I have always been a fan of cooking and DIY shows. If you remember Rachael Ray’s “30 Minute Meals,” then you might also remember how Racheal would fill a big bowl of ingredients – from pantry to fridge – all in one shot. Just don’t forget the EVOO. Efficient, quick, and fun right?
Something about that efficiency was appealing to me. Countless times, I’ve gotten out of my car with more paper grocery bags than I can manage. Or carried a coat, glass bottle of coffee, Hydro Flask, purse, books, and computer case in one trip from my car into the house. My thought is that 1) I can probably balance and carry it all with me somehow, and 2) I won’t have to make a second trip. There is also some fun to it. How can I grab everything in the kitchen, or from my car; maybe after a day of work/errands and being tired…and then manage it all at once without losing or forgetting anything?
This efficiency: risk-taking mentality can be thinly veiled as ambition in other areas of life. Why develop a simple thesis for a major paper, when you can create something totally new, inventive, and complex that only a handful of researchers have analyzed? Why take on only two extra assignments at work or in leadership roles, when you can lead and manage at least three or four?
Often, we efficiently manage multiple assignments and carry armfuls of leadership roles. Many of our jobs require this. Our personal lifestyles do too. But sometimes, we flourish in efficiency at the expense of quality; including professional and personal growth. Taking on a sixth or seventh voluntary assignment could mean that we become less of an expert at our three greatest and most valuable strengths. A multifaceted, thorny, and novel thesis could be fascinating, yet suffer from a lack of in-depth, thoughtful analysis.
Similarly, balancing too many things in our personal life can mean that an important person is missing…sometimes even left out entirely. Take a step further and that person becomes ourselves [-> Leading to a separate topic on the value of caring for our whole selves – mind, body and spirit. 😌] Streamlining is important because it helps us see the value of what is before us, and strengthen what we already know. It also helps us manage additional roles and assignments in our lives without ignoring our priorities.
Now how do we do it?
For me the strategy is practice and adapting to every stage of life. I cannot remember any attorney or other professional who told me that they balance everything perfectly, all the time. From entry-level to experienced, this could be the most important skill that we each train to manage (with varying degrees of success) every day. —- It’s like running several miles uphill. The challenge is high and the reward is tiring, but refreshing. I don’t sprint that, but I’m sure some people do. On the other hand, I enjoy doing bike sprints; uphill or downhill. It’s a matter of personal endurance. Each of us has different strengths and “limits.”
I recently attempted, probably one last time, my Rachael Ray method of carrying as many things as possible to make one trip. Not so surprisingly, one of my glass bottles of coffee that I was carrying (on top of my bag, coat, etc., etc.) slipped to the ground and broke. Completely shattered. This never happened before. I’ve almost always mastered the one trip method. Thankfully cleanup was easy, but this simple event made me rethink how I approach everyday tasks. Next time, just make two trips. As I do this, I’ll remember to apply it more frequently to the bigger responsibilities in life. Interestingly balance is one of the most vital lessons I learned since graduating and through job experience over the years. I am a yoga enthusiast, so that actively helps me remember too (see, e.g., Yoga 365 Days)! Each day and month of the year is a practice in balancing the demands of work/responsibility with the joys, leisure and gratitude of life. I think we need both sides to truly thrive. Prioritizing while maintaining quality…make two trips. Streamline and refocus. Manage a decision one component at a time. It’s more than worth the quick journey back so that in the end, you have a composed and complete finish. ✨