April, but will aim for May.

If I cannot get going by the end of May, I am going to drop this from my habit list - sometimes with the best of intentions we can choose to do too much and we need to be honest with ourselves and make a change.
Host a family or friend catch up once a month at our homeI find welcoming friend and family into our home a great way to connect. I did more of it in the last quarter of the year and enjoyed it.

Once a month does not sound that much, but combined with the other habits I am trying to establish, I am wary of overloading myself.

Hopefully I can do more, but I don't want to undo my last couple of years work on slowing down by establishing a habit that I end up finding causes too much work.
This is going well and I already have a few planned for April!