6 Ways to Balance Your Grind and Self-Care

You cannot pour from an empty cup. The recipe for success requires equal parts of pouring as it does being filled.

Yall- adulting is HARD! Like, it’s ridiculous, and at. As an educator, I fully realize that K-12 education does not prepare Saints for success. This meme is INCREDIBLY correct.

At age 28, I’m just now even RESEMBLING handling life as an adult, and that’s because God has me in a season that’s forcing me to find a balance. I am self-diagnosed ADHD, paired with being an introvert, procrastinator, and perfectionist. Balancing life is kind of difficult TBH.

In my prayer time this summer, I asked the Lord to show me where my focus in life needed to be because I was overwhelmed with my load, to the point of constant pre-anxiety attacks. There were several things that I had clear confirmation God wanted me to do: use my job to be relational to show Christ to others, mentor young girls and women based on experiences I struggled through, use my writing talents to blog consistently and write books, serve in church in the choir and children’s church, and get my doctorate. I wrote each item on a post it and realized I wasn’t doing half of the them, but I was exhausted from other activities that weren’t connected. Can anyone relate? From that moment, I decided I needed to be more intentional about “redeeming my time” to do what I’ve been purposed to do in this season. I've also realized that as God enlarges your territory, it's easy to run on auto-pilot and lose a worship-filled spirit which was intended.

If you’re not intentional about balance, you will take on too much and end up over-committed and burned out. These are the 6 ways I’ve learned that help me stay balanced.

1. PRIORITIZE! Let your purpose drive what you say YES and NO to.

Step 1 is know your purpose. Who did God create you to be? What gifts, talents, and desires has He intentionally given you to accomplish something specific on earth? You have to know, otherwise you don't have a standard to determine what requires priority.

I go overboard with planning, at times. With good intentions, I'll put 14 things on my to do list then be overwhelmed LOL. I always go back to prioritize. If I can’t see how it directly connects, I cross it off to focus on what's impactful and purposeful.

2. BACKWARDS PLAN! Break apart larger obligations into small tasks. Allot time for everything you're purposed to work on.

I am flexibly inflexible. I can handle spontaneous things ever so often, but really I like to see everything coming so I can plan accordingly. Now this doesn’t mean I accomplish everything LOL. I’m just fully aware it needs to be accomplished. How? I have a habit of working backwards- breaking large tasks into smaller morsels. Example- My grad classes have a culminating project that always falls on a busy week at work. At the beginning of the semester, I read the directions for every assignment, break them into parts, and designate time to do the small parts throughout the course. I keep up with this using my Calendar app.

I schedule my week and put things in place to ensure balance because if I’m too lackadaisical, I accomplish more of one area than the other- typically it's whatever is my comfort, despite knowing God is pushing me out of my comfort zone. Before I divided up my week, I felt conviction from the Holy Spirit about how partially walking in purpose IS NOT walking in purpose. I was going full throttle with my doctorate workload, but not involved in mentoring or writing at all- I had to assign everything time each week. #issabalance

What does my week look like? Everything has its day, and mentally, it works. If people want to hang out on a Monday or if a meeting at work is scheduled after hours, I'm like, "Nope. It's my grad school day. I can't. Maybe Friday."

3. USE YOUR "PERSONAL ASSISTANT!" Let your phone apps be your personal assistant.
Seriously, the iPhone has saved my life. Here's how:
  • Calendar App- My work calendar, personal calendar, college calendar, and church ministry calendar are synced in the app. A simple swipe right lets me see all that I need to accomplish that day from start to finish. Whenever someone asks me to do something or invites me somewhere, they know to add it to my calendar, or I'll forget.
    • I intentionally use my alerts because I need constant reminders to do something. Example- I have recurring events to notify me when it's my week to teach children's church, but also have the alert set 1 week and again, 2 days in advance to remind me to prepare by studying the lesson.
    • "Travel Time" option saves lives. Living in the DC area, traffic is unpredictable. A 20 mile trip can take 25 minutes one day, and 50 the next. Considering that I struggle with punctuality, the travel time option scans traffic and prompts you when you need to leave your house to arrive at the time of an event i.e. I can leave my house at 10:25 to get to church by 11:00, but if there's a 20 minute delay with traffic, it'll prompt me at 10:00 to leave to still arrive by 11:00.
  • Reminders App- I underutilize this one, but at work, I have Office 365, and its "Tasks" desktop app syncs to my phone. I lose my To Do List post its, so it helps to use the Reminders/Tasks apps, especially because you can set alerts to prompt you to do something. The Notes App can also be turned into a quick To Do List too, but again, any app that includes notifications is key.
  • One Drive and Google Drive App- I'm on-the-go a lot, so I'm a faithful user of "the cloud." It helps to easily access anything I need by having my phone, computer, and iPad all synced through cloud apps. I haven't used a flash drive or USB in like, 2 years. You know how many times I get texts and emails, like, "Can you send me ___?" I can quickly send a link or screenshot without having to run to my computer. Ya girl does NOT have time to be slowed down.
  • Clock App- I'm not a morning person, at all. I work best at night, and it's not unusual for me to be up 'til 2AM, and not realize it's that late. Through the "Bedtime" section of the Clock App, I get reminders for when I should go to bed, and it plays a little nursery rhyme chime. I don't always take heed, but seeing it makes me start shutting down #becausenotifications

