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Why You Should “Tilt” Instead of Aiming for the Perfect Balance

By Pam Dewey • work life balance, work-life balance, finding balance, multi-tasking, parenting, balance for families, balance for parents • October 14, 2021

We’ve all heard of the elusive, perfect work-life balance. People who are very successful in their fields seem to have mastered it. Or maybe you have a friend with perfect hair, an immaculate house, well-adjusted kids and a thriving marriage. Or at least that is what you see from the outside.

But what you aren’t seeing is that your friend hired a housekeeper, and maybe she stays up until midnight every night trying to cram it all in. In other words, perfect work-life balance is a myth. We simply don’t have time to do it all, all the time. That’s where the idea of tilting comes in. Apartment Therapy states, “While ‘balance’ makes me feel like I have to do everything at once, stretching me too thin and not giving me the room to do anything well, ‘tilting’ recognizes that priorities change day to day and season to season.”

You don’t have to “give up” on things

We all have different areas of life that are important to us. Maybe you like to go running, cook meals from scratch or read to your kids every night. But you might not have time to do all these things every night, particularly when your kids are in soccer, or you’re focused on a big project at work. Tilting means letting some things go while you focus on others. According to Apartment Therapy, “Focusing on one thing doesn’t mean abandoning something else, it just means putting it aside until you can give it just as much attention as it deserves, when the time is right.” You can get back to cooking or running more after your project is over.

You have to normalize not doing everything

Writer Brooke McAlary advocates for a slower lifestyle and tilting. She writes, “Let’s normalize the idea of stepping back, as opposed to stepping (or running) away. Learn to recognize it as another facet of care.” McAlary suggests rather than becoming so overwhelmed that you want to run away, recognize you can’t do everything. Self-care isn’t just a face mask and a glass of wine. Real self-care is acknowledging that you have limits, and you don’t have to commit to everything.

That might mean saying no to some invitations, deciding to pick up dinner or hiring a housekeeper to help out. It also might mean simply that your floors only get mopped once a month. And that’s okay, too.

Give yourself time off from “should”

Along this same line of thinking is giving yourself time to relax and recharge. On the podcast Death, Sex & Money, actress Ellen Burstyn talked about having “should-less days,” or days where she doesn’t do anything she “should.” Burstyn said, "I have wiring in my brain that calls me lazy, if I’m not doing something. I haven’t been able to get rid of it. But what I can do is I can put in another wiring, I can put in should-less days, so when that voice goes off and says you’re being lazy, I turn to the other wiring in my brain that says, no, this is a should-less day, and I’m doing what I want." Being productive is great, but you also require rest. You might not have time to do a should-less day every week, but maybe you can plan a day off to relax once a month. Giving yourself time to rest also ensures you have the energy to support your friends and family and continue doing a good job at work.

Create more time by trying new things

Another way to feel like you’re creating more time is to try new things. In her book “Care,” McAlary writes about a neuroscientist whose “research has shown that one of the best ways to slow down time is to do something new…When we turn off autopilot, when we stop and pay attention, we gift ourselves more time.” She suggests it can be something as small as stopping to notice new details like a tree on your street or all the colors in the rug in your living room. You could also try a new recipe or take your kids to a new park. Doing something new slows your brain down and helps you focus on what you’re doing. This makes you more present, and it can help you feel like you’re stretching out time.

Letting go of some things temporarily helps you focus on new things, and it also gives you more time to engage with these activities fully. It’s also good to acknowledge that you can’t commit to everything, and that you need time to recharge. And if you feel like life is rushing by, try some new things. It will slow your brain down and force you to focus more on the present moment.