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5 Tips for Setting Realistic Goals

tips on setting goals

Yesterday I wrote about why I think setting goals is a healthy thing. I do realize that some people don't like goals because they make them feel overwhelmed, too pressured, or a failure. Setting achievable and realistic goals can be a tricky thing, but with the few tips below, you'll be well on your way! I am in no way a master goal maker, but I've developed some ways to make sure my goals don't overwhelm or discourage me.

Think about goals for each role that you play in life
When I wrote my post on fall goals, you may have noticed that I had a goal for each area of my life- I had a goal for my job, a goal for my personal/social life, a goal for my blog, and a goal for my church life. Thinking of my life in certain categories- nurse, wife, friend etc. actually helps me set specific goals for each of those roles I play. That's not to say that each role I have has a certain goal, but by thinking of goals in these terms, I'm able to come up with a balanced range of goals.

Make your goals realistic
I think a lot of times the reasons goals or resolutions fail is that they're not very realistic. Your resolution is to workout 6 days a week at 6am when you haven't been working out at all? Please let me know how that's going in February. If your goal was to work out 2 days a week at 6am and then gradually increase, then you're probably going to have lot better results and your goal will be much more sustainable.

Goals are there to motivate us, but sometimes we need to keep our lofty ideas under control a little better. Starting slowly and building up to your final goal is usually a lot more effective and productive. If you feel like a goal you have is maybe too lofty, take it down a notch- you'll be more likely to achieve it, and if you supersede it-great! I always try to have my goals on the lower side of realistic- a number or measure that will still motivate me, but that won't be so unattainable that I get discouraged. If you're not sure if your goals are realistic, run them by someone- your friend, your spouse, your mom- and see what they think. Sometimes a little outside perspective is needed to develop some realistic achievable goals.

Make your goals measurable 
Creating measurable goals is the vital component in making your goals achievable and realistic. It can be hard to make a goal measurable, but it can be done. For example, if you are looking to grow your blog, maybe instead of just saying "grow your blog", put a specific number on it. For me, that meant giving myself a specific goal of how many times to post in a week. For you that may be participating in a certain amount of linkups, sponsorships etc. Whatever the goal is, make it measurable by adding a number, time frame, or something else that can help you see more concrete progress to your goal.

Be accountable to someone
Finding someone to hold you accountable to your goals is key to succeeding. For me, my accountability partner has been you, the blog world. That may seem silly to many because I know none of you are going to come hunt me down if I don't finish all my goals, but at the same time knowing that people are reading my goals and the outcome of those goals is enough accountability to keep me motivated.

Maybe you need an in-person accountability partner. Grab a friend and suggest that you make some goals together (not the same goals, you just each make your own goals and hold each other accountable to them); share your goals with your spouse and see if they'll hold you accountable. Find someone to report to- it will increase your motivation ten fold.

Give yourself a measure of grace
In all goal setting there is much to be said about giving yourself a measure of grace. No matter how hard you try to set realistic and achievable goals, sometimes they just won't happen. And that's okay. Goals that are unfinished can always be goals for the next season or next year. It's not a failure, it's just something to be continued.

Out of my five goals this past fall, I really didn't accomplish two of them. That means I barely accomplished half of my original goals, but I was okay with that. The three goals I did accomplish had kept me really busy and I felt good about what I had accomplished. By focusing on what I did achieve instead of on what I didn't achieve, I was able to be okay with not accomplishing two of my five goals.Those two goals I didn't finish are rolling into my goals for winter of 2015 and I'm perfectly okay with that.

Focus on the goals you do accomplish rather than the ones that you didn't, and remember that it's okay if they're not all done in the time frame you wanted them done. Life happens, give yourself enough grace to be okay with that.

What are some ways that you make realistic, achievable goals for yourself?  
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Why Setting Goals is Healthy

I don't know about you, but I've always been a goal setter and a lover of New Year's resolutions. I love the fresh start that a New Year brings, and I've always been a goal minded person. 

