NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
As I write this, it’s just three days before my 50th birthday and this post will go live on the big day. I can’t believe it’s almost here! As it has gotten closer and I’ve had other things on my mind, I’ve become less stressed about moving into a new decade and more accepting of it. As many people say, it’s only a number, plus it’s better than the alternative!
It’s hard to think that I probably have less of my life in front of me than behind me and that perhaps my best days are in my past, but I’m trying to develop a more positive perspective on it. I don’t know what the future holds and many people have told me that they are happier and even healthier in their later years. Plus, as my husband says, on my 50th birthday I will be just one day older than the day before! He loved turning 50 and it didn’t bother him at all, so maybe I need to follow his example.
I’ll share more thoughts about my birthday after it has passed, as well as what I want for myself in this new decade of my life. But today I’d like to give you an update on how I’m doing with my theme for 2016, balance. My last balance update was about two months ago, so I feel it’s time for another one, as these reviews help to keep my yearly theme top of mind (and hopefully remind you of your goals and where you are with them as well). Rather than go through all of my balance goals one by one, I will instead share my wins from the past two months, as well as my challenges.
Let’s start on a high note with my balance wins, which fall under five main categories that are listed in no particular order.
Paring Down Backlogs
Since my last balance update, I’ve made great strides in paring down my backlogs:
- My email in-box is far more manageable and I rarely allow it to get over 75 messages these days. Instead of letting it get to the point where I have to spend many hours addressing a backlog, I now dedicate some time to going through it at least a few times per week.
- My Feedly blog reader is no longer out of hand. The “saved for later” queue gets pared down at the end of each month and if my list of posts to read becomes too lengthy, I delete some of the articles without even reading them. In the past, I would have been too concerned with FOMO to do so, but now it doesn’t stress me out much at all. I still subscribe to a number of blogs, but as long as I’m okay with not reading all of the posts, it’s not that big of a problem.
- I’m no longer using the Pocket app and I deleted the backlog without reading it. This was my biggest information overload triumph! When one commenter suggested that I delete the queue, I felt anxious and thought I could never do it. But about a week later, I did just that! I had to catch my breath a bit when I hit the delete key, but then I breathed a sigh of relief. What’s more, I deleted the app completely from my computer, iPad, and smartphone. The simplicity of saving things to read with just a single click was too dangerous for me and created a queue I didn’t really need to have.
- I’ve made some progress with my bookmarks. Two months ago, I had 7541 bookmarks in Google Chrome. When I said I was an “information junkie,” I wasn’t kidding! In one 1.5 hour session, I managed to pare down my bookmarks by over 1300. Yes, I still have a long way to go, but I feel good about the progress that I made in such a short time. I need to block out some time each week to pare down further. There’s no reason to retain thousands of bookmarks, especially since most of what we need is available via a quick Google search. I could probably delete all of these, too, but baby steps…
Less Time on Facebook
I’m spending less time overall on Facebook and I’m being far more deliberate about my time spent on that platform. Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch with our friends, connect with new people, and gain information, but it can also be a huge time sink. I value my friends on Facebook, especially the lovely ladies in my private Facebook group, some of whom I got to meet in person last month. However, due to joint issues, I’m limited in how much time I can spend at my computer. Thus, I have to aim for quality over quantity with my online interactions. I don’t judge those who wish to spend a lot of time on Facebook or any other social media site, but I have to do what’s best for me and it felt right to cut back on the time I was spending there.
My goal was to decrease the time spent on Facebook from over 20 hours per week to 10-12 hours, and I have achieved that goal. In July, my weekly average time spent on Facebook was 10.7 hours. I know that may still sound like an excessive amount to some of you – and it is still a lot, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I enjoy my Facebook connections and I still don’t have much face-to-face interaction with people, so it serves an important need for me. I still have some challenges with Facebook, though, which I’ll outline below, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve cut back and am being more purposeful about my time there.
