Why is it difficult for you to bring your life into balance?
I read over a hundred comments from you in the introductory post for the challenge. We are all different and have different struggles and goals in life. But one thing kept emerging comment after comment. Time. Or lack of it, to be correct.
Time is a finite resource that we are trying to divide and even expand (with no luck of course.) We treat life balance as a way to fit more things into our schedule and still stay sane in the process. No wonder that these attempts only make us more unbalanced.
Did you complete your first exercise? (If you didn’t – please do so before you continue with the challenge.) If you read the definitions of life balance you won’t find anything like “Getting more things done every day,” “Running like a hamster on a hamster wheel,” or “Stuffing my daily schedule with as many activities as possible.” Your deep understanding of life balance should help you make proper changes to your current lifestyle.
In order to keep your life in balance you need to recognize time traps during your day as well as cluttering activities that are not important for you. Of course there are certain things that we need to get done whether we want it or not, but generally we have more control over our schedule than we think.
7 ways to create a more balanced schedule
- Take responsibility for your time. How many times did you say or think “I have to do this because I have no choice.” Probably more often than you would like to admit. Our life (and life balance, of course) is a result of our choices in life. My friend’s husband works two jobs and rarely spends time with his family. My friend takes care of the kids and the house and right now she is considering getting a part-time job. They don’t struggle in life – they have a nice house, they go on nice vacations and drive good cars. Their entire schedule is dictated by their lifestyle. They WANT to drive new cars. They WANT to live in a prestigious neighborhood. They WANT to buy expensive clothes. Now tell me, why is their life balance suffering?I know that my schedule is influenced by my choices in life too. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the work that I have to do, time that I want to spend with my family and this blog. However, running BalanceInMe is my choice and I realize that sometimes it makes my daily balance more difficult.Look at your life and try to identify choices that you make that make your life balance difficult. These choices can include your interests, your priorities, your lifestyle choices etc.
- Focus your schedule around your priorities. Not everything in our lives is equally important (you know that already.) That is why it is so important to know your life priorities and focus on them in your daily life. First, ask yourself “What are my top 3 priorities in life?” Give yourself time to think about this question and to come up with an honest answer. When you decide whether to take on a new project or not weigh it in comparison with your life priorities. Is this new task important to you in any way?We often take on social commitments that are neither meaningful to us nor are they necessary. Maybe you agreed to be the head of a committee at your kids’ school. Maybe you decided to organize a baby shower for your colleague at work (who is not even your close friend.) These activities can be easily eliminated from your schedule and free up time for things that really matter to you.Make sure that your schedule has time for your life priorities.
- Eliminate time traps.Take a look at your daily schedule. Are there certain activities that zap your energy and keep you from reaching your goals? Here is the list that you might find familiar:
- Watching TV
- Web surfing
- Hanging out on Social media sites
- Checking your email too frequently
- Cooking complicated meals
- Spending too much time answering text messages
- Engaging in activities that are not meaningful to you
- Running errands every day
An easy way to eliminate time traps in your day is to ask yourself these three questions about each activity that you are doing:
- Does it help me reach any of my personal goals?
- Is it a necessary task?
- Does it help a person I care about?
If you answered “no” to all three questions then it is time to say good bye to this activity.
- Be willing to decline tasks. If you are asked to do something don’t be in a hurry to say “yes.” Agree only to the tasks that are meaningful to you. It might sound selfish at first, but it really is not. Rejecting secondary tasks and requests will let you focus on your life and the lives of people who are closest to you. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones.
- Plan only for 80% of your time. Did you ever have something unexpected happen to you during the day? Those unexpected things usually happen quite often and mess up your schedules completely. If you schedule for 100% of your time then each of these “life accidents” will send your life into overdrive. Allow 20% of your time be unscheduled and completely free.
- Distinguish between urgent and important tasks.
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals. This gets you closer to keeping your life priorities in balance.
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals or satisfying your necessities
We often concentrate on our urgent activities because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
If you want to simplify your schedule and your life in general you need to find balance between your urgent and important activities. And even more importantly, you need to learn to distinguish between the two.
You can avoid a lot of urgent tasks if you don’t procrastinate, if you learn to delegate certain tasks and to say “no” to others.