In college, my time, accomplishments, and goals were marked by semesters and summer break. Now that I'm a working adult without the structure of a school year, I've discovered that it's all too easy to let life slip by without me knowing where it went. I've had to learn to set goals that don't revolve around grades and school work, but still give me purpose to my days. 

How many of you hear your parents or other older adults say something along the lines of "I don't know where the time goes"? I think part of this is that life does go quicker than we ever expect, but I also feel like maybe less of us would say this if we lived our days with more intentionality and purpose. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I have found that setting realistic, achievable goals help me to live intentionally and I find myself saying "where has the time gone" a lot less. 

This week, a lot of people are reflecting on their goals and personal challenges for 2015 so I thought I would start of the week by discussing why I think goals are healthy. Later in the week I'll be sharing how to create realistic and achievable goals, as well as share my New Year's resolutions and my goals for winter 2015. 

First, let's look at why goals can be healthy. 

Goals provide focus and structure
In a world that's filled with dinging notifications, ten million people wanting our attention, and obligations coming out of our ears, goals serve to keep us focused. By having a few set things we have chosen to strive for, we decrease the likelihood of spending time on things that are unnecessary. We are able to better discern which obligations are important to us and which aren't. Having four or five goals in mind will help structure your days and time, allowing you to live life with more focus. I shared my goals this past fall, and I will tell you that having five themes to my season helped provide a much needed focus. 

Goals can quiet your life 
Many think that by adding goals they're simply adding something else to check off on their to-do list. I would argue the exact opposite. With a few achievable goals you attain focus of what's really important and then it becomes easier to set priorities and bow out of obligations that aren't in line with your goals for that season. Does everything you do have to be goal oriented? Definitely not. But I do believe that setting goals helps you prioritize things in your life, ultimately leading to a life of less stress. I am becoming increasingly passionate about finding a balance in life and learning not to be busy. Prioritizing my obligations based off of my goals helps me be and feel less busy, helping me find a better balance in life.

Goals can provide a sense of accomplishment
Ever since graduating nursing school, there have been few things that have left me feeling accomplished. When I was in college I got great satisfaction from finishing a paper and getting a good grade or finishing a clinical rotation. Now that I'm working, it seems like the chances to "complete" something and feel accomplished are few and far between. Setting goals and achieving them help me feel accomplished and add purpose to my days. 

Goals create effectiveness
I believe that adding structure (accompanied by a measure of grace of course) to one's life, can actually increase your effectiveness. By implementing a general framework (your goals) to your days,  your days and time off will be spent with a purpose. I don't know about you, but I've certainly had weeks and months of my life that I don't know what I did or where the time went. Of course, life was happening (as it always will), but the lack of structure made me feel like I hadn't done anything. By adding a few measurable and attainable goals, I find myself being more effective and efficient in all areas of life. I'm also able to look back at that season of life and know that I lived it with purpose. 


All of that being said about goals, I do understand the need for downtime. A life that's too structured can create stress in the same step that an unstructured life can. But sometimes in this culture of "go go go", the idea of some downtime is often forgotten and not even valued. If you're a busy mom or busy working professional, maybe scheduling down time for yourself is exactly what you need to do. Making downtime a goal is perfectly realistic and a healthy idea. 

The trick of it all is finding a balance between too much structure and too little structure. Goal setting can be tricky so read my tips on setting achievable, realistic goals that will help you feel less stressed and more accomplished.

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Five Goals for Fall: A Recap

accomplishing your goals

Back in October, I wrote a post discussing my five goals for fall. With Christmas less than a week away (how did that even happen?) I decided it was no longer fall anymore and it was time to examine how I did with my goals. 

1. Start working on our wedding scrapbook. 
I bought materials from Hobby Lobby. They now sit in the corner waiting to be used. Does that count? I'm hoping with winter upon us I'll be spending more time inside, thus spending more time on actually working on the scrapbook. 

