Balanced living takes work, even if you’re committed to living a simpler, self-care focused life. I’m reminded of an article I shared earlier this year from Brigid Schulte about how even work-life balance experts are awful at balancing work and life. I wouldn’t quite put myself in that category, but I definitely have my share of fails. Tuesday night was one.
My husband was working late, so when I got home from work I had the entire house to myself. My night started out pretty successfully. I brewed myself a cup of chamomile tea, and settled into the couch for a little relaxation before making dinner. I flicked on the TV as I started to enjoy my tea, and that’s when the multitasking started. I was flipping through the channels trying to find something interesting to watch when suddenly I found myself thinking about Christmas. Christmas shopping to be more exact.
Within a few minutes, I was searching through the ‘12 Days of Deals’ section on Amazon on my phone, hunting for the perfect present. At some point in the midst of the endless scrolling, I turned my attention back to the TV and realized that WWE Smackdown had started. Now, I have probably watched a combined 10 minutes of wrestling on TV in the course of my life. There was a match that was ending, and instead of changing the channel, I was further drawn to a slew of female wrestlers rocking some pretty awesome costumes.
I am not sure entirely how long I watched wrestling while searching for Christmas presents on my phone, but I did watch an entire match between the current female WWE title holder and a very tough Amazonian-looking woman. The announcers mentioned something about an upcoming Lumberjack style match which sounded pretty intriguing. At the same time, my virtual cart was repeatedly being filled and cleared as I changed my mind on whether my husband would like a Kindle or not. The only thing I managed to accomplish the first hour of being home was finish my tea.
At one point, I realized that I had spent all this time watching TV that I wasn’t even terribly interested in, and shut it off and started making dinner. I didn’t have to be up early the next day so I still had a few hours before going to bed, but if this had been any other night, I would have felt pretty frustrated to have ‘squandered’ my minimal free-time. It’s not about writing the next great American novel on my free evenings and weekends but about doing the types of activities that are actually restorative and improve my wellbeing.
It’s so easy to be in auto-pilot mode, especially after a long day at work where you’re expected to be focused and engaged. Auto-pilot mode isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s more a question of what you’re putting on auto-pilot. Is it hours and hours of random channel surfing or clicking through social media posts? If you find that relaxing, then by all means keep it up. If you read any surveys of how people currently spend their time and what they would like to do more of, TV and internet usually isn’t high on that list. Spending time in nature, with friends and family, or engaged with a hobby or volunteering is highly desired but do require more time and energy than crashing on your couch at the end of the day.
One night is not a big deal, which is why I’m not beating myself up about my wrestling and online shopping multitasking fail, but over a year, or a lifetime, how to resist being on auto-pilot is something worth thinking about. If you’re not sure if you’re spending your time in the most rewarding way possible, then consider taking the balanced living quiz to find out once and for all.