“How do you balance EVERYTHING?!”. Let’s suppose you have a full-time job, busy family life (or soon to be, congratulations by the way), a hobby, friends and you know, the usual “life stuff”. But, now you want to LEARN CODE! Is it even possible?

The short answer is…YES. Although, it won’t be easy and you will often feel like you are walking a tightrope.

DISCLAIMER: Walking the tightrope is HARD

businessman walking on tightrope

Make no mistake, achieving BALANCE is surprisingly hard.

Now I myself am no master. In fact, when I first became a dad, and I was trying to juggle life with a newborn, whilst learning to code, building a blog, working full-time, you better believe I was sooo unbalanced!

It was kinda comical really how bad I was. But luckily over time, I seemed to get the hang of it.

One of the first things you need to realize is you don’t just wake up one day and balance your life, you LEARN to balance your life.

You learn to balance life the same way you learn to balance on a bike, with time and practice. In the beginning, it’s going to be hard. Things are going to be a bit ropey but hang in there, the scraps and bumps are worth it.

I am telling you this at the start because I don’t want to create a false impression that achieving a balanced life is easy.

It takes TIME, it takes PRACTICE, it takes DISCIPLINE. And most importantly, it takes PERSEVERANCE because you will slip and have to regain your balance, most likely numerous times.

Another thing to note is that you can always have better balance. While my balance has drastically improved since the early days, it’s still not perfect. And I don’t know of anyone who claims to have the perfectly balanced life. If you know, leave a comment because I would love to talk to them.

What does balance mean to you?

It sounds strange but balance isn’t the same for everyone. We all have different views on what balance means, and what a balanced life looks like.

For you, balance may mean spending more time with your family and less time at work. For someone else, it may mean spending less time with their family and more time at work.

Hey, I am not here to judge. I don’t know their story. Maybe their family is driving them crazy? Who knows…

The point is that balance is unique to our own set of priorities. So first, you need to figure out what your priorities are. Starting with your main priority.

Is your main priority health? Wealth? Family? Code? Or something else? Once you deiced you can start sorting through the list and begin to develop a little hierarchy of priorities.

Having a hierarchy of priorities dictates the order in which you take care of business. Remember, first things first as Stephen R. Covey writes in his book, 7 habits of highly successful people.

To help you achieve balance you need to know how to arrange and organize your life. This ensures you spend your time wisely.

Often the reason we feel unbalanced simply comes down to one thing. Not being able to do the things we want.

Whether you’re not able to spend as much time with your family, pursue a passion, or meet a deadline. There’s always something/s we’re not able to do, which leaves us with this feeling of imbalance.

Maybe, it’s because our priorities are out of whack? And…Maybe, we’re just investing our time in the wrong places!

So, let’s ask the question again…what does balance mean to you? Where do your priorities lie?

Free up time by Re-Prioritizing and importantly…Cut out the CRAP

opening background with scissors cutting a ribbon with a ribbonI know this post is titled “HOW TO BALANCE LIFE, WORK, FAMILY, LEARNING CODE…AND EVERYTHING ELSE?!”. However, more often than not we are wasting our time on unnecessary things.

Hoarding is a terrible scourge which weighs us down. Unfortunately, it’s a nasty habit that many of us share, including me.

Normally hoarding relates to physical objects, but in this context, I am referring to the things we do. The obligations, tasks, activities, rituals, and habits we indulge in every day.

One of the first proactive things we can do is to evaluate where we spend our time, then prioritize.

What are my priorities? What’s essential? And what can be cut in order to lighten the load? These are the first questions we need to ask ourselves.

Ideally, we should spend the majority of our time doing things that bring us value and saying no to the things that don’t. What you cut is up to you, but if you can’t cut anything, make sure it’s because everything is necessary. Don’t be a closet hoarder.

One thing we can all defiantly do without are bad habits!

We all have them. Mine biggest one is binge-watching YouTube videos. I can easily waste hours of my life on YouTube.

While there is a lot of valuable stuff on YouTube, you have to admit, there is also a lot of CRAP! And I end up watching most of it.

These bad habits are like leeches, draining our time like blood and giving nothing back. Parasites. Yeah…you may think that’s a bit strong, but it get’s my point across.

So recoup your time by re-evaluate, re-prioritize and re-cutting…wait no, just, cut the crap!

If kicking these bad habits seem like an impossible task can I suggest reading Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister .

Our first instinct is to SPLIT OURSELVES

Right, here’s the situation…I’ve got a report to finish at work, a family outing on Saturday, a blog post to write, a programming course to be cracking on with, a side project waiting in the wings, a run to be ran, and you know what? It would be nice to have a moment to relax with my wife.

So what do I do?

Well, being a Harry Potter fan, I decided to take a leaf out of Voldemort’s book and split myself into seven pieces. Problem solved!

Now theirs seven me, who are all doing their thing individually to keep my life in check.

Even if you don’t know what the hell I am talking about, I am sure you can still related to this desire of wanting to split yourself.

It’s a natural human impulse to segment, compartmentalize and label things. It’s how we organize the world around us, and for the most part it seems to work just fine.

However, it can cause an issue.

The minute we split and label ourselves, or indeed anything, we assign a value. This may be a value of good or bad, fun or boring, cool or uncool. Whatever the value, it’s either positive or negative.

When we do this to aspects of our life we create positive or negative connotations with that aspect.

For example, everyone loves spending time with their friends, but rarely do people like working. This is because many of us associate work with something hard and boring.

