I’ve researched others’ research, scoured through opinion after opinion – from thought leaders, experts, and friends. In the end, I don’t want to put together just a description of work-life balance. I want to provide an actionable resource that you could use TODAY to make a difference in your life.
Let’s start with the truth, as I see it…
Much like any goal you set, balancing your work and your life takes intentional effort. There is no magic pill or easy fix to find balance. You won’t “fix it” and forget it… you have to work at it. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
You also will NOT have every area of your life in balance at the same time AND have anything other than unexceptional experiences and results in those areas. When everything gets equal attention and everything runs smoothly all the time, then everything gets just enough attention to be mediocre.
Don’t we want more out of life than mediocrity?
If you answered “no”, then you can stop reading now. But, if you answered “yes” – or like me, yelled “YES!”, then continue reading. I sincerely hope the information and exercises below will make a difference in your life.
I invite you to 1) read this post in its entirety 2) download the worksheet 3) read this post again as you complete the worksheet (print it or use it as a journal prompt) and 4) review the worksheet daily!
Define Success and Happiness
It is VITAL that you define what success means to you.
It is equally VITAL to define what happiness means to you.
I will delve deeper into success and happiness in a future blog post, but let start with the basics.
You must separate success and happiness in your mind. They do not mean the same things.
Many people associate success with wealth – with having a career that makes enough money to purchase things. Is this how you define success?
Dictionary definitions of success:
- the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
- the attainment of popularity or profit
- a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity
So, regardless of your definition of success – it seems that it should be associated with an accomplishment or achievement. YOU decide what achievements or results you want to have had to be successful.
You MUST define this yourself. Set goals for what success will look like. Otherwise, you will never know if you are successful because you didn’t set the bar.
Positive Psychology definitions of happiness:
- Experiencing frequent positive emotions such as joy, interest, and pride
- Experiencing infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.
- Engagement in activities that you lose track of time doing – a state of flow
- Having strong relationships
- Having a sense of meaning and purpose
- Celebrating small achievements
In Positive Psychology, this is known as PERMA. You can read more about PERMA in the previous blog post, 5 Elements of Thriving.
Happiness is a feeling. Our feelings are created by our minds – by our thinking. It is always available to us. DO NOT tie your happiness to your success. Your happiness should be independent of your success.
Take 15 minutes. Set a timer.
Imagine you are 100 years old and you’re looking back on your life.
How would you describe your successful life? What goals will you have achieved? What will you have accomplished?
How would you describe your happy life? What emotions will you have experienced often? What will your strong relationships have looked like? How will you have lived for something bigger than yourself?
This is NOT what you think others expect of you or what society would say you should do to be successful. This is NOT what your parents have told you success or happiness is.
Don’t overthink it…just write from your authentic self.
We are all “too busy”. None of us have enough time to do all the things we want to do. The key – MAKE MORE TIME. Yes, there are ways to make more time. One way to make time is to get your priorities straight.
Make sure you are spending your time doing the things you want to be spending your time on.
What is a priority? A priority is what is most important in your life.
Look at your entire life:
- Personal Growth
What is the most important thing to you and are you giving it enough time?
What is the second most important thing – are you giving it enough time?
Keep in mind that “most important” does not always equal most time spent. In fact, often it doesn’t. Typically we give most of our time to making money and sleeping.
Your most important thing may be your health. That may just require an hour a day.
Are you giving your top priorities enough time?
Once you have your top 5 Life Priorities, prioritize each down to the top 3 priority activities within each one.
For example, if your top Life Priority is Health – what is your top priority when it comes to your health? Losing weight, perhaps? Second priority when it comes to your health? Sleep?
What if you consider taking diet pills to meet your “losing weight” priority? You have to ask yourself if this matches with your “health” Life Priority.
Where to Focus
Given that you can never have true balance, how do you prioritize? One way is to choose certain times of the year or certain seasons of your life to prioritize certain things.
Certain times of the year you may need to focus on your spouse or your kids, other times perhaps you are focusing on your health, still others you may need to focus on your career or your business.
