When's the last time you stepped back and accounted for the percent of time you spend on every domain of your life? Are you focusing your time and effort on what really matters to you? In your mind's eye, fast forward twenty years; have you missed the most critical life events that you'll never be able to replicate?
Finding balance in your life can be difficult but it's achievable with some intentional effort. Oftentimes, the season of life you are in may impact your ability to truly find the equilibrium that you're seeking. Finding balance doesn't mean you have to give up or discontinue doing the things that you love. It's about doing more of what brings you joy and adds meaning to your life.
So, where do you start?
First, consider the various areas of your life: work/school, community/society, family, health/spiritual. Jot down the percent of time that you spend on each area. Precision is not required here, just estimate. Are you satisfied with your percentages? When I first completed this exercise, I'm embarrassed to admit that my time allocations were predominantly focused on two areas: work/school and family. I didn't really have any balance and was essentially missing out on the full richness that life has to offer (see diagram below).
My initial excuse for this imbalance was that I had no time to fit anything else in my life. I was tapped out and overloaded. Just about this time, I was working on my second master’s program, which frankly I didn't need, and was assigned to read the book, Total Leadershipby Stewart D. Friedman. Don't let the title fool you; the principles outlined in the book can be universally applied irrespective of your stage or role in life. The earlier you learn and apply these principles, the better.
One key takeaway that I learned was the importance of recognizing the impact of blending versus compartmentalizing the key areas of my life. It's perfectly okay to blur the lines between various life categories. Doing so may allow you to gain and experience new activities without expending any additional time and energy that you don't have. For example, prior to gaining insight on this topic, community/society was one area where I devoted very little time. By making a few adjustments such as incorporating community/social activities into other life categories (e.g., volunteered to mentor students at work, accepted role at work on a women’s planning committee), I was able to gain more balance. These changes were very rewarding and allowed me to get time back as I became more disciplined about identifying what was important to me. This disciplined approach started with incorporating PQR (powerful question reflection) time.
PQR time is your daily or weekly time to just STOP, think and reflect. Whenever you have gone an entire week without any PQR time; its opportunity lost relative to looking inward. Often, we are far too busy doing and reacting to what's in front of us. It's no surprise that this is the case considering all the noise going on around us.
What would it look like for you to schedule PQR time? Until you schedule it like you plan for other important tasks in your life, it won't happen. During your PQR time, ask yourself the following.
- What do I want my life to represent?
- Do I have clearly defined goals that I'm working towards to bring my vision to life?
- Am I being wise about what I'm devoting my time to and are these activities advancing my vision?
- To what degree am I leaving room for the forks in the road that are unforeseen?
- Do I have the right people in my tribe who care, support, and challenge me? (Note: iron sharpens iron - pick your tribe carefully and thoughtfully).
- Who are my accountability (war) partners and will they knock down walls to ensure I stay on track with my goals?
Some days and periods in your life you may struggle to answer these questions with any degree of clarity but keep at it. When you concentrate on challenging your thinking and put your thoughts into action - you'll feel motivated and ready for forward movement.
So now that you know where to start, the time is nowto take an action step. Start by initiating a discussion with your friend, spouse or significant other about one of the areas of your life that seems out of focus. It's never too late to course correct your life. Where you're headedis always going to be more important than where you have been.