It starts with this assessment.
Looking at the titles of the lead articles that are currently featured prominently on the front cover of a lot of popular magazines, it's hard not to notice the proliferation of pieces that have to do with the importance of living a balanced life. These articles usually warn the reader of the dangers of imbalance and often provide suggestions for how to organize your time in ways that are designed to solve the problems caused by imbalances.
While these suggestions can be and I'm sure have been very helpful to many people, others, (many of whom we've personally spoken with) have felt like tips and techniques for more effective time management don't quite do it for them. These feelings are quite understandable. As many of us have learned from experience, knowing what you "should" do, or what you have been told you "need to do" isn't always enough to get yourself back on track to what it is that you really want to do.
There are reasons (we call them competing commitments) that we have created the life structure that we have. There are, after all, a finite amount of hours in each day, and all human beings have a finite amount of time and energy to give to the time that we are allotted. And while our resources for fulfilling our desires are limited, our desires themselves are unlimited, and often far exceed our abilities to fulfill them. This means that for most of us, the work has more to do with discerning the essential from the non-essential, and challenging the cultural myth that "you can have it all". The truth is you can't. Have all of your desires fulfilled, that is.
What you can have is a clear understanding of which domains of your life are being adequately addressed and which require more attention, and then get to work to put things in balance. Balance doesn't mean that you put an equal amount of time and energy into each domain, but rather that the needs of each essential area of your life are being adequately met.
Here is a list of life domains as well as a very brief description of what constitutes each one. As you review this list, reflect upon the degree to which you feel each one is being met in your life. Then rate each one on a scale of zero to 10, zero meaning that this domain is being completely neglected, is on life support and is in need of intensive and immediate, extensive attention. Ten means that it's getting as much attention as it needs. If any domain is getting an excessive amount of time and/or attention, you might want to transfer some of what you're currently putting into it, into another domain, one that needs more. An excess of attention in one area usually means a deficiency in another, or others.
Here are the domains.
The well-being of your physical body. Eating practices, weight loss or gain, rest, relaxation and replenishment, overall fitness.
Time together for emotional connection, relaxation, play, interactive activities, and the fulfillment of shared responsibilities.
Prayer, worship, spiritual practice, meditation, retreats, time in nature.
Education to obtain degrees and informal development of skills and bodies of knowledge.
5. Primary relationship
Marriage, romantic and/or committed partnerships.
Quantity and quality of sensual and sexual experience.
Recreation, travel, adventure, sports, activities with no purpose beyond the enjoyment of the activity itself.
8. Creative expression
Any practice or activity that involves originality and creativity, such as singing, dancing, artwork, writing, inventing, designing, acting, cooking and gardening.
9. Emotional well-being
Inner healing, self-esteem building, recovering personal power and authority, strengthening self-trust.
Experiencing a sense of meaning, satisfaction,
fulfillment. and purpose through work.
Adequate savings and income for debt payoff, emergency funds, and a sense of material security.
Having mutually fulfilling, trustworthy, and dependable relationships with persons other than relatives.
Degree of comfort, beauty, and security in your living situation.
Social contribution to enhance the greater good of others.
While this list may not be seen as complete by everyone, it provides a good "starter kit" that identifies many of the areas of life that need to be fulfilled in order for us to experience a high-level of balance and well-being in life.
Balance isn't about equal attention to each domain, but rather adequate or sufficient attention to each one, and the answer to the question, "How much is enough?" is highly subjective and dependent upon the predisposition of each individual. When we share a committed partnership with another person, it becomes necessary to consider each other's values and orientations, which not infrequently are different. The challenge, in these cases is to be mindful of our partner's needs without neglecting or sacrificing our own. While this can be a daunting task, when a foundation of goodwill and trust is established, this cannot only be accomplished without excessive stress, but can enhance and deepen the connection that both partners share.
Keep in mind that if any of your scores are less than 10, you've got work to do. As good as things may be, they can always be better. And as difficult as things sometimes seem to be, there are always steps that we can take to move in the right direction. Change usually is much more likely to come in small, incremental stages rather than huge, dramatic breakthroughs. Like they say about a journey of a thousand miles, it starts with a single step.