2. Increase the posting frequency on my blog to 2-3 times a week. 
I actually did pretty good with this one and was consistent with twice a week posting except for maybe one week. For all of you who post every day- I don't know how you do it! I'm working on getting my consistency up and hopefully posting closer to 3-4 times a week in the new year. I did find that by posting more often I actually came up with more post ideas instead of less making it a lot easier! 

3. Get involved in one way at church. 
So basically, didn't happen. Not for lack of trying, however. We did email our church and never heard back from them so we're going to shoot them another email in the New Year and see where we can help out! 

4. Be intentional about making connections and creating community. 
It's funny- once I posted this goal, I had a few friends from work reach out to me to see about hanging out. Throughout the course of the past couple of months I've enjoyed a couple movies with a new friend and a walk with another. The outings and new friendships developed were a huge blessing to me this fall and have made our most recent move a lot easier! 

5. Get ACLS and PALS certified. 
If you don't remember from my original post, these were goals related to work and something I'd wanted to do. I took both classes the week before Thanksgiving and spent a few weeks up to then studying! It was a long week full of exams and testing scenarios, but now I'm officially certified to save you and your child's life so there's that. 


I must admit, between hanging out with new friends, studying for my certifications, and blogging more frequently, I had a lot less time this fall! But I can't even tell you how good having goals was for me. 

I'm a goals person and always thrived on the structure that came with school- semesters and seasons were my jam and made me tick. Now graduated, it's been easy to let seasons slip away, yet hard to find a purpose for this current life stage. All this to say- creating seasonal goals is a good idea for me... be on the lookout for my goals in the new year! 

Did you set goals for the fall? How did they go? Are you a goals person or would you rather just take life as it comes? 
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A Balanced Life: I'm not busy

I wrote last week on how I've spent the past year developing a work-life balance . I know that sometimes work isn't the problem; sometimes life is the problem and it's hard to find balance between spouses, kids, church involvement, volunteer work, and our relationship with God. 

A few weeks ago, DJs on a radio station I listen to were talking about this idea of busyness and one of the DJs mentioned part of this quote by Eugene Peterson: 
"I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself - and to all who will notice - that I am important... busyness is the enemy of spirituality... It's filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions." 
It's a long quote. Read it twice if you have to. Every word in the first part describes my heart. Every word in the second part strikes me with conviction. 

I was the girl in high school and college who had a planner jam packed with activities, tests, and meetings. Part of it was that I had a lot of assignments to keep track of and I was involved in {probably too many} sports and organizations. But a very large part of the jam packed planner was that I loved love being busy and I seem to thrive during the times where I am constantly going 24/7. I used to love it when people looked at my planner and made a comment like, "Wow, you're so busy; how do you do it all?" I didn't realize it then but I was addicted to busyness 

Then comes October 2013. I'm graduated from college, moved to a new city, working full-time, and married all within the span of a few months. All of a sudden I'm busy learning how to be a nurse and learning how to be a wife, but my schedule looks empty. 

I remember having coffee with a friend and confiding in her that I felt terrible that I wasn't doing more in church or in volunteer activities. She replied with, "Sarah, it's okay that right now your marriage is your ministry. Your job is your ministry." At first, I wasn't okay with her answer. But the more I let it sit, the more I realized she was right. 

I had become so addicted to doing this for church, being involved with this organization, participating in this fundraiser, that now I felt bad for not doing any of the above. But did I feel bad for the church or the people impacted by the organization? Nope, I felt bad for myself. I felt useless, selfish, and like I should be doing more. My friend's words were profound and caused me to realize that my need for busyness was a pitfall in my own heart. Instead of taking the transition period to really pour into my relationship with God, my new husband, and my new coworkers, I let guilt tell me that I was worthless. I forgot that my worth is in Jesus, and not in the things I do. In that moment, I didn't realize that the job and marriage set before me were the tasks requiring day-to-day faithfulness.   