How to Focus
You have to make your number one priority your main focus for enough time to get momentum. If you try to fit it in after everything else, then it is NOT a priority. So, it’s okay to tip the balance and focus on your priority for a concentrated amount of time.
However, don’t let everything else go. Don’t stop exercising or eating healthy or spending time with your kids. But, your number one priority is really focusing on your Life Priority and the RESULTS you want to get.
Perhaps the more imbalanced you are, the more results you will get for your number one priority and think about all the other areas you want to prioritize as important. Are you willing to move one of your priorities to the top to get the momentum going? To lose 50 lbs so the next 30 lbs are easy. To focus on that being the number one priority until you get the results you want.
A priority period.
Pick a certain amount of time that you are willing to focus 100% in that area. Put other things on hold (NOT stopped, just not your focus) while you focus on that one thing.
Urgent or Important?
Most of us get confused between what is important and what is urgent. If you have read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – you are likely familiar with this concept.
We seem to think that urgent things (phone calls, social media notifications, emails) are more important than the important thing you are already working on or involved in.
For example, if you are watching your children play baseball and a social media notification comes through – you stop watching and focus on social media.
Or you are working on an important project for work and an email notification pops up on your screen – you go see what the email is and decide to ignore it, but you have already made that notification more important than what you were working on – losing time and focus thus making work last longer.
Or you are having a conversation with a person and your phone rings, you stop to look at your phone. Perhaps you decide to not answer it, but you still made the urgent phone ring more important than the person in front of you. Just because it’s noisy.
This principle is true in all areas of life – family life, career, exercise. EVERYTHING.
Do not confuse what’s important to you with what’s urgent (noisy). Focus on priorities, strategic action, your goals, etc. Not on getting through all of your emails or all of your social media notifications.
Wherever you are, be there.
Wherever you are you’re focused on where you’re not.
Does this sound familiar?
If you are working you feel guilty about not spending time with life (family, or exercising, or seeing your friends, etc.). If you are spending time with life then you feel guilty about not working.
One way to put action to the Urgent vs Important principle is to BE PRESENT wherever you are.
When you are working on a priority – do ONLY that thing for the time you have scheduled it.
This may mean letting your family know that you will be exercising for an hour four days a week and you will not be disturbed (you may have to leave the house to get this time).
Or perhaps writing is a priority for you – schedule time each week to get out of the house and have dedicated writing time.
Consider this an important meeting that cannot be rescheduled – because it is.
When you are with your children, do not ruminate about the work that is undone. You are missing out on the full experience with your children and the worrying has no value to your work.
Work all the time you work. Worrying about not spending time with your family while you are working only makes the task last longer which doesn’t give you more time with your family. It gives you less.
Keep a Time Journal. Pay attention to what you are spending your time on.
You will find a one-day time journal in the Life Balancing Worksheet!
This simple activity can be quite powerful.
Start with one day and track EVERYTHING. Checking email, what you are working on, bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, social media checking, etc.
Review the day. What did you spend your time on? Do you notice a lot of time spent on urgent things? How much time are spending on your priorities? Are you constantly reacting to what others deem important?
This is just the first step that I have my clients start with. Based on those results we can create an action plan.
Typically, the more urgent things you have in your life the less planning you have done.
Less planning means less attention given to what’s important.
- Out of ingredients for a meal – you then have to either run to the store or break down and go out for dinner.
- Your kid’s homework assignment is due tomorrow that was assigned a week ago and it needs supplies.
- You have a big project due at work, but you keep allowing emails and meetings take over your days and before you know it you are two days before the deadline and have to work extra hard to get it done.
You’re constantly responding, reacting, putting out fires – with no time for important things.
When we plan the week ahead – we plan meals and grocery shop ahead of time, we help our children build good planning habits by talking to them about their upcoming due dates and how they can break up the tasks to reach the due date, we plan our weeks at work with our priorities in mind BEFORE scheduling time for emails and meetings, we plan our budget and spending for the week, how can we help others intentionally this week, etc.
We schedule the time to deal with the urgent items – email, social media, phone calls. We decide how we spend our time instead of constantly responding as things come up. This makes it much easier to keep our priorities in line.