4. KNOW YOUR LIMITS! Block off non-negotiable time to be fueled.
I don't know about you, but introverts need time to recharge and refuel. You can absolutely tell when I’ve had time to myself versus when I’ve been going so hard that I’m drained. I have a rule that I don’t book back-to-back social gatherings on the weekend. If I’m going out on Friday, Saturday has to be my recharge day, or vice versa. In the rare event that I have commitments on both Friday and Saturday, I typically have had advance notice and adjusted my week to be prepared for “No-Rest-Weekend.” OH and I make time to unwind. Tuesdays are designated for gym and tv time at my Sister& Bro-In-Law's house.

Also, sick leave, for me, includes one day a month I take off from work to get myself together if I begin to feel overwhelmed. I know me- I'll overwork myself and not even realize it until it's too late. I give myself permission to slow down as a proactive measure.

I also put specific "guardrails" in my life to make sure I don't get caught in a cycle of doing so much and never being filled spiritually. You can't walk in God-given purpose, yet be so busy you fail to spend time with the One who gave you purpose. How many Christians out here have had pure motives for being involved in ministry, but got to the point where they were just going through the motions and routine? I've been there. Years ago, I told my Pastor I had to quit the Wednesday evening Children's Church because I was already teaching Sunday. I told myself that since I have a talent to teach, I had to use it in church. The problem was, I got to the point where I was in church, but never experiencing church because I was teaching instead of being in service.

  • Guardrail 1: I can only miss 1 service a week for ministry. If it's not my week to teach class, I'm in service. Don't ask me to do anything. *shrug* I'm not missing Sunday AM service for class, and then doing nursery for Sunday PM. I HAVE to get to church to be spiritually fed too #sorrynotsorry
  • Guardrail 2A: After work, nothing gets done until I've done my devotions and prayer time. Doesn't matter if I get home and my favorite tv show is on- DVR will get it. I don't want to get in the habit where I allow TV or social media to take precedence over my time with God.
  • Guardrail 2B: If you're too tired to come home and do devotions/prayer time, take your tail to bed. Don't touch the TV remote. Don't scroll through social media. Don't grab your computer. Don't send the work email. You're too tired to spend time with God (honestly, it happens), but what you're not going to do is forsake time with Him for something else.
  • Guardrail 3: "What you won't do is miss church because you need to catch up on something you didn't get to during the week!" That's me scolding myself. It's easy to see church as optional. Who's really enforcing your attendance?. When I first started back in grad school, I was tempted to miss evening service so I could work on assignments. I'm working on a doctorate- People would understand. The Holy Spirit prompted me that God doesn't want me to "rob from Peter to pay Paul" when it comes to purpose. God wouldn't ask me to not do 1 thing He's called me to do, in order to do the other. Me needing to skip church for schoolwork was because I misused my time during the week. Moments like these make me more mindful to abide by my schedule. Also, I've had moments when I went to church even though my assignment wasn't finished, and God honored my decision by only allowing me to miss minimal points (or none at all) for turning the assignment in a few hours late.

5. PARTNER UP! Have accountability partners to keep you on track. Delegate when, able.

My weekly schedule is advertised. My friends and family know it LOL. On Mondays, my parents say, "Alright, see you later. It's Study Night." On Tuesday, my sister texts me to encourage me to write. My office roommate watches the clock and yells at me when I don't start packing up immediately once school gets out. I'm organized but still "prone to wander." My accountability partners help me stay on track.

