Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel

Serene and peaceful.

Serene and peaceful.

This week I am on a long-awaited vacation with my husband and three boys to Yellowstone! It has been a hectic few months leading up to this vacation with work deadlines, home, family, community responsibilities, the never ending errands … and, of course, last week’s high school graduation celebration for my middle son.

In honor of this week’s vacation, I thought it would be fitting that I engage you in a discussion about the aspects of finding a work/life balance. We all feel like hamsters on their wheels sometimes.  Actually, now and again I feel like someone put me inside a tractor tire and rolled me down the pasture hill…BUT in honor of the fact that I am on vacation this week and did jump off the ever-moving hamster wheel, I’m going to suggest a few methods to get some balance back into our lives:

Method #1 – Organization

First of all remember, organization does mean different things to different people. But, getting organized in your own way will not only serve you in your quest for balance, but it will also make you feel better.  Organization is a real mood-elevating method that adds a feeling of tranquility to your daily life.  Here are a few basic things to think about:

  • Get yourself organized at work so that you are more efficient and productive while you are there. Efficiency means you are able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort. Technology really has some great tools to help us get organized, but even old fashioned methods like keeping a written planner and documenting your tasks on a calendar is a great way to stay on top of deadlines and routine activities.
  • Organizing your home life, in my opinion, is more important than being organized at work. A little planning and communication can go a long way. At our house we delegate household chores and responsibilities between every family member. I also keep a list of my family’s favorite meals inside the cupboard door for those dreaded times when I say, “What should I make for supper?”
  • Finally, if you have a job, a family, and a house to run, you may need to use your organization skills to make sure that you get some free time for yourself. Carve out time to do some of the things you like to do like sports, community work, going to the movies, kayaking, reading, or shopping.

Method #2 – Time management

You can be as organized as you like, but if you don’t figure out what happens when and in what order, you may find your desk at work littered with household bills and your at-home bathroom reading consisting of grant proposals. Time management can be compared to money management: You need to set a time budget of priorities and what’s going to give you the best return on investment. Time management also means that when you’re at work, your brain is at work. And when you’re at home, it’s at home giving full attention to your family. Become a split personality and enjoy yourselves!

Method #3 – Delegation

You’re a multi-tasking maniac, burning the midnight oil, taking the heat when the office goes up in flames, and then putting out that fire. But, then personal burnout hits! What we must learn from these experiences is 1) You do not need to do all of it all the time all by yourself; and 2) You may be stealing the thunder from your very talented coworkers by underutilizing their considerable talents. So learn the D word: Delegation.

And of course, you should delegate at home. Kids can take on some of the chores to learn skills and responsibility. Allow teenagers who drive to run errands and chauffeur younger ones to activities.  Teach your 12-year-old to cook and you will have supper on the table when you get home! It may take a village to raise a child but it takes a lot of teamwork to run a sane household.

Method #4 – Simplification

In one word – serene;  in two words – slow down. Your life and well-being is worth more than fame or fortune, so work on simplifying your daily processes and find that work-life balance.

These methods are guidelines that I refer back to often when I overdose on work and too many activities, finding myself in that spiraling cycle toward burnout. Therefore, I feel honor-bound to tell you, at the close of this column, that I am by no means an expert in the art of a work-life balance.  But, saying it out loud and talking about the craziness of life with your spouse, your friends, your family, or your readers sometimes reveals a simple solution to getting off that hamster wheel more often.  Farewell, from Paula in Yellowstone!

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4-H Isn’t All Cows & Cooking

Imagine a community filled with self-confident, innovative, knowledge-driven youth, who celebrate each other’s successes, and lend a hand when their neighbor needs help. Sound too good to be true? When was the last time you attended a 4-H club meeting?

I grew up on a farm in rural Day County and each summer my siblings, my neighbors, and my cousins all spent countless hours helping each other tend to animals, make projects, bake, garden and more just to have the opportunity to learn and participate in our local Day County Fair 4-H events. Today, my own three sons, who have grown up without a farm, have chosen to be a part of Marshall County 4-H and now spend their summer in shooting sports, managing their mowing business, raising animals (thanks to the 4-H leader) and participating in many other similar 4-H activities that I grew up with as a 4-Her. But, 4-H has definitely evolved over the past decades. Traditionally 4-H was linked arm-in-arm with agriculture, but over the years 4-H has increasingly moved towards mainstream American life as our rural communities are losing population. 4-H now teaches topics ranging from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, entrepreneurship, environmental protection and computer science. These focus areas are developed nationally to improve the future workforce’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century.

In Marshall County we have 77 4-H members in five clubs. Nationally, 4-H boasts of 6 million current 4-H members, 30 million alumni, and a 111 year track record. However, 4-H in our nation continues to fly beneath the cultural radar. Unless you happened to be raised in rural America, chances are you might not have crossed paths with 4-H. But 4-H does continue to be a vital thread of our communities, and it’s a program that deserves our interest and support. Here are a few things 4-H does for our youth:

• 4-H projects are roadmaps to productivity ‘4-H projects’ created with innovation, goals, a thought process, and skilled precision. 4-H also offers booklet-based educational programs which engage 4-Hers in a step-by-step explanation about how to do… well… just about anything. For example, Canning and Freezing, Gardening, Tractors, Forestry, Pet Care, Poultry, Small Engine Repair and Beef Cattle. Each participant is required to complete a series of written objectives, as well as hands-on activities relating to the topic. In short, projects aren’t simply how-to guides; productivity is required as a component to the coursework.
• Emphasis on intellectual curiosity Aside from completing their 4-H projects, all participants give an annual presentation or demonstration to their fellow club members about what they’ve learned from their projects. Not only does this foster public speaking and communication skills, but it places the student in a peer-based environment where members support one another. Field trips accentuate this trajectory, providing club members with tangible, real world perspectives.
• The program teaches self-confidence, and provides a peer-based safety net It’s by nurturing intangible qualities such as confidence and creativity where 4-H might provide its greatest service to our youth. The structure of the club itself encourages collaboration and leadership within the community, with knowledge (and a little old-fashioned fun) as the reward.

I can still recite the 4-H pledge by memory: “I pledge my Head clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living… for my club, my community, my country, and my world.” This was a serviceable motto back in 1902, and is just as useful today. Perhaps these words will inspire a new generation of Marshall County youth, and propel them towards the tremendous new opportunities. We’re certainly going to need them.

Over the next few weeks South Dakota communities will host County Fairs and Achievement Day events across the state to promote 4-H activities and achievements. Marshall and Day Counties will host their events in August. Here is link of all South Dakota 4-H events if you would like to find one near you to support. http://igrow.org/4h/south-dakota-4h/2013-4-h-county-achievement-days-schedule/.