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I am a working mom who strives to balance family and work while still taking care of my personal faith and health and well-being. If I were to try to paint a picture of my life, it’s like two giant buckets full of stuff to do on the opposite ends of a teeter-totter with a frantic me running from one end to the other doing a little bit here and a little bit there to keep things relatively balanced. And time for me? Only in a few brief moments in the middle to catch my breath before needing to make yet another adjustment so nothing falls to the ground.
Except that my life doesn’t fit neatly into two categories, so I also have writing, my home-based business, and volunteer work in addition to my family and day-job. My teeter-totter looks more like a spider with spokes that I’m trying to keep balanced.
Sounds crazy! No wonder I was often tired and guilt-laden over the things that never got done.
Then I heard someone use a different word picture that made a huge difference. I don’t have multiple buckets, I just have one. Me. And all of my obligations—regardless of category—are all mixed together inside a single bucket. So instead of trying to live two (or five) separate lives and do them semi-decently, I just have one life to focus on. Whew.
A few observations from this One Bucket method to balance my life:
1) The critical or urgent things rise to the top, like finishing a book manuscript, preparing a son to move to college, or preparing for a missions conference at our church. There are seasons in my life where I tend to focus on one thing more than the others and that’s okay.
2) It’s easier to think about taking care of myself when I am not running all over the place. It’s just me and my bucket. And that makes me more aware of when I’m getting tired physically or drained creatively.
3) It’s important to strategize within each project or area so that the “next right thing” is easy to find at the top of the bucket (and so that some things don’t get lost at the bottom and never see the light of day). I have started using Trello to organize my mental bucket with different boards for each big area of my life. On those Project boards, I do a “brain dump” of everything that I need to do both now and into the future, then color code and rearrange them into prioritized lists. The top tasks get copied onto the “To Be Placed” list on my Current Week board so when I weekly sit down with my calendar to plan the week ahead, I’m able to sort to things from just one bucket onto lists for each specific day.
Thanks to a new way of thinking about my life, I might be in a super-crazy home stretch of finishing a book manuscript and preparing for a family vacation while thinking ahead to a college-bound son, writers conference, and book launch…but I’ve never felt this calm and non-frazzled.
It’s just me and my bucket.
What about you? How many buckets are you trying to carry or keep balanced? What strategies do you use to keep a balance while getting the necessary things done?