The way around this is to refrain from dividing up and labeling part’s of your life. Instead, try and take a holistic view towards life. Think of everything as low level cogs, which make up life.

At the moment we’re taking daily activities, tasks, and responsibilities, then splitting them into blocks i.e. work, family, etc, finally, we’re using those block to build our perception of life.

What I am proposing is to have one block, consisting of all your daily activities, simply labeled as LIFE.

At this point you maybe thinking…”Ok, if everything is all lumped together, how am I meant to differentiate between what I am meant to be doing and when?”.

I agree, lines need to be drawn. I know if I don’t have set times to do thing nothing gets done.

So just to clarify, you can still plan and build routines. In fact, it’s necessary to manage your time, something we will discuss later. But how you frame things makes a difference.

If you’re learning App Development in your evenings after work, don’t say, “I have to study”, say, “I get to learn this new API tonight”.

By the way, did you notice I underlined “I have to” and “I get to”. Where ever possible you should use positive language to avoid those negative associations.

Ow, and for God sake, never say work! Instead be explicit in what you are doing.

Make the most of your TIME with a good ROUTINE

time for business

Time is the real issue here, right? If only we had more time all our problems would be solved. Even better, if we could control time, that would be perfect!

Sadly this is not an option. However, there is something we can do. We can make the most of the time we have. That means implementing some SOLID ROUTINES and building some good HABITS while taming the bad ones.

I already mentioned cutting out the crap habits, so I will skip over that and onto the routines.

In order to balance our somewhat full life, we need STRUCTURE. Something to follow to ensure we are spending our time in the right way, and ultimately, getting stuff done. We need ROUTINE.

In a study, I just conducted with me, myself and I, it showed having a good routine makes you 1000% more effective.

Apologies for that garbage joke. But I probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of having a routine. You only have to look at some of the world most successful people to be convinced. You know, the Tim Cooks and Mark Zuckerburgs of the world.

No, instead, let just jump straight to the practical, and discover how to build a good routine.

To avoid sounding like a broken record, I think it’s best to direct you to this blog post, titled: How to create the PERFECT ROUTINE to learn CODE.

Set some ground RULES

Rules, why do we need rules when we have a routine? Arent they the same thing?

NO. The rules are there to provide GUIDANCE and BOUNDARIES, but also PROTECT you. Whereas a routine is there to manage your time and make you as efficient as possible.

However, the problem with a routine is on its own, it’s very ridge. It can’t always accommodate the flexibility life demands.

The reason juggling family, work, life and learning to code etc seems so hard is because it’s chaotic. Indeed, life, in general, can be chaotic.

Sure, a good routine can help tame some of this chaos, but often, life will throw a spanner in your routine? I am sure any parent will tell you that kids are very good at that.

That’s why good ground rules are necessary to fall back on.

For example, it’s not uncommon for kids to get sick, and unfortunately, my little one gets sick A LOT. So it’s probably not a surprise to hear that when he is sick my routine goes out the window! At which point my rules are there for me to fall back on, especially my main rule:

Rule no. 1 – “Family first, everything else second”. This means when my son sick I focus on him and don’t stress myself with other things until I know he is ok, and believe me, you will know if he’s not.

Once I know he is fine I move onto the next thing. CODING.

Another rule of mine is to do at least “some” coding every night, and in situations like the above, “some” is the operative word. I learnt a while ago that if I can’t take care of myself, then I can’t take care of my family.

If I’ve been up and down all night with a screaming baby, then hop on the laptop to squeeze in a couple hours of code, then I’ll flame out and be no good to anyone. So guess what? I have another rule!

Rule no.267 – “Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family”. By the way, I don’t have 267 rules so don’t panic!

Hopefully, you can now see why it’s good to have rules.

Of course, no one is perfect and rules get broken. Maybe your workflow has suddenly exploded and you have to pull some late nights. In this case, I refer to the golden rule of balance…”Not too much, not too little”.

In my opinion, a period of intense overwork should be counterbalanced with some rest and recovery time. That way you recenter yourself for the next leg.

Be Hyper Aware

Unfortunately, we are always in a state of balance. Think of the man on the high wire again. He’s constantly balancing. With time and practice, he seems to have mastered it. But in reality, he still has to be conscious of every step in case he slips.

This is why I say to remain “Hyper Aware”. Now, I am sure you’re thinking…” what does that even mean?!” Sounds like BS right?

Well, I tried to think of another word to describe it but gave up, so just settled on the whole “hyper” thing.

Essentially, It just means to always remain aware of your actions and how you feel about your current situation.

It’s so easy to start well, and then slowly degrade over time without even realizing. It’s almost like sleepwalking.

One minute we feel like we’ve cracked the code, then the next, a bad choice is made, things go unchecked, and we fall into bad habits. Then we wonder, “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED”.

So try to remain in a state of “Hyper Awareness”. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you are making good choices, and more importantly, that you feel happy about the balance in your life.

Whenever I am about to make a choice that impacts my time, I just ask myself, “what’s the right thing to do?”. That question normally prompts me to make good choices.

However, try not to beat yourself up too much if you still make the wrong choices. It happens. We all slip. As long as you notice the slip you can start correcting.

Hopefully, this article has been useful and you can start taking strides toward a more balanced life. Thank you for reading.

 Feature image designed by Freepik

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About the Author Owen

Creator of Code Dad, father and self-taught programmer. My mission is to balance life, work, family, all while learning to code, and hopefully help others who want to do the same.

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