One of the keys to having a balanced life is to plan life first and then work your work in around it.
Before I share some ideas about how to do that, you need to remember two basic truths:
- If you don’t plan your life around your priorities, others will plan it for you around theirs.
- Most of our objections to implementing positive changes in our lives are based on fear, not fact.
Same Actions, Same Results
Most beings that walk on two legs are change adverse.
In fact, I can almost hear the objections being formed before you read what I am suggesting. Take a sip of your caramel macchiato and take a deep breath. What I am going to suggest is to implement into your home life some of the skills you use daily at work. Not a CHANGE, just a new APPLICATION.
- Set up your work calendar and block out ‘Unavailable’ time and be very strict about it. Your assistant will need to know the rules too if he/she is in control of your appointments.‘Unavailable Time’ is for things like:
- Undisturbed (uninterruptible) work sessions – This is time for focused work when you actually GET THINGS DONE.
- Family time – If you want to be home for dinner at 6pm every night, block the last hour from 4-5pm as UNAVAILABLE time for you to finish up the threads of the day, prioritize your tasks for tomorrow and possibly answer email. It is NOT for meetings (which never end on time and always come with more assignments). If leaving at 5pm is not the norm in your office, you may need to add an additional hour of UNAVAILABLE time, because well, you are unavailable.
- Schedule in all mandatory meetings – but as you do, consider who you could mentor to stand in for you and/or eventually replace you in those meetings.
- Vacation time – PLAN IT for when you and your family WANT to take it, not when there is a ‘convenient’ time in your work responsibilities. Get in the habit of planning this out at least 6 months in advance and work toward putting the dates on the calendar a year in advance. It is easier to get approval and to keep that time free if you are living life around your schedule not the latest crisis at the office.
- Block out buffer margins for the unexpected – For every appointment or meeting, add margin to the start and stop times. This way, when a meeting runs over you aren’t late and frazzled. You have time to prepare and participate fully in the activities following it. You’ll have less stress about making it through traffic jams to be on time to your commitments. and you’ll have less available time in your schedule for people to book you with things that could be handled much more efficiently through a phone call or email.
- Set up auto responders for the times you need to be unhooked.The point here is to be fully present. Phone vibrations, dings, and ‘You Got Mail!’ ringing in the background distract you from who and what right in front of you. For example, during your scheduled family time you might have an autoresponder message replying that ‘any emails/texts received after 7pm will not be addressed until 11am the following day.’ This, by the way, will apply to friends, relatives and anyone who wants to communicate with you during that time. You may feel the need to give ‘in case of emergency’ instructions, but for this to work, you will need to be militant toward offenders. If it isn’t a real emergency you can refer them to someone who can handle it now or ask them to send you an email detailing the issue and assure them you will handle it in the morning.You may also use an app like ‘Freedom’ to shutdown messages, phone, Facebook, etc. to keep you focused during your undisturbed work time and undistracted during family time.
- Delegate what someone else can do and focus on what only you can.It may take a little training time on your part, but things like taking meeting notes, compiling a monthly report or business expense form are time-consuming and not necessary for you to do. Think in terms of processes, write them down and train an assistant or someone you are mentoring to help you with those tasks.Housekeeping can be out-sourced. Teach your service (or your kids) how you like it done and enjoy the results. Use a dry-cleaning service that provides home pick-up and delivery and keep a shopping list that you can use to order online and pick up already bagged using a service like Kroger/Fry’s “ClickList.” Gardening and lawn-mowing similarly make great responsibility-training tasks for older kids (don’t let them say they are too busy – that’s a subject of another blog!). Or there are plenty of reputable services to employ to do the task.If you are like me, there is nothing like coming home to a clean house, manicured lawn and dry-cleaning hanging on your front door. The cost is well worth the peace of mind and stress-reduced lifestyle. Consider what might fit into your existing budget and what you might be willing to sacrifice for a less frazzled life.
These are just a few of the things that can simplify and streamline your life. Beginning with these few basic steps will leave room in your schedule for hiccups, for sick kids and other emergencies as well as unexpected issues at the office.
More time means more LIFE that can be LIVED.