Now, what I'm not getting at is that you shouldn't be involved in your church or different volunteering avenues. In fact, just the opposite. I think involvement in church and places that focus your eyes on someone else are so important. But involvement in these things must come from the right heart and at the right time. I've learned the hard way that being busy is another way to mask insecurity, and busyness can so quickly draw you away from what the Lord has for you. Below are the three strategies I've implemented over the six months to make sure that I am not being busy just to be busy or feel valued. 

Learn to say no. I'm preaching to myself here because I'm terrible at saying no (this is very connected to the fact that I want to please everyone). However, there have been a couple occasions in the past six months where I was presented with an opportunity that I felt like I should have said yes to, but was able to see that it wasn't good timing and therefore declined the offers. 

When contemplating saying yes or no to an opportunity, pray about the timing of it. The Lord may not be saying "no"; instead he may be saying "not yet". 

Develop a "rule of life". Perhaps the book that has influenced my life the most over the past six months is God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu. It was our church's read over the summer and an absolute fantastic book that I would recommend to everyone. The author's basic premise examines the life of the Benedictine monks and their so called "rule of life"- a series of practices (daily, weekly,  monthly, or yearly) that provide structure in their spiritual and every day lives. Shigematsu explains how developing certain practices in our life will actually help ground us spiritually and keep us focused on what's important. 

After reading the book, I started thinking about certain rituals that I could and should implement my life to give it a good order. Things like running on my days off, reading Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling", and prioritizing date nights with my husband are "practices" that have really helped me settle into life over the past few months. 

There is so much more that I want to share about this book and this idea that it's hard to sum it up here. Basically, what are some practices that you practice daily, weekly, and monthly that form the framework to your life? These should be rituals that are life giving, reenergizing, and important to you. That way, if you start finding that you no longer have time for these rituals, then maybe that's your clue that you are too busy with other things. 

Pick up a copy of that book and look out for more posts to come on this idea! 

Learn to be okay with not being "busy". How many of us when asked how life is going respond with something, "Oh good, just really busy!" I know I have (and still do). If you ask someone how they're doing and they responded "Oh good, just hanging out" would your initial reaction be a negative one? I think it's a major cultural shift (in Christian and secular worlds alike) to accept that not being busy is okay. Not being busy is not laziness, it's simply prioritizing what's important and paying more attention to God's work than your own. We (I) need to learn to be okay with not being busy. I need to remember that the pressing feeling of guilt that comes with a seemingly wide open schedule is not from God. Instead, I need to focus on God's work instead of creating my own. 

I need to stop finding value in a packed schedule, and take a few steps back to listen to what God is telling me is important at this moment in time. I have a long ways to go in this department but slowly, I'm learning. 

Have you struggled with being busy all the time? 
What are ways you keep a balance in life? 
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On A Budget: Saving on Groceries

how to save money on groceries

One of the biggest budget killers in any household is the category of groceries. We all have to eat, and who doesn't like to eat good food?? With some practice, Alex and I have learned to get a handle of this category. Below are the ways we keep our grocery bill down. Grocery prices can vary drastically depending on region, but using the basic principles I've described below, you'll be able to save a lot of money regardless of where you're located. 

1. Have a plan 
This is probably the most crucial step in saving money on groceries. Planning a weekly menu will help you be organized-you know what ingredients you need and already have, and you can use some of the same ingredients in multiple recipes. All of these things will save you major bucks. I started planning weekly menus and now I'm up to planning for the whole month (more on that in January!) Start small- plan one or two meals a week and then gradually increase from there. 

2. Shop less 
Having a plan means that you won't be going to the grocery store multiple times a week. The less time you spend in a grocery store means you'll spend less money because there's less of a chance of impulse purchases. We go to the grocery store once a week maximum and that's only if I forgot to pick up a critical ingredient that I can't substitute. 

By having a grocery list when I do go to the store and not going additional times beyond that, our grocery bill stays low. 

3. Shop sales
While making a menu plan for the week, I sit down with my grocery store's ads and try to plan at least a couple of my dishes around what's on sale. The sales I especially pay attention to are the sales on veggies and meat since these are the most expensive (and important!) parts of our grocery list. If something calls for an ingredient that's expensive and not on sale, I'll often substitute the ingredient (i.e. green peppers for red pepper) or, if possible, leave it out all together!

