finding the balance

finding the balance

Last year was very busy on the farm with The Barley Barn renovation, Open Days, the launch of the new business and the massive tidy up before Beth’s wedding, on top of the normal day to day routine. For the first time in a long while, I felt that life was getting a little unbalanced.

One of the lessons I learned when I started working (in fact at 4.55pm on my first day) was to clear my desk at the end of the day. Spending five minutes deliberately packing away was a conscious way of ending the working day and meant that each new day started afresh with a clean space. It’s a habit I’ve tried to continue in the farm office but last year my desk disappeared for weeks at a time under piles of paperwork and files on the computer were left open to be dealt with later (thank goodness for auto save). After the paperwork had cleared and my desk returned to order, I realised that the balance between online and real life was also off kilter. How had I gone from using the internet for fifteen minutes a day dealing with emails and finding information to losing an hour or more reading blogs and other social media? Something had to be done.

First I applied my clear desk policy to comments on my blog, newsletters and blog feeds; open it and deal with it. No more skimming through and going back later to read properly or to comment. If the newsletter or blog feed didn’t interest me I deleted it instead of just leaving it unread with a vague notion that I might return to read it later and if I was continually deleting particular ones, I clicked to unsubscribe.

But what of the time still spent blog hopping, gazing at photos and online chatting. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered some delicious recipes or known about printing with a mangle or 101 other things that have enriched my life; I wouldn’t have enjoyed conversations and connections made, such as this day with Jane (the Shady Baker). As Elizabeth pointed out here, time spent online can be “inspirational, creative and horizon-stretching … “up to a point” and beyond that point I’m not so sure that it’s so creative a way to spend time. The virtual can take over from reality as well as emulate it.” So, no more. While I’m not sure I can revert to the days when my computer was switched off from Friday evening to Monday morning (how will I sneak online hints to complete the crossword in the Saturday newspaper when it’s particularly difficult?) I try not to go online on Sundays or after eight in the evening and to use the time more productively. Rather than join the bloggers whose New Year resolutions are to blog more often, extend their reach on social media and tell their story on Steller, I shall stick with the tribe who blog when the fancy takes them and use their phones for chatting to friends rather than photographing their life to share with the world.

Most importantly I’ll be making the time to walk. It doesn’t surprise me that a Cambridge University study recently found that a brisk twenty minute walk could add years to your life. Quite apart from the physical benefit of exercise it’s good for mental health too. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, being in the countryside or the rhythm of walking or perhaps a mixture of all three, but I have my best ideas and solve problems when I’m walking (though the more I think, the slower I walk). We usually have a long distance walk on the go that we do in stages, snatching a couple of days at a time when the farm work is up to date and the weather is set fair, but last year whenever we thought about walking, something cropped up and we put it off. So, this year we are going to schedule specific dates for walking; once they’re written in the diary then we’ll stick to them. It will probably pour with rain and we’ll mutter that it was a stupid idea and return to our old ways. We’ll see. And we haven’t managed to agree on the dates yet. But we will.

17 thoughts on “finding the balance

  1. Anny says:

    Oh yes, nodding along with so much of this. Good luck with the walking – having a dog makes this part of my daily ritual and I definitely value the headspace it provides, plus of course the fun of seeing the seasons going round. As far as limiting my time online goes, well having teenage daughters seems to exclude me from the computer after about 4.30pm in the week and pretty well all weekend – unless I sneak in the occasional peek – which is what I’m doing now!

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  2. rusty duck says:

    Yes, it can get out of hand.
    We have not (yet) evolved to sit at a computer all day. Our bodies are still programmed to hunt and gather. I can quite believe walking adds years to your life, I certainly know how much better I feel after an afternoon on the coast path.

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  3. dianeskitchentable says:

    I don’t know if it was a saying of mothers world wide, but in the States just about every mother of my generation would say “everything in moderation”. I think you’re right about finding the correct balance and I imagine it’s a little different for everyone. When I retired, my sister in law would scream at me about setting a timer. I’d just look at her though and say, “why? If I’m enjoying what I’m doing, why shouldn’t I keep doing it.” I think the best thing since starting my blog has been to really appreciate people from all over the world…new recipes but also different ideas and perspectives.

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  4. Brian Skeys says:

    We always have good intentions to go for a walk, I think when you work outside and the weather is foul you can quickly lose the motivation. Whereas sitting in the warm with a cup of tea, reading blogs on the lap top is very inviting!

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  5. Christina says:

    I hope you’ll find the right balance that works for you. Being mindful like you are is a good step towards it I think. Walking is nice, the younger ones and I usually walk the dog right after school for a good hour.

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  6. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    Read your take on this perennial q with much interest. It’s not easy keeping the equilibrium right. A couple of years ago I started walking every morning first thing and it’s been one of the best things I’ve taken up in a long time – clears the mind, opens perspective and I’m considerably fitter than I was. Interestingly I think it’s also made my ability to field the curved balls of life with less stress too. Not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s being reminded always of the bigger perspective – the immediate seems to matter less against a big sky and open horizon. Don’t always walk for long – depends what the day holds but I really miss it if I can’t walk at all of an early morning. Good luck with your own balancing act – you always seem very grounded to me so I am sure you have it pretty much right. E x

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  7. Liz says:

    Are those my scales?? We have just returned from ten days in Tasmania and there are some spectacular walks there – we only had time for day walks at Freycinet Peninsula and Cradle Mountain but you could always do the 6 day overland trek?! – yes, this is a poorly disguised attempt to persuade you to come visit your sister Down Under.

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  8. thegardendeli says:

    I like your approach to online life – especially the idea of dealing with comments, etc immediately… I’m going to try to follow your lead on that one. Not sure I’ll ever manage the tidy desk policy though!

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  9. Emilie @ The Clever Carrot says:

    Well said sista!

    Balance is tricky, in every department. I wish I could adopt your tidy desk policy in the *kitchen*. Goodness, I try! But there’s always something out of order when I wake up in the morning. Such is life 😉

    And I hear you on the blogging forefront- you have to do what’s best for you and make the most of your time as you see fit. I’m drawn to blogs that depict how they feel at the moment and not the latest trends.

    Enjoy the week, Anne!

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  10. Jane says:

    So funny that you wrote that bit about dealing with blog posts/comments right away, since I have clicked on, then not had time to read, this post of yours a couple of times! I always like the theory of dealing with things right away… and I must make more effort to actually follow through. Walking, yes to that. Our new dog has been a fantastic and hard-to-ignore excuse to get us out and about.

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