How To Bring Balance Into Your Life
This week, I have a question about creating balance in your life, something I have been writing quite a lot about this week.
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Hello and welcome to episode 172 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
So what do we mean when we talk about a balanced life? I think this will mean something different to all of us. For me, it’s having sufficient time to do my work, spend quality time with my wife and have time for exercise and working on myself. For others, it might be being able to hang out with friends, coach the local rugby team or playing the piano. A balanced life is all about having the time to do what you want to do each day, week and month.
Now, before we get to the question, I would like to let you all know about the 2021 Task Management and Time Blocking Summit. It’s a free summit with some amazing speakers all about…well, time management and time blocking.
The event takes place from Thursday 4th March and runs through to Saturday 6th.
It’s a FREE event and all you need do is register. I’ve put the registration details in the show notes. There’s a lot you can learn here and well worth joining. Oh, and I have a session on managing your to-do list.
Okay, it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Stuart. Stuart asks, Hi Carl, I have been using a To-do list for years, but what I noticed is most of my tasks each day seem to be all about work. I rarely have time for doing any personal tasks so I don’t put them on my list anymore. It makes me feel that my life is just work and more work. Is there a way to balance out a to-do list?
Hi Stuart. Thank you for your question.
I think this problem has come about because most books and articles about time management and productivity frequently have a business and work slant. And, let’s be honest here, work does form a large part of our lives between a certain age. It’s difficult to avoid it.
There are few people left who have what used to be called a private or independent income. And we need to earn an income to be able to put food on our tables, be able to enjoy going out and meeting friends and travelling.
However, life should never be all about your work. There does need to be some balance. But, how do you find balance if your work is taking up all your daylight hours and your thoughts when you finally get home?
Well, the first thing is to stop allowing your to-do list to control your day. A to-do list is just a list of things you want to or need to do. It should never be used to determine how you spend the day.
The tool you need to bring balance to your life is your calendar. Your calendar will never lie to you because we only get 24 hours a day and that’s it. Whatever is on our to-do list is irrelevant if you don’t have time to do it. You cannot magically make more time.
The other thing about your calendar is it will show you where you are spending most of your time. Sure, Monday to Friday will be dominated by your work. Most of us are contracted to work a certain number of hours each week. The average being 40. That could change in the near future with the shift away from working in an office and working more from home, but right now that’s the standard.
But it is only 40 hours. There are 168 hours in a week, so those 40 hours is 24% of your week. What are you doing with the other 76%? That’s 128 hours you get for things other than work.
I know, we have to sleep and eat, but it still leaves us quite a lot of time. What are you doing with that time? That’s where you want to be starting. With that question.
This is why your calendar will help you. You will see all that blank space on your calendar once your work is in.
So, what would you like to do in that free time? For me, I want an hour a day for exercise. So I block that off on my calendar. I also like thirty minutes for reading. Although I don’t put reading time on my calendar, I just go to bed around thirty minutes early so I can read before going to sleep.
I also like an hour in the morning for writing my journal and doing my morning routines. So, between 7 and 8 AM I have a time block on my calendar for morning routines.
You don’t need to make big changes to begin feeling more balanced. Making time for yourself each day for important things like exercise, journaling and meditation can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
I also make it a point to have lunch with my wife every day and recently we’ve added a family walk with our beloved dog every morning.
But if you add up all the time I have for my non-work activities, it’s about three to four hours a day and those three to four hours take care of so many important areas of life—my mental and physical health and my family relationships.
So in any given day, I work for around ten hours and I spend three to four hours on my personal activities. So, let’s say 14 hours a day. Now I don’t need ten hours for sleeping and eating. I like six hours of sleep, so what do I do with the remaining four hours? I don’t know. They just disappear.
If you do your own analysis, you will like to find you have more time than you think.
What you will notice is you will have some lost time each day. The question is what are you doing with that time each day? Most people will tag on an extra hour or two of work, or slump down on the sofa mindlessly watching TV, or the scourge of modern society, doom scrolling through news and social media. We don’t schedule this time, it just gets lost and it can be hard to figure out what we did.
Now, you don’t have to do anything with this time. If you are happy letting it go, and you feel your life is pretty balanced, then let it go.
But, and I suspect you fall into this category, Stuart, if we are feeling our life is made up only of work and not much else we need to reclaim this lost time for the things we want to do. That’s why your calendar will help you.
Start by scheduling the things you want to do. Work takes care of itself. It’s fixed. Monday to Friday 9 till 5—or whatever your working hours are—so the areas you want to be scheduling are the times in between.
Start with your morning routine. Even if you don’t have a morning routine right now, make sure you wake up at least an hour before you need to do anything. This hour is important because this hour is for you. Nobody else. This is for you to do whatever you want. You could use it for exercise, for reading the news, meditating, learning something, writing a journal. This is your time and you must protect it.
I have a rule. If I have to start my day at a given time I will wake up precisely one hour before. I often have coaching calls at 7 AM, so I wake up at 6 AM on the days I have calls at 7 AM, even though this is an hour before I usually wake up. A few weeks ago I did a training session for a company at 4:30 AM my time. I woke up at 3:30 AM so I still had my hour of “me time” before I started the day.
Being able to start your day your way sets you up for a great day and you will feel a lot happier about your day. Think back to the last time you overslept and had to rush to get out of bed. How did you feel all day? Rushed, yes? It’s not a good way to start the day feeling rushed yo…