“I’ve got loads of free time on my hands – I have no idea what to do with it all!”
Now there’s something you don’t hear very often. But comments like “I’m swamped!” or “I never stop!” are commonplace. Between work, family and personal obligations, our schedules are full to the brim. Add that’s before factoring in any hobbies, leisure interests or exercise – essential ingredients to a well-rounded lifestyle.
The New York Times recently posted an interesting online article on the “busy trap.” It seems that many people feel that maintaining a balanced lifestyle is simply a matter of becoming a skilled juggler. This metaphor is an apt description of what a fair proportion of working adults are trying to do these days: keep a bunch of balls in the air without letting any of them drop. In fact, an entire industry has emerged around personal time management. But here at audacium, we think there is a better way.
Time management is about planning and control, using various applications and techniques to increase your productivity so you can get more done within a given timeframe. Although time management started out as a strictly work-oriented concept, it slowly crept into the personal realm. Some parents even teach this approach to their children, beginning at a very young age.
The time management industry is certainly a lucrative one, but the principles it embraces don’t necessarily tackle the real problem at the heart of the balance conundrum. It’s a little like trying to lose weight by managing the space on your plate more effectively. You may feel like you’re accomplishing something by making sure the food in front of you is laid out in a more orderly manner, but in the end you’re probably not eating any better than you were before.
To get the year off to a good start, we suggest you take a step back and determine if everything you currently have on your slate is absolutely necessary. It’s normal to want to be involved and to feel useful and needed. But if you really want a balanced, happy lifestyle, there are choices to be made – and some of these choices can be difficult. That’s where professional advice can come in handy.
Our clients often feel torn between their desire for balance and their various obligations. They want to spend more time on things that boost their energy and wellness levels, but they feel forced to honour their other commitments. In their heart of hearts, all they want is peace of mind, but they are constantly bombarded from all sides. To be a good employee, they have to perform. To be a good husband or wife, they have to play an active part in family activities. To be a good parent, they have to be at their kids’ beck and call.
Our approach starts with taking a closer look at all the activities you are involved in, identifying their relative importance and eliminating the ones that do not make you a better you. We also help you develop your ability to negotiate the terms of your involvement, so you don’t end up taking on a whole new set of activities after you’ve carefully weeded out the ones that have been bogging you down.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking and maybe even on the path toward a more balanced life as the year gets underway.
Food for thought
- Which of your activities take the most energy? Sort your answers into three categories: essential, important and useful.
- Who would you need to talk to if you wanted to give up any of these activities?
- Are there any other pursuits you’d like to explore but don’t feel you have the time for?
- Can you substitute any of the items in your “useful” list with an activity you really want to do? What is stopping you?
Exercise of the month
Restoring balance in my activities
Duration: For the next four weeks
The purpose of this exercise is to help you re-establish a sense of equilibrium so you can focus on the things you really want to do, instead of the things you think you have to do, out of routine or obligation. By taking inventory, analyzing the activities you are involved in and ranking their relative priority, you can trim the excess fat from your schedule and concentrate on what nourishes you. That way, you’ll have the time for pursuits that make you feel physically and mentally energized.
In addition to raising your level of self-awareness, this exercise will give you the tools you need to regain control over your schedule. The first step in making a real and lasting change is to have a better idea of what is wrong and how to fix it. You are strongly encouraged to record your thoughts in this regard in your journal.
- Jot down the various activities you are involved in. Be sure that the level of detail is sufficient to determine where you can make changes in how you use your time. We suggest you limit this list to activities that take between 30 and 90 minutes. Anything under 30 minutes is too short to warrant evaluation, and anything over 90 minutes should be broken down into smaller chunks.
- Sort your list according to the same three categories: essential, important and useful. Single out the items in the “useful” category that gobble up most of your time.
- For each of these activities, ask yourself:
- Who am I doing this for?
- Why did I think I needed to do this?
- Can I put off this activity or let it go altogether without any significant repercussions?
Every night, write down your answers to these questions in your journal.
- What has this exercise revealed about me? About my natural inclinations? About the kind of things I get involved in?
- Is it hard for me to give things up? If so, why?
- Can I do something to increase my level of self-awareness before taking on any new activities?
- What can I start doing now to improve my work-life balance?
- Who can support me as I move forward?
Source: Martin Proulx, coach, audacium
blind spots: achieve success by seeing what you can’t see – claudia shelton
This book was recommended to me in December by a respected colleague and fellow coach. It takes a close look at personal “blind spots,” which, if you’re not careful, can take you off guard and cause serious problems. Unlike the blind spots you encounter behind the wheel, however, personal blind spots are hard to see on your own. Although they may be obvious to others, you need a fresh perspective and guidance in identifying them and turning your limitations into strengths.
Author Claudia Shelton proposes an approach designed to help you find out what your blind spots are and exercises to shed light on the hidden underlying factors. These behaviours can have a negative impact on the people around you. And, if left unchecked, they can significantly hinder your career progress and interpersonal relationships.
Shelton points out four important elements:
- Any personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.
- Any personal weakness once addressed has the potential of becoming a personal strength.
- Environment has an impact on whether or not a personal characteristic is perceived as a strength or a weakness.
- Your perception of your own strengths and weaknesses can differ considerably from someone else’s.
Blind spots are often related to behaviour patterns that form in your youth and evolve into unconscious habits later in life. Because most of the people around you generally avoid making negative remarks about you, these blind spots, as the name implies, tend to be invisible. But the very fact that they remain unacknowledged increases the risk of recurrence. For example, someone who was labelled as fun and outgoing at school may monopolize meetings and be a distractive influence, verging on inappropriateness and unprofessionalism.
The book suggests a five-pronged approach:
- Which of your existing strengths are underutilized?
- Which of your old habits are no longer serving your goals?
- How do you express your stress?
- How well do you understand and interpret non-verbal cues?
- How well do you connect and communicate with others?
In addition to providing a number of detailed examples, Shelton walks the reader through each of the stages involved in the process of dealing with blind spots. She also provides links to online tools and questionnaires to help you identify your blind spots on your own. Some of these tests are available directly on the author’s website.