Getting Out More
I have been successful in getting out of the house almost every day as of late, even if it’s just to go for a short walk over to the water. I used to have far too many days when I didn’t go anywhere and that was depressing. While it’s true that I don’t feel well much of the time, it does boost my spirits to get out, especially if I get to see the water, the boats, and the birds. Yes, it would be nice for me to develop more hobbies, interests, and in-person friends (I have tons of friends online!), but simply pushing myself to get out each day has positively impacted my psyche and I’m grateful for that. I think it helps my health, too, in that I get fresh air and exercise.
Positive Health Changes
I continue to experience a lot of health challenges, but I’m at least somewhat more hopeful than I was a few months ago. I think I’m getting closer to answers that will hopefully enable me to feel better. I’ve been seeing two new doctors who have been able to help me more than the previous ones have. In July, I did a three-week cleanse and this week started on a new diet which is geared toward reducing inflammation and addressing and overcoming food sensitivities (learn more specifics here). I haven’t noticed much of a difference yet, but it’s still early days. Improving my health would make the greatest difference in my life balance and would supersede all of the other positive changes I’ve been making. Fingers crossed…
Better Time Management
Time management has long been my Achilles heel, but I recently found a tool and a method that are helping me use my time in a much more effective manner. First the tool… When I was at the hair salon getting a deep-conditioning treatment last month (this one – it’s only available through stylists, but it has brought my hair back to life!), another woman there mentioned something called “The 5-Minute Journal.” I was intrigued, so I checked it out.
While I haven’t started using the 5-Minute Journal yet (but I plan to…), I did order the other product that is produced by the same company. It’s called the Productivity Planner and I just started using it this week (NOTE: I am an affiliate for this product, but I only recommend things that I strongly believe in). The Productivity Planner includes pages for weekly and daily planning, as well as questions to help you review each week so you can increase your effectiveness over time. Here’s a snapshot of what the daily pages look like.
In tandem with the Productivity Planner, I’ve also been using the Pomodoro Technique, which is recommended in the introductory pages of the planner. The Pomodoro Technique is simple and very “old school,” but it really works. It allows you to work with time instead of against it, manage distractions, and eliminate burnout (because it makes you take breaks). Although there are smartphone apps out there for the Pomodoro Technique, I began by using a simple kitchen timer and it works just fine that way.
I’ve only been using the Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique for one week, but I feel that my time management and productivity have already dramatically improved. I’m doing a lot better at prioritizing my tasks, allocating my available time, and being deliberate in what I do. I believe that as I continue using both of these tools, I’ll become more and more efficient and effective, which will lead to increased life balance. A lot of times, I feel guilty because I don’t get enough done, often resulting in my staying up late to try to “catch up.” My goal is to get my most important tasks done during the day so my evenings are freed up for relaxation and enjoyment, as it should be!
In addition to the wonderful balance wins that I outlined above, I also continue to experience challenges that I need to address. These challenges will sound familiar to you, as I have written about them before. I may sound like a broken record (do those under 30 even know that that is?), but my hope is that if I continue to write about my balance issues and work on addressing them, I’ll see improvement, much as I have with the wins I shared previously.
Staying up too late and lagging in the mornings
I continue to stay up far too late on many nights. While I’ve managed to do better with this some of the time, the bottom line is that I am still sleep-deprived. The late bedtime tends to have a domino effect, too. I get to sleep late and end up waking up late as a result, which sets back my entire schedule for the day ahead. Hence, I don’t start working on my daily tasks until the afternoon some days, so it’s no wonder that I find myself still sitting in front of my computer by the time it gets dark.
I’m hoping my Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique will help turn this counterproductive pattern around, but I also need to commit to staying off the computer late at night, which is the single biggest contributor to my late bedtime, especially if I get on Facebook. When I do that, I seem to be propelled into some sort of “rabbit hole” and the next thing I know, it’s the wee hours of the morning. If I make no other commitment than to have a hard and fast computer – or at least Facebook – stop time, I feel confident that I’ll do better with sticking to a healthier bedtime.