- Keep your daily schedule organized. All of the tips mentioned above can be hard to digest and bring into your life. That is why I created a special daily planner for you that will help you organize your schedule, declutter your tasks and avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.
The daily activity planner is organized as a to-do list. You can write down your tasks and appointments for each day and focus on completing them on time. The difference between a regular to-do and this daily planner is that you can find tasks that you can eliminate before even starting them.
Click here to download your copy of the Free Daily Activity Planner.
- Daily tasks.Each task on your to-do list has different levels of urgency and importance (look above to learn the difference.) On the daily planner you can mark how important and urgent each task is by giving it a green or a red circle. A green circle means that the task has low importance or urgency. A red circle means that the task is important or urgent. You can leave the circle blank if the task is not important or not urgent. For example, you add exercise to your daily to do. Is it urgent? Probably, not. So you can mark the urgency with a green circle or leave it blank. Is it important? If one of your life priorities is health then exercise is definitely a highly important activity for you. Color the red circle for this activity.Another example is going to a party to your next-door neighbor. Is it important? It can be if socializing is your top life priority, but most likely it’s not. Is it urgent? The party is tonight, so it is. We mark a green circle for importance and a red circle for urgency.How to use the daily planner to clean up your scheduleAll of the tasks and appointments that you have during the day can be grouped into 4 categories.
Urgent and Important – There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: Ones that you could not foresee, and others that you have left to the last minute.
If you plan ahead and avoid procrastination then a lot of tasks from this category will clear out on its own.
Some tasks just pop up the last minute. Make sure that you have around 20% of your time daily available for these tasks.
Urgent and important tasks must be finished right away.
Urgent and Not Important – Urgent but not important activities are things that stop you achieving your goals, prevent you from completing your work and keep you out of balance. Ask yourself whether these tasks can be rescheduled, or whether someone else could do them.
A common source of such interruptions is from other people. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say “No” to people, or encourage them to solve the problem themselves. Before you commit to any of these tasks, brainstorm a few ideas to delegate these activities or cancel them.
Not Urgent, but Important are activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals, complete important work and maintain your life balance. Make sure that you have plenty of time to do these things properly.
Not Urgent and Not Important activities are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. Some can simply be ignored. Others are activities that other people may want you to do, but they do not contribute to your own desired outcomes. Again, say “No” politely and firmly if you can.
- Weekly tasks.Certain tasks do not have a particular deadline but you know that they need to be finished by the end of the week. It’s good to keep your schedule flexible and take care of those tasks when you have proper resources (focus and time.) Your weekly tasks are grouped into three categories.A tasks:These tasks definitely need to be done this week. They are urgent and important to you.B tasks:these tasks must be completed in the next couple of weeks but it’s better to avoid procrastination and finish them as soon as possible.C tasks: You would like to get these tasks done but if you can’t – you can totally live without them.
Each week focus on completing your A tasks first. If you have some time left then you can move on to tasks B. If you still have a little bit more time and really feel that tasks C are necessary – then feel free to tackle them too.
- Notes. Use this field for your personal notes, emergency messages or just your wrap-up of the week. How balanced was this week for you? Did you get everything done? Did you successfully eliminate certain activities? You can also use this field to write down things you are most grateful for this week. Any of these mini-journaling activities will make you more balanced day after day and week after week.
Your head is probably spinning from all this information. You will have almost a week to digest it and work on simplifying your schedule so don’t get discouraged. If this information is still not enough for you – I will provide a very special resource on time management for you at the end of the challenge.
Reflect on your life choices and how they affect your daily schedule. Write down your top 3 life priorities. Identify your time traps. Share in the comments below your most significant time traps (up to 3) and for the next week commit to eliminating it from your life. This week allow yourself to decline at least 3 tasks or requests. Share your experience or the tasks that you decided to decline. Start using your Daily Activity Planner. Feel free to share any of your thoughts or feedback about it.
Keep it balanced!
P.S. Please don’t forget to engage in a conversation with other participants of the challenge. Encourage them share your experience and give them your support.Ask your questions about time management. I’ll be answering them this week.
Source (5 Aug 2011): balanceinme.com