Franklin planners. To do lists. Electronic calendars. Books describing how to delegate . . . or prioritize . . . or simplify abound. I have tried most of them, inching my way toward balance and peace. Like most women, my responsibilities are numerous and time inevitably seems too limited. As my workload increased and my mother declined with age, it became even more essential that I find a way to create balance in my life. I was spread too thin. I knew the things that helped, but I needed a way to remember them so I could do them regularly. After lots of experimenting and meditation, I came up with an acronym that keeps my priorities memorable and workable on a daily basis. Let me be clear: it doesn’t make the difficulties — or even the “too much” — disappear; but it helps me to remember and to live my own priorities. I’m spread too thin. I live by SPREAD.
S = Spiritual
Spending time focused on the spiritual life is essential to my well-being. People have different customs, traditions, and beliefs, and there are so many ways to get in touch with the spiritual: quiet solitude or music; reading or writing; nature’s beauty or prayer; some combination of those or something different. How to get in touch with the spiritual isn’t the point. Regardless of our differences, we are spiritual beings. Far from being a waste of time, spending time with the spiritual assures that I do what is the best possible use of my time. I know already that I can’t do all that I want, but I certainly want what I can do to be valuable. The spiritual is what gives meaning and purpose to my life.
P = Physical
Exercise is a great stress reliever, and I feel better when I exercise, but it’s easy for me to get so busy with my workload that I don’t make time for this essential care of my body. Finding an exercise or a variety of exercise that is enjoyable is vital. Also in this physical category are those essential pieces of being human that are surprisingly easy to forego, but if neglected take their toll over time: getting enough sleep and eating healthy food.
R = Relationships
We humans are social creatures. If we want our relationships with others to be healthy and happy, we need to take care of those relationships. We need to spend regular time with family and friends. No matter how busy I am, making sure I get this time to connect with those I care about is essential.
E = Enjoy
The world is full of beauty. The food is delicious. The books are interesting. The children are cute or funny or surprisingly insightful. People are kind. Things to enjoy abound: colors, scents, music, shapes and textures . . . It might take some mindfulness, and awareness to slip into the place of enjoyment. Or it might take a few minutes: giving oneself permission to enjoy a good book; treating oneself to a cup of coffee; making time to smell the roses. Really, to smell the roses and to feel the softness of their petals on your lips and cheek. The world is full of beauty.
A = Act
This all started with too much to do. And those things are still there: work tasks and household tasks. Monthly reports and assessments. Laundry and dishes. The lawn to mow and weeds to pull. A roof that needs repair and the car’s oil to change. Bills to be paid . . . again. And then there’s that closet to clean out. It won’t all get done today, but some will get done. It feels good to get something done. And now, with my spirit, my body, my relationships, and my outlook attended to, the work is put in its right place. The work appears now for what it is: a gift.
D = Dream
We all have aspirations for things we want or things we want to do: a dream trip or a talent to develop, something to accomplish, or even a possession. Some call it their “bucket list.” Dreams are the things that keep us looking to the future and hopeful. Putting "dream" in my acronym assures that I spend a little bit of time on it daily — even if that time is only remembering that I have that dream. My dreams are part of who I am.
I’m spread too thin. And maybe (probably) you are too. SPREAD helps me accept that fact, and remember what’s really important to me. It helps keep me in balance, working but not all about work.