3. Be okay with repetition 
We have a really good dinner menu and I try a new recipe at least twice a month. However, breakfast and lunch stays pretty standard for us. Breakfast consists of cereal, toast, or fruit (maybe an egg if we have time), and lunch is almost always sandwiches or dinner leftovers. Alex and I are okay with the repetition and that keeps our costs low. We're not spending boku bucks on frozen entrees for lunch or different kinds of cereal, pancakes, fruit, frozen waffles etc. 

4. Get creative 
One end of the spectrum is being okay with repetition but the other end of the spectrum calls for some creativity when designing your meal plan. I know a lot of families that have a couple of meatless meals a week to help cut down on the meat cost. The hubby likes meat a lot so we only do meatless meals a couple nights a month. However, we save on meat by using cheaper meats that you wouldn't ordinarily think to use. For example, we use pepperoni in a couple dishes a month- it's cheap but still fulfills the protein need that Alex has. :) Turkey bacon or deli cuts of lunch meat find their way into mac n cheese or chef salad. I'll substitute ground turkey for ground beef in a lot of dishes because it's healthier and cheaper. 

Creatively substituting proteins or going meatless can significantly bring your grocery bill down. 

4. Buy less junk 
You will {almost} never find our house with soda, frozen snacks, candy, or other prepackaged items (think cookies, chex mix etc.) We do buy a couple bags of chips a month but only pull those out for the Broncos game. We try to have healthier snacks around like yogurt, nuts, and cheese sticks. Pre-packaged stuff is expensive and we'd rather just not have the temptation around. 

By skipping a lot of the prepackaged snacks we're healthier and we keep our grocery bill down. If you think you or your family will have trouble cutting out some of their guilty pleasures, start slowly. Don't buy soda for a couple weeks, then the next couple weeks don't buy soda or cookies- so on and so forth. Gradually breaking yourself in is the way to do it- soon you won't miss those items and when you do get them it is a true splurge! 

How do you save on groceries? 
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Monthly Date Challenge: Dancing Gone Wrong

cowboy boots for a date night at a country club

A few months ago, Alex and I initiated a monthly date challenge to motivate ourselves to get out of the house and go on different dates. The general idea is that we each plan a date for each month, that way we're having at least two monthly date nights (which is more than we used to!) 

November was Alex's birthday so I landed up not planning a separate date because I was so focused on all of the birthday festivities. Alex was on top of it and managed to plan a fun one for us. Read more below to find out about our dancing gone wrong and to see some pictures of my guy's birthday! 

Alex's Date 

There is nothing that I love more than walking through our front door and being greeted by my man saying, "Hey are you okay if we do something a little different tonight?" This little "something different" included me not having to cook dinner so of course I was game. 

We hopped in the car and drove to our favorite gourmet Italian place... Noodles & Co. It's actually not our favorite Italian place but Alex got a coupon for a free entree for his birthday month so that night it was our favorite. 

Then we made a pit stop at one of our favorite stores Goodwill. 

date night at Goodwill thrift store

Now, lest you think my man is cheap and doesn't plan good dates, I'm pretty sure Goodwill was not part of the original date. But. It happened to be right across the street from Noodles & Co. and we hadn't stopped by since we'd moved so thought we'd wander around inside so that the country club we were going to later would have a chance to get wild (more on that later). 

We actually do love thrifting and have gotten some pretty cool stuff from it, but this Goodwill was slightly ridiculous. There was a strand of (used) Christmas lights that was $15... we plugged it in and it didn't even work. Need I say more? 

We headed to this new country club that we'd heard about from a friend. After going, leaving to find an ATM because they only took cash (really, who does that?), and then going back, we entered a very large and empty country club. 

