Balancing Multiple Commitments
You can do anything, but not everything.— David Allen.
David Allen is a productivity consultant who basically penned that quote for me. In my attempt to have it all, I tried to do it all. I wanted to be a great husband, change my career path, and I also wanted to be able to help provide for my family. Balancing multiple commitments is not easy. For me, it required prioritizing the things that are important in my life, an understanding support system, and keeping my goals in front of me. With these three things, I was able to be a supportive husband and father, and ‘A’ student, and help provide for our growing family. Here’s my story:
My wife and I got married the summer before I went back to school to pursue my second Bachelor’s degree. Also during that summer, I quit my job as a high school chemistry teacher, and I picked up a more flexible job as a chemist. A lot of life changing events happened then, but I felt lucky to be able to use my first Bachelor’s degree in chemistry to work full time while also being able to go back to school.
I was with my new company for about a month before I started school. It didn’t even take the full first week of school before I realized how challenging balancing the two commitments would be. Not only was I still learning the procedures at work, but I was responsible for learning the material in my classes while also finding time to sleep and be a supportive husband.
- Prioritize The Things That Are Important In Your Life
During the first few weeks of school, I didn’t have a plan to effectively do both work and school well, not to mention the responsibilities I had at home. I was constantly tired, and I wasn’t doing any one thing particularly well, aside from just making it to the next day. After a couple weeks of this, the teacher side of me finally took over, and I created a plan to map out all of my commitments and prioritize their importance. I wrote down everything that I needed to do in a week, and with my wife’s help, we ranked the commitments by importance. Doing this helped us visualize and prioritize what we felt was important. Here’s how we ranked things at the time:
- Coding class
- Easy intro classes
- Family time
- House responsibilities
- Friend time
Without prioritizing and working with my wife, I wouldn’t have pegged sleep as the top priority for me over work, school, or my family. However, we were able to reason that if I can find time to get enough sleep during the day, I would be better prepared to handle work and school. We both knew that doing well in my classes would lead to opportunities for a better career, so we set aside our time together for when there was time available. So, for the rest of the semester, my sleep times were all over the place, but we made sure I got enough sleep. From there, most of the commitments that were written down were completed throughout the week.
When you’re deciding how to prioritize what’s important to you, being able to see all of your commitments by writing them down helps because you can compare priorities and rank them based on their level of importance in your life. In my case, without good sleep, I wouldn’t have been effective at anything else on my list. At the end of my list I had friends and fun activities, like going to the movies or playing games. While my social life suffered for a short time, I was able to see that I had other things that I felt were more important at the time.
2. Have An Understanding Support System
About halfway through my first semester, my wife and I found out we were expecting our first child. It was wonderful news for us! We were both excited, but then preparing for our child became another commitment that I needed to add to my list. We needed to plan doctor visits and save for medical expenses. As much as I wanted to go to every doctor appointment with my wife, we both knew that my schedule was tough as it was.
We ended up going to appointments together when we were scheduled to connect with our baby in some way. Ultrasounds were the main appointments I attended, and each visit was worth the time spent without question.
Having my wife be as understanding as she was at the time was invaluable. Not only were we on the same page about where my priorities needed to be, but she was able to support me in so many other ways that I wouldn’t be able to thank her enough for.
And not just her, but both of our parents understood that what we were going through was to enable us to have a better, more fulfilling life. They were always encouraging and offering support where they could. Looking back on it now, I feel so fortunate to have had such an amazing support system to help me balance all of my commitments.
Having a support system that understands what you’re going through can make the difference between succeeding in managing multiple commitments and failing. It’s important to be connected to people, whether family, friends, or other people who are going through the same thing, so that you can have people on your side to help you through these tough times. Without my wife and family, it would have been so much harder for me to succeed in balancing my commitments.
3. Keep Your Goals In Front Of You
In May the following year, our son, Harrison, was born. I had just finished the first year of my second degree, and I had some time to spend with my family without any work or school commitments. I made sure to cherish all the time we had together.
In June, I went away for a 10 week internship in a different state. My son wasn’t even one month old at that time. This was a hard time for all of us. While I was away taking summer classes and doing the internship, my wife stayed with her family, about 8 hours away from where I was staying. It was during this time that we both reassured each other in knowing that what we were doing was for a better life.
Our goals centered around having a better life for our family. Whenever I questioned whether or not I made the right call in accepting the internship, I looked at the goals we had and found that this decision linked directly to them.
Creating and keeping goals when balancing multiple commitments helps you see the big picture of what you’re doing. It provides the motivation to succeed, and the drive to keep going. If your goals don’t align with one or more of your commitments, this would be a good time to ask yourself why aren’t your commitments lining up with what you’re trying to accomplish, and how can it be adjusted to where your commitments correlate with where you’re trying to go in life.
So, the 10 weeks came and went, and I was reunited with my family again, for good this time. We had one more year to prepare for, but unlike the previous year, we had a plan in place to get through it.
I knew that to balance all of my commitments, I had to have my priorities in order, my support system, and my goals at the forefront of my mind to help me get through to graduation and my new career.
How do you balance multiple commitments?
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