Also, this is still an area of growth, but I'm learning how to delegate. In Genesis, Adam was given the responsibility to maintain the garden including naming and caring for all the animals. Realizing the responsibility, God recognized help would be needed for Adam to accomplish what he was purposed to do, so he was given a "helpmeet." Yes, it was his wife, but the point here is walking in purpose isn't intended to be an individual thing. God gifts us with people to help carry the load. We have to accept help- Adam didn't refuse help.

I'm a perfectionist. I feel like if I don't do something myself, it won't get done right, but when I consider all that God has called me to do, I'm now able to discern what requires me being nit-picky and what doesn't. When I get caught in unnecessarily small details with tasks, typically the Holy Spirit hits me with, "Is this really something to consume yourself with? Who else could do this or do you need to do it at all?" It's been kind of freeing, and I realize, people are surviving without me doing every little thing for them.

 Ignorance is bliss. I know me. I’m always looking for new ways to do things, new hobbies, distractions from work I don’t want to do, etc. A simple, mindless scroll on social media will jumpstart new ideas and distractions so easily. I aim to scroll and swipe sparingly and mindfully.

Sometimes too much social media exposure will send you on a “rabbit chase” towards things that aren’t bad, but aren’t necessary for you to be involved with right now. Sometimes I have to fight the impulse to run to social media apps on my phone, to better protect my focus. Also, it can help to check in on how much time you spend on your social media. Last week, I managed to spend 12 hours on Instagram within 7 days. YIKES. Time for a social media fast!

The same thing applies to relationships. Some days, I'm incredibly drained from situations at work. Those are the days I'm intentional about not hanging out with work friends, unfortunately. The last thing I can handle is to be exhausted from work, and then go out to hear more complaints about work. Some days, I need to take a breather, shield myself from everything else, and just take a nap. Maybe it's the introvert in me? *shrug* Check out my blog on a similar topic: Unfollow in a Season of Faith Building.

Other ways I balance grind and self-care so I don't serve out of routine and detachment from God:
  • Podcast Game Strong- 75% of the time I'm in the car is devoted to listening to sermons from my echurches. I'm constantly feeding my spirit with scriptural sermons.
  • Choir Prep- It's so easy to be in the choir, performing, instead of realizing singing is an opportunity to worship God. I got tired of not enjoying songs because I didn't understand them. Now I have an alert that goes off 2 hours before church or a day before that reminds me to stop to listen to songs for the upcoming service and read the lyrics. I meditate on those songs so I truly understand what I'm singing.
  • Use your devotions wisely- Twice a month, I teach children's church and having to explain Bible stories to 4 year olds requires a clear understanding of the lesson. I have a calendar alert a week in advance and 1 day in advance that reminds me to study the lesson during my devotional time. It "kills two birds with one stone." I'm also in a book club with other singles reading a book called "Women to Women" about mentoring. I know that I struggle to have leisure time to read, so I've used it for my devotions this week too, because it has reflective questions and scripture to read with it.
  • Weekend Meal Prep- That's on my calendar for Saturday or Sunday. Eating semi-healthy helps avoid feeling slothful like when I'm weighed down from lots of carbs and fried food, but I do treat myself to Chick-Fila every pay day lol. #balance
  • Intentional Caffeination- I'm not a morning person, so sometimes I get to work grouchy. Naturally, I need like, 2 hours to be full functioning. Lately, I've found success with waking up about 30 minutes earlier and getting coffee into my system immediately. Then, I get another cup around 1:30PM so I'm alert for the remainder of the night to do other tasks once I get home

In closing, I just want to add, this balance isn't a perfect science. Some days are better than other, but for the most of the time, this is what works for me. How do you balance your grind and self-care?

Crossing Items Off my To Do List,

God, Help. We need balance. How dare we be called to earth for Your purpose, yet run on empty or out of routine. I pray for each and every reader, and myself. Help us understand the value of pulling away to be refueled by You. We cannot pour into the lives of others empty. Show us where we're wasting time, and show us how to redeem time to be on task. Guide us and strengthen us. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

More and More- Israel Houghton
I Love Your Presence- Bethel Music or David & Nicole Binion