Modern Man’s (and Woman’s) Most Significant Challenge
“The challenge of a work-life balance is without question one of the most significant challenges of modern man.” Stephen Covey
Work-life balance. It sounds good, like most lofty ideals do. But, how many of us have a good work-life balance? The term “work-life balance” assumes that there is a life in there somewhere among all the work. However, for many of us, actually getting to the “life” part (or getting there with enough energy to enjoy it) is our biggest challenge. How often we are too exhausted by the end of the workweek to really enjoy Saturday morning spent with the kids. You are too busy catching up on laundry or working in the yard because there wasn’t time to do chores during the week. Or, you worked ten plus hours at the office/job and brought work home with you so you could catch up.
There is an entire industry around “Time Management.” Millions of dollars are spent every year on a planner, calendar, time tracking app or time budgeting software. There are literally hundreds of books on how to manage your time better, how to track where your time goes, and how to do it more efficiently. Harvard Business Essentials Time Management book suggests: “The first step of time management is to understand how you currently spend the time you have…. The next step after activity analysis is to find the cause of time mismanagement. The final step is to correct the problem.”
The truth is that we cannot manage time. Time will continue on at the same steady pace, regardless of our need to save it or find more of it. Have you ever watched sand slip out of an hourglass?
It is not important what I say my priorities are. What matters is how I live.
I always thought I knew what my priorities in life were. Until something I read challenged me to look at that with a new perspective: It is not important what I say my priorities are. What matters is how I live. My priorities show up in my daily life. I don’t have to tell people what is important to me, because they are able to simply look at how I am living and see what is a priority for me.
There are three ways to identify what is important to us:
- What we spend time on
- What we spend money on
- What we think and talk about
These three things will tell you what is important in a person’s life. You will see evidence of their priorities in how they live. Sadly, it doesn’t often match what we say is important or what we want to be important. There is a gap between what we want and what we have in our life. So often we are so busy for every single minute of our day that we don’t accomplish the really important things. We spend all our time or energy in activity that doesn’t necessarily help us achieve the things we want to.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the one thing you aren’t doing now, that you know if you do it consistently, it will give you significantly positive results in your personal life?
- What is the one thing you aren’t doing now, that you know if you do it consistently, it will give you significantly positive results in your professional or work life?
- If you know these things would significantly change your results, why aren’t you doing them?
Most of the time, it’s not a conscious decision to not do something important. Most of the time, it’s that we allow other things to crowd out the important things. We allow anything that pops up as “urgent” to take priority.
I know this is because I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. I know I need to focus my attention on writing this blog, and yet each time an email or Facebook notification pops up in the upper right corner of my Mac, I have to fight the temptation to go read it or delete it or DO SOMETHING with it. The urgent things are often not the most important things. In fact, sometimes they urgent things are urgent and maybe even important – to someone else. Yet so often we use the excuse of something pressing to override our priorities. How often we say: “I’ll start exercising next week – I’ve just got too much to do this week.” or “I’m too busy this week to spend some time playing with the kids.” or “I’d love to spend some quality time together but I have to work. There’s a deadline. I know you understand.”
I’ve learned it’s important to plan my priorities instead of prioritizing my planning. It’s simple but not easy. I know, it’s much easier said than done…..But, it can be done. It’s how I managed to get through graduate school while working a full time and a part time job, training for and running my first marathon, and winning four state mountain biking championships while balancing my role as a wife, housewife, step-mother, chief cook and bottle washer. Oh and did I mentioned volunteering as a secretary for a non-profit organization in my community? No – it’s not because I’m superwoman. I’m not any (in fact, probably a good deal less) smarter than anyone else out there – I just learned how to manage my life.
In reality, no one can manage time. We can’t buy it, we can’t save it, and we can’t get it back. However, we can waste it, we can spend it, or we can invest it. We can’t manage time. We must manage our life. The only question is – how are you managing your life? Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must use time creatively.”
As you look at the rest of your week – ask yourself if you are using your time wisely? Are you using your most valuable resource in the way that you want to use it to accomplish what you want to? Does your calendar this week reflect what you want it to in terms of living what is important to you?
If the answer is yes, the congratulations, you are among the very few who are in complete harmony. If the answer is no, then it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities. And then, make some changes.
Ria is a motivational speaker, author, and professional coach with a passion to help others make the right choices today to reach their goals tomorrow. She teaches The Power of Effective Planning, a “time management” workshop that teaches how to manage your life. Register online for her upcoming virtual workshop or Contact Ria to request this workshop for your company, event, conference or organization.