Continued “information overload” and FOMO
Although I’ve dialed back my information overload considerably, it’s still an issue for me. I continue to have far too many browser tabs open at any given time because I click on links for articles I want to read and I have trouble getting around to reading them all. I also still have an “active sites” folder on my computer desktop which is full of articles I’d like to read and videos I’d like to watch. I probably should just obliterate this folder much like I did with my Pocket app and I just might opt to do that to usher in my 50’s.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is also an ongoing problem in my life, particularly when it comes to Facebook. When I started my private Facebook group almost a year ago, I had no idea that it would become anywhere near as large and active as it is today. I actually believed that I would have to regularly facilitate conversation there, but that isn’t necessary at all! In fact, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the threads in the group unless one were to spend multiple hours per day there. There are those who choose to do that, including some of the wonderful admins who have volunteered to oversee the group, but I feel the desire and need to moderate my time on social media and the Internet in general.
Of course, it’s a very individual thing how much time a person spends doing anything, but I do end up feeling like I’m missing out by not being involved in all of the conversation in the Facebook group (not to mention Facebook in general and the other groups of which I’m a member). I also struggle with feelings of guilt because I’m the one who started the group and I’m not even close to the most active member there. I know this is something I need to let go of, but I still have lots of days when it bothers me. The whole issue stirs up my long held belief that no matter what I do, it’s not good enough. This is something I’d like to put behind me as I enter my next decade, as I’m tired of beating myself up for being who I am, comparing myself to others, and coming up woefully short time and time again. I need to learn to do what’s right for me and not worry so much that others will be upset with me. It’s far too tiring to live my life that way.
Commitments for the Remainder of 2016
I could write about other challenges that I’m still experiencing with balance, but I think that if I can overcome the issues above between now and the end of the year, I will be satisfied with my progress. So, in summary, here’s what I’m committing to for the remainder of 2016 in terms of balance:
- Eliminate my “active sites” folder, either by reading/watching everything that’s in it or simply deleting it without even looking at the contents inside. I may opt for the happy medium of setting a time limit (say, one to two hours) for dealing with the contents of the folder.
- Continue to get out every day, even if it’s just for a short walk. It’s not good for me to stay inside my apartment all day long. Ideally, I will move toward spending more time in person with other people, but even if I simply take some time by myself outdoors each day, it will do me a world of good.
- Maintain my new lower time spent on Facebook and work to reduce FOMO. I need to realize that we are always missing out on something in life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with everything and it causes far too much stress to even try. Just like with my wardrobe, the best approach is quality over quantity!
- Continue to use the Productivity Planner and the Pomodoro Technique through the end of the year. These methods have helped me considerably with my time management in just one week, so imagine how beneficial they will be over the course of months!
- Get to bed by midnight every night. I can read in bed if I want and I usually end up feeling tired pretty quickly when I do that, much more so than if I’m up and about. In order to facilitate this bedtime commitment, I will get off my computer by 11:30 p.m. at the latest (and preferably much sooner!). Note: I didn’t do this tonight, as I want to get this post out when I said I would, but I’m definitely going to start!
I wrote this post on and off over the course of three days, so as I’m finishing it, it’s now my birthday! To start things off right, I just deleted my “active sites” folder without even peeking at its contents! How’s that for starting out my 50’s on a positive note? Perhaps this is the start of my being more decisive and self-assured. Next up… caring less about the opinions of others and doing what’s right for me. Maybe this upcoming decade that I was so afraid of will be the best decade of my life, when I can finally be happy and free. Others have told me that was true for them, so I’m hopeful it will be the same for me, too!
Now I’d like to hear from you! Here are a few questions to spark your thoughts:
- If you have selected a theme for the year or outlined goals for yourself, how’s it going?
- What would you like to commit to (or re-commit to) for the remainder of 2016?
- What life balance suggestions do you have for those of us who struggle in that regard?
- What tips do you have for how to best manage “information overload” and time spent on social media and the Internet? I know I would be interested in your insights and I’m sure others would as well!
I invite you to share your thoughts on the above questions, as well as any of the topics included in this essay.
36 thoughts on “Hello 50! and August 2016 Balance Goal Update”
Happy birthday, Debbie! I am so pleased that you have discovered Paleo. I’ve wanted to mention it before, but you know…none of my business and all. I assume that AIP may also be part of the plan at some point. I will be happy to share my Paleo/AIP experience with you if you’re ever interested. It’s the single best thing I’ve ever done for my health.