Alex and I LOVE country dancing, it's one of our favorite things to do and we had both been excited to try this place. We were ready to dance the night away! 

cowboy boots for date night at country club
(like our boots? yeah, me too)

We picked a perch on the side of the dance floor and immediately noticed that they were playing some really weird music. We had seen on the website that the night's theme was west coast swing and two step (not paying more attention to the "west coast swing" part was our first mistake). The music they were playing must have been considered "west coast swing" music. All we knew was that the five people that were dancing were definitely doing some step that we had no idea how to do. 

We decided to be patient and wait until after 9pm. After all, it was a random Thursday night and we figured the music would get better. It didn't. 

There was a continuous mix of weird oldies and hip hop. Did you know you could country dance to hip hop? Yeah, neither did I. But apparently you can, as was proven by the 60 year old couple that was somehow country dancing to Usher. 

Alex and I got out for a couple of dances to the two country songs they played, but for the most part this is how we felt about the night: 

funny face

 And this is the most fun I had that evening:

funny selfie with my husband

(One of my absolute favorite things to do is taking selfies of us while Alex isn't looking. I've thought about doing an entire blog post of these kinds of pictures. He's less than a fan).

We left the club after about an hour and decided that we need to go back on a normal night to try it again. It wasn't a date fail by any means because we had fun and spent time together, but it certainly was dancing gone wrong. 

Sarah's Date / Alex's Birthday Celebration 

I will admit I slacked on the date planning department in preparation for the big guy's birthday. We celebrated his birthday a weekend early because I was set to work the actual weekend of his birthday. 

The first weekend we celebrated an early birthday for both my husband and his mom whose birthday is three days before Alex's. We went out to eat at this Brazilian place (so.good.) and then opened presents at my in-laws house. 

tucanos brazilian grill allen bike rack dinner picture

For his birthday, I got Alex a bike rack for his car... something he's been wanting for forever. Despite it being winter and not being able to use it much right now, he was still pretty excited.

The weekend of his birthday I had Saturday off and was supposed to work Sunday (his actual birthday). Saturday we went to a little festival in the town we just moved from. They light a giant star in the middle of the town and there's always lots of free food and music. We enjoyed walking around our old town, enjoyed seeing the star lit, and then had pizza with friends after.

That Sunday night I had requested to be called off if they had an extra nurse at work. So after a terrible night's sleep (I was scared I would miss the call), they called me at 5:20 AM on my husband's birthday and made my dreams come true. I was so thankful I didn't have to go into work on his birthday!

That Sunday his family came up to Denver and we watched the new Hunger Games movie (intense for sure), then went to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory (which probably actually is our favorite Italian place... anyone else ever been to one??) All in all, it was a fun month filled with birthdays, yummy Thanksgiving dinners, and dates to laugh about.

the old spaghetti factory castle rock star lighting

How was your month?? Any fun dates? Anyone like country dancing besides us?
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Developing a Work-Life Balance

As I have transitioned into the work phase of my life, I have had to adjust to a number of things, the main thing being a developing a work-life balance. When one starts into the work force we are often prepared to work the long hours, go the extra mile, and take all the grunt tasks to “get ahead”. In trying to get ahead, I’m afraid many of us struggle with finding a work-life balance. We work hard because we’re trying to prove to ourselves, to our superiors, and to those around us that we can do this. A handful of us work hard because we enjoy our jobs, we feel needed, and we fill fulfilled. I would classify myself in both categories- I love my job, I feel fulfilled in what I do, but I also wanted to prove (to myself more than anyone) that I am a good nurse.

Part of what made developing a work-life balance difficult was there are many times when I feel like what I am doing at work is so much more valuable than time spent with family or time spent with friends. My Dad spent years working at an orphanage in Mexico, and my mom later told me that when he was raising us kids sometimes he felt like he wasn't doing much “good” because he was no longer helping the orphans. His sister reminded him that he is doing the most important job there is in raising his own kids, but I often wonder how many of us feel like my Dad? How many of us feel more useful and needed in our jobs than at home? Maybe we think that by focusing in on our time with family and friends that we are being selfish. I would argue just the opposite. You may feel needed at work but you really are needed at home too. The time you spend investing in those closest to you and the breaks that you should give yourself are what allow you to be effective in your day job.

