If I had to make a composite question that gets at the heart of the question that I am asked most frequently, it would be this:
How can I manage my time more effectively and bring balance to my life in regard to work, family, friends, and social obligations?
With this in mind, I want to give us some thoughts to focus us in on the answer to that question.
I am convinced that the most important thing we must do is to be acutely aware of the reasons I should manage my time and bring balance to my life. In fact, most of us really know “how” to do it, don’t we? Then why don’t we? I think it comes to the issue of having a powerful motivating factor or reason. Below are two of mine that keep me motivated:
A life of accomplishment. When I am old and unable to get out with the young folks anymore, I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I accomplished much and that my life benefited others. That is why I do what I do now. It is what drives me to pursue what I pursue with a passion and vigor. It is why I bring my life into balance is many areas so I can achieve much in many areas.
A legacy. Here is a powerful motivating image that I picture with regularity: Picture a family gathering five years after your death. What will it look like? What will the people be talking about? How will they remember you? What will be the quality of their lives and how will you have been instrumental in that? These are questions that we can for the most part, answer now by how we live our lives (for better or for worse). Our lives make a difference in the lives of others! This is a tremendous reason to bring my life into balance! Once we answer the “Why” question, and root it firmly in our minds and hearts, we come to the “hows.”
First, we sit down and prioritize. Have you ever taken a couple of hours and listed everything that you are involved in or could be involved in and then prioritized it by importance? You may come up with a hundred items but that is okay. You will want to separate them into some categories as well, such as Work, Family, Health, Friends, Hobbies, Spiritual, Financial, Intellectual, Emotional, etc.
Now you have something to look at and see what is important. This will help you in the process of eliminating areas from your life that you are spending time on that you shouldn’t be. And that is an important part: Frustration comes when we get involved in something that isn’t a priority and we kick ourselves the whole time we do it. If we stick to priorities, we eliminate much of that.
The next step is to learn the most powerful word in the human language: No. Just look in the mirror and practice saying that word with a smile on your face. This may be the most important part -learning to decline opportunity. It all depends on whether or not it fits in with our priorities.
Here is the principle that drives this:
Good is the enemy of the best.
There are lots of good things we can spend our time on. But because they replace those things that would be the best things we could spend our time on, they become our enemy. They become counter-productive to a successful and balanced life.
So ask yourself: Is this good? Or is it the best? Do the best you can to stick to the best!
Schedule your time. The more we fly by the seat of our pants, the more apt we are to lose control of our time. If we schedule out our time, we can become a bit more objective and bring our lives into balance. For example, you may make it your goal to be home by six o’clock every night. In your schedule book, you write in that you have an appointment at six. You schedule to leave the office at five-thirty. Now when a co-worker comes in with an “opportunity” for you to work on, you say, “Sorry, I have an appointment at six that I can’t break. Let’s get together on it first thing in the morning.” Scheduling your time, coupled with saying “no,” will do wonders for bringing your life into balance!
Another aspect for us to look at is the area of external pressure that causes us to be out of balance. For example, financial obligations may be what keep us working too much. So we should look at those obligations and see if we can eliminate or reduce them.
The last thing I would challenge you with is to give some thought as to what the secret pleasures of being out of balance may be. For example, sometimes we let ourselves over commit because we don’t like conflict. Peace is our secret pleasure.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to become out of balance because we like it when people say, “Boy, she sure is a dynamo. Look how busy she is.” Admiration from others is our secret pleasure.
Find the right reasons Set priorities Learn to say “no” Understand that the good is the enemy of the best Schedule your time Manage External pressures Be aware of internal “secret pleasures” .
Chris Widener is an internationally recognized speaker, and best-selling author. Learn more about the The Art of Influence: Persuading Others Begins With You By Chris Widener.