The popular idea of balance generally follows that you should fit every good thing into every single day.
You need to exercise and read books and maintain a social life and do hot yoga and work on a side hustle and eat healthy and learn to code and keep up your Instagram brand and journal and do yard work and read your Bible and go on dates and meditate and be a good Dad and get your schoolwork done and everything else you can fit into every single day.
Oh yeah, and you better be pulling a full 8 hours of sleep at night too.
If you don’t?
You’re falling behind everyone else.
I don’t buy it.
My life doesn’t work like that.
When I try to fit everything into each 24-hour cycle I end up doing too much and get nothing done. Having so many things on the list paralyzes an otherwise fine day because my brain is on overload.
This year I’m experimenting with a new system.
I’m learning to focus on 2-3 things a day rather than squeezing everything into every day.
It could be a major project at work.
Going somewhere exciting with friends.
Finishing a book I’m reading.
Learning a new skill.
…or really anything else.
For 18 hours I pause everything else and throw my entire being into those things. Every day the process repeats, sometimes with the same 2-3 focuses, sometimes with new ones.
Early signs say it’s working… when I focus on the right things.
The key I’m learning is to separate daily habits from seasonal habits.
A clear understanding of both makes it easier for me to get more done and live a more balanced lifestyle in the long term.
Daily habits are things I want to do every day. (Groundbreaking, really.)
Seasonal habits are things I try to do throughout the season. (Am I blowing your mind yet?)
Daily habits make sense. They’re the goals we post about on January 1st and must happen most days.
Eating vegetables one day and McDonald’s the next six doesn’t make you healthy. Running a marathon each month with zero training is a good way for plantar fasciitis to wreck your life. Tom Brady doesn’t just play football on Sundays.
You get the point.
Daily habits belong in most days.
Seasonal habits don’t happen every day but are essential to long term success. These are things that really deserve a significant chunk of time. More than I can give them in a day.
I love to travel—exploring new places with people I love is exhilarating and restorative for my soul—but I can’t travel somewhere new 7 days a week. So I make plans to take a bunch of trips spaced throughout the year.
In the same way, I love to write. When I thought I needed to squeeze every goal into every day, I felt discouraged when I failed to write anything before going to sleep. Now I realize that writing for multiple hours actually works way better for me, so I schedule time on the weekends to bang my head on paper until words appear.
Turning writing into a seasonal habit actually helps me to write more.
When I recognize the difference in seasonal and daily habits, life gets simpler. I am free to focus on just a few things each day and not worry about the rest.
Here’s an example.
Our team had a major event last week that took months of preparation and required long hours from everybody. I was pulling consecutive 10 hour days in November and December to prepare.
It wasn’t sustainable forever, but necessary for the moment.
In December—recognizing the imbalance in my seasonal schedule—I booked a flight to Israel with a couple guys and then spent time back home with friends and family for Christmas. For 3 weeks I left the inbox alone and devoted every hour to having fun with people I love.
When I returned to work, I felt renewed and ready to take on the event. I was stoked to be back with my team and take on the challenge.
Last week we worked 90+ hours in 7 days to pull it off. It was a great experience, but physically and mentally exhausting.
So the day after we wrapped I hiked through a canyon by myself. I sat on a rock ledge 400 feet above a massive waterfall and found freedom from hurry and exhaustion. Solid rest and being around nature are seasonal habits I’m building, and brought me back to center.
There was no way I could have rested well during the event—expecting to do so would have left me disappointed and burned out. Instead, I was comfortable with long hours and low sleep because I was fulfilled by the work at hand and knew that a full day of purposeful rest was ahead.
When I create seasonal balance, I’m free to dedicate entire days to whatever I choose and don’t feel bad anymore about what I’m not doing.
In fact, I get more done when I focus on a few things each day.
Separate your daily habits from your seasonal habits.
There you’ll find real balance.