When you think about balance, does an image of a scale come to mind? If so, are we putting too much pressure on ourselves by thinking, or expecting, that work and life have to be in balance all the time?

The truth is, it’s not possible to find perfect balance. Think about everything you have to juggle in addition to work and life? Perhaps you’re into crafting, DIY projects, or you practice yoga a few times a week, how do you add these into the mix without adding in stress?

A few years ago, I went to a conference for women working in the agricultural industry. Balance was a topic a few of the speakers addressed over the course of two days. My key takeaway? When it comes to balance, we should look at the variables/tasks/projects/responsibilities we juggle as priorities that can be arranged and re-arranged versus seeing them as things that need to be in balance.

Sometimes a task will need more attention than others and will therefore take priority. Other times something else will bubble up to the top to take its place. With this idea we can take the pressure off ourselves and reassess how we manage our responsibilities. Keep this in mind the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed while trying to make everything fit perfectly into your day.

I’ve quit trying to find balance and instead adopted “priority thinking.”  Here are a few things I’ve learned so far on this journey.

Priorities shift and that’s OK

We’re all in different seasons of our lives so as a result, certain tasks or responsibilities need more attention than others. With young kids the priority might be focusing on them and their activities in the evenings or weekends while work responsibilities stay within the confines of your work day.

If your work day ends at 5 pm, shut it down and don’t think about it until after family time has ended. For me, I’ve found that once Miss O is asleep, I can tune back into work and focus on any freelance projects I have on the go.

The reverse could be true for you. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom or work from home, your priorities are obviously different. The point is to choose what matters most and don’t feel guilty about it. The time will come when you’ll have to make a shift and refocus your priorities.

Priority shifts are unique. Maybe yours change monthly or more frequently. Whatever it is, own it and make it work for you.

Perseverance is the key to success

Once you let go of the idea of balance, you’ll have to instead embrace clear focus on the tasks at hand. Take time to think about what’s important and commit to them.

If fitness is something that’s super important and takes priority over everything else, commit to it completely. At least while it makes sense to put lots of time towards it. It’s not always easy to meet the goals we lay out for ourselves but putting in place a step by step plan helps.

Does waking up early make sense to go for a run? If not, maybe a workout video on YouTube after dinner makes more sense. Try different ways to fit it in and learn from the experience.

If something isn’t working or it feels as though things are harder than they should be, re-adjust. Do things in a way that works for you so that you can give your priorities the attention they need. When your priorities shift, learn from those and adjust as needed.

Give yourself permission to take a break

We’re all moms and we all know that when we focus on our kids, we tend to forget about ourselves. A friend of mine recently asked about my hobbies. I have to admit, I had to stop and think for a minute. What are my hobbies. Before Miss O, it was easy to rhyme off things like tennis, running, DIY projects, etc. But as my responsibilities as a mom began to become more of a priority, “me time” shifted and became a small priority.

I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, it’s just my reality. If your kids are older, or as they get older, you can focus more on your own interests.

Make a list of five to 10 activities that would make you happy and set aside time to do them. Make this one of your top priorities if it makes sense for you. Personally, I like to make time for massages, pedicures, movie nights and lunches with friends once a month.

Whatever it is that makes you feel good, give it some time and attention. Be passionate about it. Be enthusiastic and know that in taking time for yourself, you’ll feel better all around. Hopefully less stressed and more….well, balanced. Balanced in the sense that things are under control and you’re happy with that.