With kids, work and other community obligations, life can get hectic very quickly. You may find yourself running around from sun up to sun down trying to make sense of it all. However, even the busiest people find a way to successfully get things done and keep their sanity with a carefully-crafted plan. The secret to balance is preparation. That's right, preparing for your daily events can minimize the drama and help you keep your cool when you're side-swiped by life's surprises.
Most people struggle with balance because they believe that work and personal life shouldn't mix. However, sometimes it's hard to avoid mixing the two. For instance, if your kid gets sick during the day, you may have to leave work early to retrieve them from school. Another example is if you have a big meeting on Monday that requires you to work a few extra hours on the weekend to ensure preparedness. This has happened to us all.
Real life balance is achieved by properly managing your priorities. This is done on a case-by-case basis. There's no set formula to make the magic happen, you just have to plan, prepare and trust your gut. Balance should is also about goal achievement -- however, you have to direct your time and attention to make it happen. Remove the picture you have in your mind of what balance is supposed to look like. Focus instead on productivity and the rest will fall into place.
Balance is about choices. We have to make choices every single day. To maximize each day, ask yourself in the morning, "What are the most important choices today that are going to move me toward reaching my goals? Where do I want to be right now in life? What do I want to achieve?" Your choices should line up with your core values and your personal life mission.
The best way to clearly evaluate your priorities is by creating lists. Write what you want to get done for the day and use it to determine how to prioritize your business or professional life and your personal life. Create lists daily so that you can track your progress, and make adjustments when necessary. Lists allow you to get all of the pending obligations out of your head and on to paper so that you can organize, prioritize and delegate tasks to be done.
How do you determine what is most important and what you need to focus on? This is easy to do when you set goals. Get in the habit of writing and reviewing your goals often. You will move in the direction of your most dominant thoughts. When you write, review and speak positive affirmations about your goals out loud, it will be easy to stay focused. When goals are being met, you will find that you aren't struggling for balance.
Get organized. Balancing a hectic lifestyle is much easier to accomplish when you are organized. Organization is the biggest secret to reducing work-related stress. You'll feel more in control and confident throughout your day when you have order. This is also where your lists will come into play. Living by a list will help you get more done and help you to prioritize your tasks and time, so you can ensure you are focusing on the most important responsibilities first.
Keep a Journal. Journaling is a creative release that can prevent burnout. Keep different journals for ideas, for general notes, for your lists and for reflection and to track your progress. It is good to spend just a few minutes in the morning or at night writing down your thoughts to clear your head and to plan for the next day. Journaling at night helps you sleep better. You can rest well without nagging feelings of unfinished business, or looming projects swirling around in your head at night. Simply drain your brain on paper, sort through your ideas, create plans and when you're done, close the book.
Schedule in FUN. Allow yourself time to play. We all need some kind of activity that takes our mind off of work and responsibilities. Take time out to do what you enjoy. This type of release will refuel your energy, give you new ideas and keep you refreshed.
Life should not be a complete struggle. With proper planning and purposeful action, you can gain control of your hectic life and start thriving now.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.