Feb 9, 2017
I started writing a post about balance, but soon realized it was worthless because I hadn’t even mentioned my notebooks. And for me, those are key.
You could use any kind of notebook or journal or planner or a note on your phone or a scratch piece of paper, but I prefer these ones or these ones from Rifle Paper Co because they’re pretty, the pages are lined, and they’re stitched down the middle, so they lay flat when open. I also like that they’re not overwhelmingly thick and formal, but thin and lightweight and easy to bring along in a purse or laptop bag if it’s a day when I’m really taking myself seriously.
Here’s what I do with them. Every night before I go to bed, I turn to a fresh new page. At the top I write the day of the week (i.e. Thursday) and date (i.e. 2/9/17) for the next day. Then I write out a quick list of the things that I need/want to get done.
Because scripture study is important to me, the first two things on my list are always “study scriptures” and “write down a thought, impression, principle” (from my scripture study). I always leave space to just write down my reflections from scripture study right there at the bottom of the page. It makes it easy and keeps all my notes together. This year, the third thing on my list is always, “write on blog” because it’s a goal I’ve made and I don’t want to forget to do it.
Next comes any and all things specific to the day at hand. I might include things like, “fold and put away laundry” or “go to craft party at 9:30am.” Or sometimes I’ll just write down things I want to do that I’ve been putting off like, “work on illustrator class.” Whatever my priorities are for the next day, I write them down. Or perhaps I should amend that to say that I write down whatever I don’t want to forget/need checkmark motivation to get done/have already committed to do.
I’ve even been known to add things to the list later on that I already did just because it’s nice sometimes to have the satisfaction of checking them off. Which might sound silly, but hey, why not? It’s just a notebook. It’s not like I’m getting class credit for it. And besides, if I ever fall behind on my actual journal (which happens a few times a year), it’s actually really helpful to be able to look at my notebooks to see what I did each day and jog my memory.
The point is, this isn’t a fad diet or a college course. You can do whatever you want.
What does this have to do with balance? For me, it’s about priorities. And those priorities might come from several different parts of myself. There may be mom duties that end up on my daily list, things I need to do for my husband, household chores to keep up on, or personal endeavors that help me stay happy and sane. And on the list, they all get equal weight. I’ve named them as being important to me, so they are. Which isn’t to say that every single thing on my list gets done every single day, but that’s also part of balance.
I’ve been making my lists in these notebooks for years now and something I promised myself early on was that I wasn’t going to feel guilty about the things that didn’t get done. Plans change, needs change, priorities even change, and there’s no point in holding myself accountable to a list that’s no longer realistic. So sometimes “fold and put away laundry” ends up on my list for several days in a row before it actually gets done. And sometimes there are things I just have to stop including on my lists all together because I’m too tired of not crossing them off. If it’s really important and doable in my life right now, it’ll get done. If it’s not, then I probably need to change my goals or focus.
These daily lists are such a small thing. Such a doable thing. And yet they’ve had a profound impact on my life and my personal wellbeing. They’ve helped me recognize and embrace my priorities more fully. They’ve helped me accomplish big goals, one small step at a time. They’ve helped me build positive habits. They’ve allowed me to consciously give value to my dreams and let go of unnecessary guilt.
My life isn’t perfectly balanced all (ok, any) of the time, but it is really healthy. Maybe not healthy in the sense that I’m exercising every single day, but more in the sense that I can recognize when it’s realistic and doable for me to exercise every day and when it’s just plain not. Healthy in the sense that I’m accounting for the actual hours available to me and not just piling up unrealistic and impossible lists of chores. Healthy in the sense that I give myself and my own needs the weight and value in my life they deserve. And also healthy because they help me say that enough is enough, that I’ve done the things I needed to get done today, so now I really can move on and freely enjoy doing something that just sounds fun.
If you’re looking for balance in your life, writing it down can be a good place to start. Write down what you wish your day looked like. All the things you’d like to get done. Be honest about what’s realistic for you. Give yourself permission to write down the things you’d just like to do, even if they’re not important to anybody else. And don’t write this part down on a trash piece of paper. Or if you do, tape it to the wall and own it. Look at it and let it sink in. You know what you need to do and what you want to do. Be honest about it, embrace it. And then look for ways to do both. Or at least to do some of both.
You don’t have to be only a mom or only an artist. You can paint during nap time. You can write when the kids are in bed. Ask for the help you need to make that happen. Husbands can do dishes and fold laundry and make dinner and give the kids baths and pack lunches and buy groceries too. And if asking for help in a few of those areas makes it possible for you to feel excited and fulfilled in life, then believe me when I say that it is worth it. That it’s not only ok to ask for that help, but it’s healthy. It’s not always as dramatic as putting on your own oxygen mask before you put it on the kids. Sometimes it’s just letting someone else step in or shifting expectations so you can all have a little more of the room you each need to breathe.
Not enough people in this life will tell you that it’s ok to be yourself and be a wife and mom and all the other roles you might be called upon to fill, but it is. And more than that, it’s important. I’m always amazed by how much more of myself there is to go around when I’ve taken the time I need–really claimed and enjoyed and used that time–to grow and have accomplishments and really be me. Kids don’t need a dead sock for a mother. They need a person who’s happy and fulfilled, who can show them that their talents and dreams are valuable and within reach.
So grab a notebook. Or a piece of paper. Or a note on your phone. Or a giant piece of plywood. Write down what’s important to you. And then do it.
P.S. If you’d like to see photos and a more in-depth look at how I use these notebooks, look through #katielewisnotebook on instagram.