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I’m often asked how I’m able to manage so many different responsibilities and still maintain life balance. The simple answer is “I don’t.” However, the truth is my life is perfectly unbalanced and on purpose. I discovered that it is impossible to have a truly “balanced” life. The word balance means equal weight. Essentially, a balanced life would
give equal amounts of time to every aspect of your life. This is great if everything in life goes exactly as it is planned. Most of us know that this rarely happens. If you’re going through life expecting it to align perfectly with your plans, frustration, disappointment, and aggravation are sure to come your way. There’s no reason for you to stay stuck there.
But Tracey, how do I do that? I’m glad you asked. I said earlier that my life is “perfectly unbalanced.” What I mean by this is that my priorities drive where I spend my time. I set my priorities on a quarterly basis. I do this because I focus on 90 day goals. I find that it is easier for me to work really hard towards a goal in shorter spurts. So what I do is take my long term goal and break it down into smaller goals that can be achieved in 90 days or less and will drive me closer to the over-arching goal. This also give me a chance to review my priorities regularly as opportunities and obstacles come my way.
For example, last quarter one of my priorities was cranking out projects for an event I was participating in mid-October. I wanted to use the event to liquidate my inventory in preparation for dissolving the business at the end of the year. Sales were way down in my retail space, in part because the vendor mall I was in had a shift in product focus. I had looked for a new space, but no doors were opening for me. However, an opportunity presented itself towards the end of the quarter that would enable me to continue selling to my target market via a social media network group. As a result, my priority for this quarter changed to focus on all things marketing. Rather than spending countless hours in the garage sanding, priming & painting, I get to work in the house side by side with my husband. As I’m working on marketing materials for my business, I’m also working on specific marketing projects for our church and his personal ministry. I’m able to cook more and have Netflix binges with the hubs. While I spent the majority of the summer in my workshop (aka the garage) and had little time to chillax with my husband, I’ve made it a priority to set aside uninterrupted time with him. Though he’s not fond of it when I’m in project mode, he knows it will only be for a short time.
Your priorities should be what drives how you spend your time. If you say your top priority is to build your social media presence but never seem to find the time to prepare and implement a plan, I would argue that social media isn’t really a priority for you. If you want to really find out where your priorities are, do a time study. Record how you spend every moment of your time for an entire week. Whatever captures most of your time that is your real priority. Does this mean you have to spend every waking moment focused on it? No. What is does mean is that you put effort and action into moving you closer to your goal on a daily basis. Some things will be directly connected to your big goal. Other things may be more loosely connected. Either way, you’re making progress towards your goal and building momentum.
Of course doing this is more difficult than talking about doing it. So, one tool I use to help me prioritize my time is a weekly review. Every Sunday evening I set aside an hour to plan out my week. I ask myself three questions.
- What are my persona obligations for the week? These are things that are non-negotiable like appointments and meetings, etc.
- What are my priority projects? I identify what projects have deadlines coming up or that are important to my goal.
- How much time do I have? Since I’m currently working full-time while running my business, my “free” time is very restricted. It is important for me to know how much time I have to work on a particular project.
Once I’ve identified the time blocks I have, I then schedule specific tasks or projects in a specific time block based on how much time I anticipate it will take me to complete the task. This way when that time block comes around I’m not wasting time trying to figure out what I want to work on. During this process I also determine any tools, supplies or information I will need to complete the task. This enables me to gather what is needed in advance. There is nothing more frustrating than getting ready to work on something only to discover you don’t’ have what you need to complete it.
The last thing I do is reflect on the previous week. I assess what worked and what didn’t. I use this information to adjust my processes in an effort to make them more effective and efficient. Eventually, I want to include a time of reflection on a daily basis by journaling. I’m not in the mental space right now to fully commit to daily journaling. However, it is one of my goals for 2017.
One more thing before I go. Like many of you, I’m a to-do list junkie. Because I have so many different roles, keeping paper to-do lists wasn’t really working very well for me. I had a list at work and a few at home. What would happen, though, was I would be at work and think of something I need to do for home. Or I might be at the grocery store and think of something that needed to be done the next day at work. I would write it down on whatever piece of paper I could find. It was a nightmare. I had sticky notes and little slips of paper everywhere. Fortunately, I was introduced to an app called Todoist. This app allows you to maintain multiple to-do lists where you can schedule tasks for a specific day. Each morning it sends you an email of what is on you to-do list for the day. There is more functionality and customization available with the paid subscription, but the free version is sufficient for my purposes. I like this app because it has an Outlook integration and web based version that syncs with all your devices. This is helpful when entering multiple tasks at one time. Let’s face it. Doing a lot of typing on your smartphone or tablet just isn’t ideal. There are many similar apps on the market this on just happens to be my current favorite.
Well, I hope you feel a little less overwhelmed now that you’re armed with some tools to create your own “perfectly unbalanced” life.
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Take command of your schedule through priority management rather than time management. Shift from being a goal setter to goal getter! In just 4 weeks you can change your life by simply changing your approach.
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