The best of health and happiness to you this year!
I don’t mind people making suggestions to me, Carter, so I would have been okay with your mentioning Paleo. I would definitely be interested in your experience with Paleo/AIP, especailly since you wrote that it’s the best thing you have done for your health! I don’t have any immediate plans to do AIP, but I may go down that road. One step at a time… I have a friend who swears by it. I have tested negative for autoimmunity, but I know it could still be beneficial. Thank you for your kind wishes!
Happy Birthday Debbie, have a lovely day 🙂
Thank you, Ruthie! I DID have a wonderful day and will write about it soon.
Happy birthday, fellow Leo! I’m so excited for you- you’ve made immense progress and I LOVE that you’re using a planner and finding how helpful they can be. What a great start to an awesome milestone birthday!
Thank you, Meli, and happy birthday (or belated birthday if it has passed) to you, too! Yes, the planner is helping me a lot. I haven’t used one in years, but this is the most helpful one I’ve ever tried, especially when coupled with the Pomodoro Technique.
Happy birthday! I feel certain the best is yet to come!
Thank you, n! I hope you’re right 🙂
I am beyond happy for you that your birthday started off with a bang by deleting your active folders…FOMO is a huge energy/ time waster and I too am making progress on working on it…what an inspiration you are to your many followers…yes, you are one day older than yesterday!!!
You’re SO right about FOMO being a waste of time and energy, Claudette! It has been such an Achilles Heel of mine that it’s difficult to overcome, but I’m really working on it. It DID feel very good to delete that folder and may motivate me to make even more deletions. Hmmm… I appreciate your kind words !
Happy Birthday, Debbie!!! Lots of love from Europe, Germany. I wish you the most wonderful year, and the most wonderful life, because you so deserve it all. I will come back with an e-mail very soon. Have a fantastic birthday!
Thank you so much for your kind words and wishes, CristiLu! I really appreciate it. My birthday was low-key but very nice. I’m not the type for parties and fanfare, so it was just perfect for me.
Happy birthday! I am enjoying being 50 and letting go of other peoples’ expectations of me.
As for your comment about more of your life being behind you than ahead of you, I personally find this to be an enormous relief. I would not for a moment want to relive my childhood or start my career over. I am thrilled all those difficult things are behind me and now I can just feel comfortable within myself and enjoy life.
Thanks, Tara. I hope that I am finally able to let go of other peoples’ expectations in my 50’s. You know, you’re right! I wouldn’t want to relive those times, either. I just need to let go of my own thoughts about where I should be at this point in my life and what I should have accomplished. All those thoughts do is make me unhappy and I want to feel comfortable within myself and enjoy life more like you are!
Happy birthday Debbie! You are going to have a wonderful decade ahead of you. I just know it! You are a really wonderful person and have a great sense of style. And you have made a lot of difference in peoples lives all over the world over the past few years with your blog (and yes, I know what a broken record is – smiling).
Glad some of my readers know what a broken record is, Jane. I suspect most of you are over 30 😉 I really appreciate your very kind words! I have always wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives, so it’s been a pleasure and an honor to do so via this blog.
Happy Birthday, Debbie! Congratulations on all your accomplishments! I have to say, I am impressed. The FOMO part has also become more of a problem for me since I started on other social media platforms. I’ve had my ups and downs with shopping, too. The last 6 months, I’ve lost close to 30 pounds and as a result, my shopping has returned. But, anyways, it’s a complex issue, weight loss (or weight gain), shopping, self esteem, gratification, motivation. Definitely topics I need to explore and to journal.
Thank you for your nice praise, Betsy! Congrats on your impressive weight loss, but I’m sorry to hear that it has led to increased shopping. That can often be the case, as it’s reasonable to need SOME new things following weight loss, but we can go overboard. You’re so right that weight dovetails with a lot of other issues. Journaling would probably be very helpful, and I should do the same (or blog more about it). I wish you the best of luck with overcoming your challenges.
Happy Birthday, Debbie, and PAT ON BACK for meeting your balance goal!
