What is “Balance”
I don’t like the term “Work/Life” balance because it implies that there are only two areas of importance: Work and Life. The reality for most of us is that “Life” is actually composed of several important roles: Parenting, Homeownership, Friendships, Community, “Me” time, etc….
Most of us already spend at least half our waking hours at work. This does not leave much time for the other important areas in your life.
How I Plan My Week
Every weekend I go through the following ritual to plan the coming week.
1. Review your Personal Mission Statement
Although not absolutely necessary to begin, a personal mission statement gives you guidance and is a reminder of what is important to you. If you don’t already have one, take some time to write one. Every week review your mission statement and update it as necessary.
My Personal Mission Statement:
To find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living I will strive to:
- Make a positive difference in the lives of others;
- Spend more quality time with friends and family;
- Simplify my life; work less; have more “perfect days”; and keep an open mind;
- Do great things; strive for excellence; and inspire others.
- Apologize sincerely when necessary.
- Remember that life is short; be grateful; relax and enjoy the moment; Memento Mori.
2. Identify & Review your Roles
Achieving “balance in life” isn’t about getting a 50/50 balance between “work” and “life”. You play many more than just 2 roles in life. You should devote time to all the roles you play: Individual, Father, Husband, Friend, Employee, Homeowner, Artist, World Traveler, Adventurer, etc…
Identify all the roles you play in your life that you would like to devote more time to. Ideally you should have somewhere between 4 -8 roles identified. Each week you should make an effort to spend a little bit of time in each role.
- Father / Husband
- Family Member (son, brother, cousin)
- Employee / Entrepreneur
Every week I review this list of roles to ensure that they are current.
In addition to the roles above, there are 4 special “personal renewal” roles that you should devote time to each week:
- Physical: Eat healthy, exercise, etc…
- Mental: Read, learn, etc…
- Social: Strengthen existing relationships, form new relationships, networking, etc…
- Spiritual: Meditate, nature, music, religion, etc…
3. Identify and Review your long term Goals
For each of your roles (except the personal renewal roles) your should define some long term goals. What are some big picture goals that would make a tremendous difference if you accomplish them? Make them as specific as possible and not too vague. Each week you should spend a little bit of time getting closer to your goals.
I review my goals weekly to make sure they are still important to me and that they align with my personal mission statement.
Some of my Goals :
- Individual: Resume Painting; Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro; Visit the Pyramids of Giza.
- Father / Husband: Weekly date night; 10 year anniversary trip; Build swing set;
- Family: Help my father lose 50lbs; Family cottage trip;
- Friend: Help my friends identify and achieve their goals;
- Homeowner: Renovate garage; Build a pool;
4. Identify your Priorities and Plan your Week
One I’ve reviewed my mission statement, roles, and goals I’m ready to start identifying my priorities for the week and scheduling them into my calendar. For each of my roles I choose between 1 and 3 important priorities/tasks to work on that week.
Here is the process I go through to identify my priorities for the week:
- Leftovers from the previous week: I always look back at my previous week to see if there is anything that I wanted to get done that I didn’t get done. I then decide if I want to bring these over for the current week or not.
- Previously scheduled commitments: I look over my coming week to identify any previously scheduled commitments, holidays, events, etc… and add them to the appropriate role.
- Maintenance and unforeseen important tasks: There are usually some “unplanned” things that pop up every week that should be added to my list of priorities: Things like paying bills, making required repairs to your home/car, etc..
- Your Goals: Finally I look at the goals I defined for each role and make it a priority to do something that will get me a step closer towards achieving those goals.
In an ideal world all your weekly priorities would be centered around your goals, but often times there will be other important or urgent things that will compete for your time. Please read my post “The Four Quadrants of Time Management” to better understand the difference between “important” and “urgent” things.
Example of my weekly priorities:
- Physical: Gym x2; Run x3; Nutrition
- Mental: Learn a new Language; Read a book
- Spiritual: Go for a solo Hike; Play Guitar; Meditate;
- Social: Go out for lunch with co-workers
- Individual: Research VISA requirements for travel to Kenya; Research recommended training regiment for Mt. Kilimanjaro climb; Research estimated costs for trip;
- Father / Husband: Buy flowers for wife; Spend 1-on-1 time with daughter; Start budget/savings plan for 10 year anniversary trip;
- Family: Visit my father weekly (and call daily) to make sure he is following his Slow Carb Diet.
- Friend: Go for drinks with friends;
- Homeowner: Look at municipal pool regulations; Fall cleanup / maintenance
5. Schedule your Priorities
Using a calendar, task list, or other time management tool, schedule all of your activities into your calendar. I prefer to use the iOS calendar on my iPhone to schedule the time to perform all my priorities for the week. So if one of my priorities is to plan a family trip to Europe, then I will block off 1 hour in my schedule to perform the planning & research. It is ok if I don’t get all the planning done in the 1 hour block, what is most important is that I am chipping away towards achieving my goal. The next week, I’ll schedule another 1 hour block.
You can also use a task list or other time management tool, but I find putting all your priorities into a calendar helps you see how your realistic your week will actually be. It will also allow you to see where there will be time crunches or conflicts, etc…
Remember, the point is to get balance in your life, and to spend a little bit of time in all the “roles” you’ve defined.