Given this post comes during the week of the New Year, and the New Year brings thoughts of goals, resolutions and other “visionary” thinking, I thought I’d share this topic with you.
What happens in the 2-3 days prior to you taking a week-long trip, such as a vacation? No doubt you are excited. What kind of stress do you experience? After all, there is packing, ensuring nothing get dropped while you are away, stopping the mail at home, taking the dog to a kennel if you can bring Fido along, etc.
Do you think you can live a life in perfect balance where there is no stress?
The other day I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt entitled “How to Finally Achieve Work-Life Balance”. You can listen to it here. I’d like to share some of the insights I heard.
Michael started the conversation with this comment,
“I think that a lot of times people think life balance means you’re in a period or a season of life when you can evenly distribute your time, energy, and focus so you’re spending the same amount of time at work as you’re spending in your personal life, and that’s never going to be possible. I define balance this way. Balance is spending the appropriate amount of time in each of the major categories of life so you’re in balance. That looks different in different seasons.”
There is, in my opinion, tremendous wisdom in this statement. How long have we heard about the desire to achieve work-life balance? It seems like decades at least.
When I begin a new coaching engagement, I ask my client to complete an exercise to identify their current level of satisfaction in 8 distinct areas of life, including career, finances, relationships, health, etc. I ask them to provide a number on a 1-10 scale that reflects their current state. As we discuss this, I ask if this current state is where they would like it to be or if they would like to change it, either up or down.
Most people realize with this exercise it is impossible to experience all areas with the same level of satisfaction, i.e. not all areas will have a 9. For some, to accept the fact it is impossible to have a perfectly balanced life in terms of time spent on all the major areas of importance to them is nothing short of liberating.
This is generally a very insightful discussion for the client as they identify things they never gave a lot of thought to prior. As a coach, I generally work with people on enhancing or maximizing their leadership impact, yet I know full well that what goes on in a person’s life outside the office or work context has a definitive impact on how they show up every day.
What about you? Are you under the (mistaken) impression you can have a perfectly balanced life between work and life in general? Consider the following:
- There are exactly 168 hours in each and every week – you can’t borrow from one week to the next.
- If you are a “full-time” working professional, you most likely devote between 40-60 hours or more at your place of employment and commuting back and forth.
- 7 hours of sleep each night equates to about 49 hours per week. You might think you can adequately function on less than 7 hours per night, and you probably can for a period. This is not sustainable for the vast majority of us.
- The remainder of the 168 hours leave about 8-9 hours per day to devote to
- Spiritual, however you define this
- Reading or other forms of relaxing
- Exercising and other forms of health maintenance
- Running errands such as shopping, taking the kids to soccer practice, dry cleaner, household chores, etc.
- Keeping up with social media (for some, this can seem like 3-4 hours per day!)
We simply cannot have perfect balance. Yet, we can achieve intentionality about exactly how we spend our time. How can we do this, you ask? Consider the following:
- Do what you can to set your priorities, or someone else will set them for you.
- Let YOUR priorities drive YOUR actions.
- Don’t confuse actions with results. All actions lead to results, yes, however plan your actions based on the results YOU want to achieve.
- Intentionally plan as much of your week and day as possible before the week or day begin.
- Significantly limit your focus to just a few things that can have the greatest impact.
- Truly examine if how you spend your time is consistent with your pre-set priorities and personal values.
The old saying, “show me a person’s check book (or debit card expenditures) and I know what is important to them” can be modified to say, “Show me how a person spends their time and I can tell what their priorities are”.
This can be hard work in the beginning, yet it will pay off handsomely in the long run and that is a promise. Many people find it most difficult to take the first step. If that is you or someone you know, let me know – I bet I can be of help.
Best regards and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!