1. If you have selected a theme for the year or outlined goals for yourself, how’s it going?
I need more money to support myself and I’m throwing everything at this goal right now. My theme word might be “determination” (to get through the grueling days of work and study and childcare)
2. What would you like to commit to (or recommit to) for the remainder of 2016?
Finishing my studies so that I can get a better job that pays me more and takes less of my time.
3. What life balance suggestions do you have for those of us who struggle in that regard?
Making a list of things that you want in your life and reviewing it often. I really am a huge proponent of the Konmari Method, because this is actually what Marie Kondo does, just with your things. Holding an object and determining if it sparks joy is just one way to determine if something is important to you; you get rid of everything that doesn’t spark that joy. I do this with things that take my time, not just my money and it has worked very well for me.
4. What tips do you have for how to best manage “information overload” and time spent on social media and the Internet? I know I would be interested in your insights and I’m sure others would as well!
Again, my answer would be essentially to Konmari your life. Upon reading my list of things I want in my life (mentioned in response to #3) and actually envision what it would be like to have a life just the way you want. The future state visualization is really important to do often because it helps make it real. Since I have so little time for all the things I do want, I have zero time for things I don’t want. I’d be curious to see how others do it. Before I got serious about visualizing the things I wanted in my life, I wasted a lot of time on meandering about through life without giving serious thought to my happiness. This mistake cost me many years of unhappiness and basically letting others live my life for me.
I appreciate how you always answer the questions at the end of my posts, Jane, and I hope you find it helpful to do so! I wish you the very best of luck with your goal of finishing your studies and securing a better, higher-paying job. I love your life balance suggestions and am going to take them on. I may even do a post on the topic! My problem is that I’m not sure what I want my life to be like. Maybe if I write about it, the vision will become clearer. I think that I have been afraid to wish for things because of my health issues, but I just end up feeling stuck and complacent, which isn’t good.
I like how you suggested that we KonMari our lives. I remember doing something similar years back upon the advice of a coach I was working with. She suggested that I write everything that’s on my “plate” and then determine which of those things I would add back to a clean slate. I found that I would NOT want to add a number of them back, which propelled me to let some things go. I don’t know why I got off track again, but I did. I think it’s because I can be a “people pleaser” and put others’ thoughts and happiness above my own. Like you, this has cost me many years of unhappiness and succumbing to the will of others. Thanks for sharing what you’re doing to improve your life. I’m going to take it on!
I find your questions very thought-provoking so I always like to answer if I have something to say on the topic.
I have to confess I haven’t totally gotten rid of the people-pleasing problem. I am waaaaayyyyy better than I was, but I catch myself sometimes, even now, but when I do catch myself feeling “queasy” about some action I did, I try to remember to use it as fuel to get back on track to what is meaningful to me. That said, if you find resources that show people how to practice “polite asservativeness,” I for one would be very interested.
I think it can be very difficult to overcome the tendency toward people-pleasing, but the fact that you are way better than you were is a true testament to how hard you’ve worked at it. It’s good that you use that queasy feeling to get yourself back on track. I’ll have to remember to do the same. If I find the type of resources you mentioned, I will be sure to share!
Happy Birthday! I revamped my late night habits about a year ago after reading “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan” by Michael Breaus. (He has another book on sleep habits as well.) I wasn’t looking to lose weight but I the book was mentioned in a women’s magazine, and I wanted to learn about the “Power Hour” which seemed interesting. Also, I wanted to find something to eat at night before bed that would hold me until the next morning. It did help me revamp my bedtime habits. I go to bed at 9pm and read for an hour. (I love to read and vary my topics from self-help to all types of fiction. You can always ask your readers for book recommendations too.) If I know that I have a good book waiting for me on my bedside table, that is a huge incentive for me to end my day and relax.
