Monday, September 28, 2009

Balance

I often hear people talking about how they want to get more balance in their lives. When I ask them about this, they tend to talk about working less, spending more time at home with family, taking more time to travel, eating better, getting more exercise and so on.

They often tell me that I work too much and that I should create more balance in my life. I thought about this a lot over the weekend as I tried to balance a heap of work that I really wanted to finish with all the other activities in my life.

A Full Life
From a work perspective, "a lot on my plate" would be an understatement. Additionally, we've had a fairly steady flow of people staying with us which often involves taking more time to clean, cook, transport, etc. We have our band and gigs and recordings. We have many different social engagements each week. I like to spend at least an hour a day working out. I really love writing this blog. I've been painting the house and repairing this and that. And on and on...

If not balanced, I certainly have full life.

And yet, there are so many other things that I'd like to do.

Hmmm... Maybe working less would be a good idea?

What Do I Want?
But then it occurs to me that the things that I'm working on are things I really want to see happen. They're things that will really benefit people in a big way. They're things that haven't been done before and that some people consider un-doable.

In my experience, no one has ever done things like that and had what people would call a balanced lifestyle. Some would call it making sacrifices, but I disagree. I see it simply as having a strong desire to accomplish what you want to accomplish and making it important enough that there are other things you don't do.

You can view it as a vacuum or as a space full to overflowing.

Infinite Possibility in Finite Existence
One of the things that I love about my friend Mark is that he tends to vacillate between two frames of mind. One is that of limitless capacity and possibility, and the other is that of zero capacity and possibility. For example, when we talk about his relationship(s) with women, Mark will say that love is infinite and therefore, his capacity to have numerous simultaneous relationships is unlimited. Within the same discussion he'll move to the near hopelessness of finding a relationship that will work for him.

I can't count the number of people who've come to me with great ideas that they're going to transform into new businesses or scientific breakthroughs or brand new lives. They see infinite possibility. They have tremendous energy and enthusiasm. They can conquer the world!

But then something happens. They get distracted by day-to-day activities. They encounter challenges that they hadn't anticipated. They get tired. They run out of money. They stop.

But why? I think the challenge lies in finding balance between the optimism-inspiring concept of unlimited potential and the goal-achieving concept of finite resource and time management.

What are You Willing Not to Do?
One of the first things they teach in time management courses is that it's not about time management, it's about priority management. If you've been considering paying for a time management course, simply doing the following can save you some money.
First, get yourself a watch and a small pad paper.

Second, spend three days accounting for every moment of your day. Whenever you start an activity, write down the activity and the time. When you conclude the activity (or interrupt it), write down that time. Include everything from sleeping to brushing your teeth to watching television to reading blogs to time on Facebook to time with your kids.

Third, after three days, create a list of all the activities that you've tracked so that there's just one entry for each activity.

Fourth, next to each activity, put a number from one to five (where five is very important and one is not important) indicating how important that activity is to you.

Fifth, for each activity, add up the amount of time you've spent on it.
Now, look at your list. How well aligned is the importance that you've placed on each activity with the amount of time you've spent on it? If they're not aligned, you have one of three choices:
  1. Reallocate time from something less important to something more important
  2. Adjust your priorities to reflect the amount of time you allocate to them
  3. Forget about time management and just ignore the whole thing
Whether you're embarking on a new business adventure or a new love relationship, whether you're shooting for the moon or simply trying to get to work on time, I believe this kind of exercise can have a remarkable effect.

Simply cutting out fifteen minutes here and thirty minutes there on a daily basis can make all the difference in the world. You can end up with your head in the clouds and your feet firmly planted on the ground!

When the Going Gets Tough
One more thing.

Often, when we undertake a new and challenging activity or task, we dramatically underestimate the degree of challenge. Things start feeling really difficult and hard.

Many of us ascribe meaning to this. The task feeling difficult or challenging is somehow an indication that we shouldn't be doing it. Something is wrong.

What I've found is this: If things seem challenging and difficult, it may simply be because they are.

Have a great week!

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