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Work Life Balance is a myth. Steps to get your life and calendar under control.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think it’s a mistake and a waste of time to put energy into finding a balance of “work” and “life.” I recently read a great article about the myth of work/life balance on the Relevant Magazine website. I like what the author, Tyler Ward, wrote about the flow and seasons of creation and about all other natural rhythms.

So what should people do when they feel overwhelmed? What should exhausted people do to get what they want, which is really control and peace. They often think that if they strike the right balance in their schedule, all their problems will go away.

Tips and Suggestions

 

  • Master the Word No  I’m a recovering people pleaser. Actually, that’s a myth also. I’m a recovering “I’ll say yes so you’ll think I’m awesome, feel validated as a person, and be my friend” person. I used to refuse to believe that time was a limiting factor on me, but it is—for all of us. Now, when I’m asked to do something new or to help someone, I say no. I’ll say something like this:
    • Thank you for asking me. I’m honored you think this highly of me. Possibly one day I’ll be able to say yes, but today I need to say no. My calendar is full for the foreseeable future.
    • Can I help you think of someone else you might ask? I simply can’t yes at this time.
    • Would you ask me again in one year? I can’t say yes right now.
    • I appreciate you asking me. I know when I ask someone to help me with something like this, I’m afraid they will get annoyed. Me—I’m not annoyed at all; in fact, I’m honored. I wish I could say yes. How can I help you find someone to take this on?
    • Notice, I never say “but” or “however.” I let my no be no. I used to give long, drawn-out explanations. I don’t anymore. And if someone doesn’t respect me or my no, they probably wouldn’t have genuinely appreciated my help in the first place.

 

  • Get a Task-Management System  Whatever system you will actually utilize is the system you should use. If a calendar system with everything on it works, use it. I work with a lady who still carries a large planner. It’s full of notes, business cards, her calendar, and who-else-but-her knows. But it works for her. I experimented with all sorts of systems. For the longest time I used Siri and multiple different lists in my Reminders app on my iPhone. But then I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. I combined his methodology with Evernote and Nozbe.  This combinations has been the system that has saved my bacon and brought order to the chaos of my tasks and schedule.

 

  • Delegate Decision Making  I first wrote about this here. A young leader once told me she is great at delegating tasks but terrible at delegating decisions. I identified with that, because it’s true for me as well.  I don’t need to be the gatekeeper whom all decisions must pass through. I still sweat the small stuff and have the pulse, blood pressure, temperature, CBC count, and all the other vitals of our organization in check, but I simply don’t make a majority of the day-to-day decisions.  Instead, I use a lesson I learned from Dave Ramsey in EntreLeadership. When I have new team members, I have them come to me with three solutions to every problem. After they present the problem and solutions, I let them know which solution I would like and why (even if it’s one of my own). Over time, they begin to anticipate what I’ll decide. After several weeks, I’m comfortable saying, “From now on, just decide this stuff on your own. Keep deciding like you are, but you don’t have to come to me anymore. I trust you.”

 

  • Set Clear Boundaries  I don’t travel away from my family for more than three nights in any 12-month period. I use Skype and attend online conferences like Social Media Summit 2014, webinars, and more. I actually get more continuing education and professional development now then when I’d travel to conferences and events more often. I network with my mastermind group every other week for a couple of hours via Google Hangout. I attend networking lunches and meet with peers for breakfast. I still get the job done, I just make sure I’m at home to get the most important job done—giving my wife and my kids a healthy dose of quality and quantity time together.  My team has been instructed that my wife is put through to my phone whenever she calls, regardless of what I’m doing. She is never told I’m not available.

 

  • Get Your Free Time and Family Time on Your Calendar First  Every few months, I have a calendar meeting with my wife. I try to get every family event on my calendar before I start getting work meetings, speaking engagements, etc added to my calendar.
    • I make sure I schedule time to exercise.
    • I have three recurring appointments to eat three meals a day with plenty of time at each meal to relax.
    • I have a block of time marked as “Family Time” in the evenings so I can play with my kids.
    • I have a block of time scheduled to read.
    • I have blocks of time scheduled to work. I used to try to schedule my work as specific tasks, but I need the flexibility to work on the projects I’m in the mood to work on. This is where Nozbe and the Getting Things Done methodology come into play.
    • I have a lunch or breakfast appointment once a week with one of my kids.
    • We schedule date nights for us.

 

  • Hire Help.  I use oDesk to hire virtual assistants to work for me for only a few hours a week. I wrote a complete post about the benefits here. There is no reason you can’t hire someone to help you, even two to four hours per week, not to free up time to work on something else but to buy you time to be with your family.  Plus, I hire other independent contractors for editing and other work.  I use Fiverr.com in addition to oDesk.

Action Steps

  • Update Your Calendar
  • Read Getting Things Done
  • Check Out Nozbe

What About You

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