I didn’t realize that you had written that you feel more tired when you read in bed than being up and about. I did find that when I did finally buy reading glasses, which I had put off as long as possible, it was much easier for me to read my books. A few years ago, I used to go to sleep with a Homedics Deep Sleep machine. (It can create nature sounds and white noise.). Also, during the long and dark winter in New England, I use a Philips GoLite to battle SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
As to the gray hair, you can really rock a hat! I wondered if you had considered doing any streaks of gray or maybe just adding some highlights around your face to transition into the gray. If you like the look, you could always gradually add them to the rest of your hair. Makeup artist and hair stylist Sharon Danley has a video on Youtube with pictures of her transition and her use of gray hair extensions and scrunchies.
As always, anything you do will be awesome!
I really appreciate all of your suggestions for sleep, Maggie. I hadn’t heard of the book you mentioned, but it sounds intriguing. Good for you for revamping your sleep habits. My mother-in-law always goes to bed early and reads in bed, too, and swears by it. I probably wouldn’t get so sleepy when reading in bed if I wasn’t so sleep-deprived all the time! I used to read in bed a lot and I like your idea of having a good book to read be an incentive for getting to bed. I think that if I end my bad habit of being on the computer late at night, that would go a long way. Reading a book is a much better and more relaxing option.
Thanks for the compliment about my hats! I’m not sure what I’m going to do in terms of my gray transition. I’m taking it one day at a time. I was resistant to highlights because my hair was so dry and damaged, but it’s improving, so I may do that. I am familiar with Sharon Danley and am in her Facebook group. I’m impressed with what she did to ease her gray transition and will likely use some of her ideas. I was waiting to see what color my gray would be before investing in any extensions or scrunchies. My hair may not be gray enough, but we’ll see. It’s quite gray on top, but less so lower down and in the back. I will avail myself of whatever will work to get through the difficult grow-out period, though!
Happy Birthday! Warmest wishes on this milestone day.
What amazing progress towards your goals this year! Congratulations!
Are you familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework? Your info-overload strikes as very Questioner. Her suggestions for are similar to what you are doing- setting time limits, scheduling, deadlines, clearing clutter.
What about a power pause for browser management? If you have too many tabs open, bookmark them and walk away when you return to the computer, you might think… actually, I don’t need/want to read all this stuff and just delete the folder.
Another idea is re framing FOMO. Instead of, “if I don’t read this stuff, I’ll miss out” it could be, “if I don’t read this stuff, I can go do something (like take pictures) that is more meaningful to me.”
Sometimes I use info overload to avoid dealing with tough emotions- so it is a way I undermine myself from attending to my true needs and doing self-care. There’s an underlying belief that I am not good enough, so that behavior is an elaborate way of reinforcing the belief. Perhaps in some way the info is a coping tool for you (or perhaps not) but kind of an interesting question.
Thank you for your wishes and insights, cm. Yes, I am familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies and am indeed a Questioner (with quite a few Rebel characteristics, too). I loved her habits book and will likely re-read it or look to her website for more insights. Interesting idea to use the power pause with my browser tabs. Do you mean to drag them into a folder and then see if I even want to look at them later? That could work… The reframing FOMO idea is great! We need to realize that whenever we choose to do one thing, we are choosing NOT to do something else. I don’t consider that often enough and I need to. Your last paragraph really resonated with me. I think I DO use information overload (and overshopping) as a way to avoid dealing with difficult things in my life. I definitely have the “I’m not good enough” belief but never thought of my information overload as a way of reinforcing it. I think you are probably spot on with that, though!
Yes, exactly- I will hit “bookmark all tabs” and make a new folder with some goofy label and walk away from the computer. Whenever I notice it next, I usually think, “on second thought, I don’t need to read 53 articles about X” and delete the folder.
Thanks for clarifying, cm. I’m going to try this! It’s ridiculous how many tabs I can amass and I don’t even remember what they are about sometimes. I’m sure I would never miss most of them if I wiped them out.
Wishing you a happy August birthday month!
Thank you, Terra! I like the idea of celebrating all month long 🙂
Yes, right on, Terra! I also prefer to celebrate “birthmonths” instead of attaching so much significance to a day, and try to do little special things all month. Happy Birthmonth Debbie!
Thank you, Claire! I need to think of some more special things to do this month… Good to hear from you and hope you are doing okay.
Happy birthday, Debbie!!
Thank you very much for the birthday wishes, Luna and Ginger!
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