Many planning tasks contribute to multiple goals – financial, health, career, contribution, family, etc.
Think back to your definition of “success” and “happiness”.
What single result do you most want right now?
Start with a list of all of the results that you want…INCLUDE things you already have.
Which result will make the other areas more possible?
For example, the thing I want most is to have a managed mind and emotional life. This is something I work at consistently through mindset and self-coaching. It will help me in other areas that are a priority to me – my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my children, my career, my health, my finances (I am an emotional spender), my coaching practice, etc.
This is something I already have, but it is still my number one priority. I don’t need to do anything that will take me out of alignment. And I need to continue to do the things that keep me in this space – self-coaching, taking walks, yoga, etc. When I don’t do those things then I lose momentum and backslide in other areas of my life.
So, my #1 priority is my emotional and mental well-being. Then my number two priority will vary based on the other result I most want at that time, or in that season of my life. At times it may be more career-focused, or family-focused, or health-focused.
You can’t keep them all balanced all the time – you will never make any progress or build any momentum or any full result with any area.
Start with your list of wanted results.
Which one is your #1 priority?
Which one is your #2 priority?
Do you want these results more than something else in your life?
Are you putting things higher on the list because you think that is what others expect or because you really want it? This is YOUR list, not society’s. This is YOUR life, not anyone else’s.
Keep going until you have your top 5 priorities.
Now, look at your Time Journal.
How inline are you with what’s important to you? How far apart are you from living your priorities?
You don’t have to do anything
You may say that you aren’t living inline with your priorities because you have to take care of your kids, go to work, clean the house, shop for groceries, and on and on and on.
Are ready for this?
You don’t HAVE TO do any of these things. No one is forcing you. You do have options.
You don’t have to take care of your kids. You could hire a sitter, send them to daycare, hire a nanny, give custody to someone else. You actually do have options. You CHOOSE to take care of your kids because you love them and you WANT to. You don’t have to go to work. You CHOOSE to because you WANT to pay your bills, have a roof over your head, and eat. You WANT to pay your taxes because you don’t want to be fined or deal with penalties. You get the idea.
Acknowledge that it’s something you WANT to do and you’re CHOOSING. Then you can reconcile it with your priorities and determine if there’s change that needs to be made. Don’t be locked into “HAVE TO”.
Here are a few questions to consider your priorities. This ties back into the definition of success and happiness that we started with.
- If you only had six months to live, how would your priorities change and why? Does that change your perspective?
- If you only had five years to live, how would your priorities change and why? Does that change your perspective?
- Revisit your 100-year-old self we started with, what will you most regret not doing that you’re currently not doing? What would your do-over be? Not writing that book? Not going after that job? Not spending time with your family? Not running that marathon? Are you willing to live with that regret or is it something that you want to make more of a priority in your life?
The truth is, none of us know how much longer we have left to live.
Life is more fun when I am inline with my priorities. I feel less scattered, more invigorated and energized because I have taken charge of my life. When I take the time to really consider what’s important to me and the results I most want I am acknowledging that this is MY LIFE.
I’m not living on default. I AM NOT living based on what I think others expect me to do.
This is my life, my property – it was given to me by God for a reason. I’m in charge of it and I DO NOT want to live on autopilot.
I live on PURPOSE. I CREATE my life. I DIRECT it. I DECIDE the life I have. At the end of my life I want to be PROUD of the decisions I’ve made and the effort I made to live a life that created results – a legacy of contribution.
When I fall out of this mindset, I feel lost, rushed, quick-tempered, and frustrated. Periodically I have to self-coach myself back to this space. And it is always worth it.
I choose to take the road less-traveled, and I would love for you to create your own road. Getting inline with your priorities can make all the difference.
- Define Success and Happiness
- Determine your top 5 priorities
- Determine your top 3 actions within the top 5 priorities
- Keep a Time Journal
- Make changes needed to live in line with your priorities
- Schedule (and keep) time for your priorities
- Literally, watch your life bloom
Want to delve even deeper into your priorities and turn off the auto-pilot on your life?
Schedule a Mini-Session with me to determine if I am the right person to help you do just that!