In this first year and a half of being in the work force I've learned that more important than working hard in my career is learning to balance my work with other responsibilities. I've had to learn that my purpose is greater than my job, and that my purpose can include time spent with family and friends.

Both the family I was born into and the family I married into have been great examples of what it looks like to have a good work-life balance. Both families viewed (and still view) work as something that was necessary, working hard was a good thing, but family and relationships trumped all.

I've also spent some time in the last year and a half examining what this work-life balance looked like for Jesus. If we examine His life a little closer, He spent the first 30 years of his life developing relationships with his family and friends in preparation for his public ministry. During the times of His public ministry we know that he had a close relationship with his mother and we see how much time he spent with his family (the disciples). He spent a large majority of his time pouring into his disciples' lives, ministering to them, and then he took his ministry public.

Time with friends and family can feel selfish or fruitless, but something about this time spent nurturing relationships of those closest to us in turn provides us with strength that we may have not had otherwise. The time we spend outside of work can truly help us do our job better when we are at work. This time outside of work can easily be devalued if we’re constantly checking our work email, thinking about work, and doing tasks that really should only be done at work. There is much to be said for truly “leaving work at work”.

This work-life balance looks different for different people and may even look different depending on the part of the world you live in. For me, the work-life balance includes a few deliberate choices. I have chosen not to have my work email connected to my phone- nothing is going to happen if I get back to someone in a couple of days instead of a couple of minutes. This is something I really struggled with when I started my job- I was new and wanted to be professional and prompt so  I connected my email to my phone. I soon realized that this was causing me to think about work outside of work way more than I should have, and I was stressing about things that I read in my email without even having to set foot in the hospital. Disconnecting my work email was one of the best things I've ever done in achieving a work-life balance.

I also practice a few mental techniques to help me leave work at work. I have a 5 minute walk from the hospital to the car and during this time I imagine myself holding two suitcases, one in each hand. Each suitcase holds the bits and pieces of the day I just worked. As I walk towards my car I imagine myself dropping each suitcase on the ground and leaving all of my day on the grounds of the hospital. If a particular part of my day stays in my head on the drive home, I think about it during my drive and then pretend that I’m locking up that situation in my car as I lock the car doors to go inside my apartment.

In a job that’s filled with human connection and personal exposure into people’s (often sad) life stories, I’m not always good at leaving everything at work. Sometimes I walk through the door and have to unload my day on Alex (bless his heart). The verbal processing is sometimes the only way I can get over my day but  I also try not to make it a habit. Sometimes talking through my day will actually make it a lot worse and it’s easier if I leave things unsaid and keep my house a safe work-free zone.

The main way that I keep a healthy work-life balance is by making the most of my days off. This means taking time to take care of myself and not feel guilty about it. Some days this means that the house isn't cleaned and dinner is frozen pizza. This means taking time to meet with friends and putting in the effort to hang out with someone. This means taking time to connect with family whether it’s dinner together or Facetime. This means taking time to invest in my two most important relationships that I have- getting in the Word with my guy Jesus, and having date nights with my guy Alex.

By disconnecting myself, using imagery techniques, and making the most of my days off, I feel like I’ve developed a healthy work-life balance. Work is work. It is not and should not be the only thing that defines you or the only thing in life that gives you purpose. You were given the people around you for a reason, and the strength you gain outside of your work day by investing in these relationships will make you ten times more effective at your job. Finding a work-life balance is vital in this life journey; it’s a process but it’s a process that will contribute to your health, your peace, and your overall happiness in this life.

Have you ever struggled finding a healthy work-life balance?  What are some ways that you have developed a healthy mix of the two?
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**Sometimes out of work obligations are just as stressful (or more stressful) than work obligations- come back next week for a followup post on balancing life demands**
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