This week, I began thinking about how I spend my time.
I want to enjoy being with my family, and I have goals and objectives I want to accomplish with my work. I have a strong interest in green living initiatives and I want to exercise and mentor young leaders. I don’t want to give up travel or studying to improve my French.
For me, all of these are worthwhile endeavors. However, when I am doing one of the above, I begin to think about doing the others. Maybe I just think too much, but I will leave mindfulness for another time.
So, I went through an exercise I found valuable, which I want to share with you. if you want to download it as a spreadsheet and revise it for your own use, this is the Google Docs link.
Maybe it will give you some ideas about how to think about and manage your own valuable time. After completing this exercise, I thought less about what else I could/should be doing because I knew how much time I wanted to devote to each important area of my life.
I began by asking myself what I want to BE and then determined how much of my time I wanted to devote to each part of my being. I decided I want to BE a loving family member and friend, healthy, well rounded, a mentor, etc.
Using an Excel Spreadsheet, I listed each of the desired personal attributes and included activities that amplified or represented each of them. The spreadsheet SUM function made the simple calculations faster and easier.
I then chose an arbitrary percentage of time I want to spend working to be and become those things, making sure that combined percentages equaled 100. I can see that those percentages will change over time.
With eight personal attributes for me, each would take approximately 12% of my time IF I want each of them to have equal weight. However, spending time with my family and friends is more important to me than becoming fluent in French, so I may assign 15% to spending time with family and friends and 5% to learning French. You get the picture.
Then, I multiplied the number of hours in my week by the percentage of time I want to spend being or becoming that person. That gave me the number of hours each week I will feel comfortable engaging in each of the activities I believe is important to being the person I want to be. I decided to use 90 hours per week for the number of allotted hours.
So, if I am willing to spend 8% of my allotted time to practice and improve my French, I would feel comfortable taking about seven hours a week for my French study program and happily devoting about 14 hours to family and friend time. Your personal attributes and percentages will be very different from mine, but this formula can be useful.
It gets a little more complicated when activities overlap. This weekend, for example, I picked up most of the Spanish moss, tree limbs, twigs and other debris that fell from our oak trees after recent severe storms here.
With lots of bending and walking, I filled five large garbage containers. I can assign that time to BEING healthy and BEING a gardener/ homemaker (a term I don’t like to use, but it fits this context.)
Another overlap could occur if I decide to go with a family member or friend to Ringling Museum or to a play at the Asolo. Recognizing that activities overlap gives more time in each desired area.
After going through this exercise and feeling a little more relaxed, I began looking for resources that could help to understand the issues and implement the plan to improve work/ life balance, which I prefer to think of as work/life satisfaction.
These are some of the best resources I found on the topic (Affiliate Links)*:
Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, and Money. Using the four quadrants of urgent, not urgent, important and unimportant, Roger Merrill, who co-wrote First Things First with Stephen R. Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) provides a framework for managing family, money, work and time. This 2003 book is a thoughtful and thorough look at how to enhance the quality of family life and focus on the important tasks at work.
Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post reporter, wrote Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. It focuses on stories about working women and research on work/ life balance. It offers insights into why we may feel overwhelmed and offers some suggestions for combating the problem.
Taking a completely different perspective is Michael Anderson, who wrote The Experiment: Discover a Revolutionary Way to Manage Stress and Achieve Work-Life Balance. Anderson tells about interactions between a business owner and his personal coach. Using a story to focus on Awareness, Response and Compassion, the book tackles how to solve the problems of living a happier life and being more productive.
I also researched some apps that may be useful.
Balanced - Goals & habits motivation for better life balance - Jaidev Soin is a free app for iPhone that acts as a reminder to do things you choose to do. Categories allow you to write your own goals or choose from topics such as Myself, Fitness, Appreciation, Creativity, Confidence or Discovery. After five choices each day, there is a charge.
Success Wizard - Life Planner Goal Setting Coach and Daily Habits Self Help Coaching - Success Wizard, Inc. offers a large and interesting variety of habits in each of the following categories: Work & Business, Health & Wellness, Love & Relations, Money & Finances, Family & Friends, Spirituality & Faith, Recreation & Lifestyle, and Personal Growth. It also includes areas to promote rituals, analyze performance and progress and write in a journal. With daily email reminders and notifications, it helps you get and stay on track. An upgrade to Habits Pro allows you to set and schedule unlimited Habits and Rituals.
I downloaded these apps and was very impressed with both of them. The first is a little more fun with icons and easy choices. The second seems to be a more serious and thoughtful look at progress and performance. Based on my reviews of user comments and my own experience with the apps, I would recommend both of them…after you go through the exercise I mentioned above.
Chronos is another free app from iTunes I downloaded that lets you see how much time you are spending in each area of your life. It also allows you to set goals and track your progress. It uses a GPS to track your location and automatically tells you how much time you spend at each. I did not like the fact that you have to log in with a Facebook account and the goals are limited, but you may want to check it out. Chronos - Track your time automatically - Chronos Mobile Technologies Inc.
There are other books and apps you may want to consider, but these caught my eye because of their content, depth and usability.
Here's to a more balanced life for all of us.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive limited compensation if you make a purchase using a link. Although compensated, all opinions are my own. A portion of all proceeds from this site goes to support Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program, which holds a Charity Navigator score of 93% and Young Women’s Leadership Network with a score of 92.82%. Both these organizations support you women and leadership, topics very close to my heart.