or a while now I’ve been wanting to write and smash this myth about balance.
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
I hear and read so much about people trying to find balance in their life. To me that’s like the search for the Holy Grail. Why? Because I don’t think balance, at least in the sense of finding that perfect middle ground, even exists. From my vantage point it’s not about balancing
as much as it is about identifying and honoring a set of priorities
This whole idea of trying to find balance in your life can feel like an uphill battle. You and I have so many demands on our time and energy, many of which seem completely valid. I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve felt like I’m not giving enough time to any
facet of my world. That can be downright discouraging.
On the one hand we have our work that’s constantly tugging at us, whispering to us that it needs more attention. We have the pressures of cash flow, outstanding receivables, dissatisfied customers, problematic employees, tough competitors, and shrinking margins, just to name a few. On the other hand, we have spouses, children, significant life events, or other personal obligations that are feeling neglected and want more of us.
It’s nice to be wanted, but
So, what to do? How do we escape feeling like we’re the little flag tied to the tug-of-war rope being jostled back and forth? While there’s no magic pill or silver bullet, I do believe that we, as human beings, have a level of agency
. It’s a matter of stepping into that privilege and responsibility.
Let’s do that together by looking at five ways we can exercise our agency.
A Way in the Wilderness
1. Identify your true priorities.
Do this with your spouse, significant other, or someone else who knows you well and is committed to your welfare. This is hard work, if you do it right, and should be given significant thought and reflection. I’m not talking about whipping off a list of priorities that you will change your mind on next week. These are the “big rocks” of your life that Stephen Covey wrote about. If they don’t go into the bucket first, they won’t fit.
Lean into this exercise. Take it seriously and don’t stop until you reach a deep, personal (inner) agreement about it. If the exercise includes another person, make sure you give each other the space you need to reach that place of assurance.
I would recommend choosing three to seven. Fewer than that doesn’t narrow the path enough. If you try more than that you are getting dangerously close to the “if everything is important then nothing is” precipice.
2. Make sure your calendar reflects those priorities.
This is where it gets practical. It’s one thing to do the hard work (which it is) of figuring out your priorities. It’s a whole other thing to actually translate that into purposeful decisions and activities to which you are committed. The bottom line is that if your calendar doesn’t reflect your priorities, then either you’re out of kilter integrity-wise, or you missed on identifying your true priorities. In my experience it’s usually the former unless you didn’t give step 1 the appropriate level of consideration.
Once you’ve identified your priorities, it’s time to pull out the calendar and set aside time for the things you just decided matter most. Maybe that’s the time your going to spend with your spouse, your child, an important project for work, or something to do with your health.
Here are some things that go on my calendar well in advance:
- My quarterly review with my wife. We just completed one two weeks ago, about which I wrote last week. And, our next one in June is already on the calendar.
- I have a weekly meeting scheduled with my VP of Sales & Marketing, which is our leadership team meeting.
- I periodically schedule 1:1 breakfasts with each of my daughters.
- I set aside most Wednesdays from 8:30-9:15pm to spend 1:1 time with my sons.
- I work out at our local gym on all my non-travel days.
The bottom line here is that this moves us from a conceptual commitment to one that is in black and white and, therefore, gets planned around. Next time you see me, just ask to see my calendar.
This communicates clearly to those around us what’s important to us. One additional benefit is that it prevents the awkward moment when you realize that you scheduled a dinner meeting with a client on your wife’s birthday or the night of the big school play in which your child has the lead role.
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
3. Make the tough decisions.
This is where the rubber really meets the road. There’s absolutely no way to avoid it. By simply putting some dates on a calendar you’re not going to magically cause all of the difficult tensions that can arise to evaporate. Those clashes are bound to come. Client needs and their calendars have a way of coming into conflict with our personal lives. Uncanny
For example, this was stacking up to be one of the busiest weeks of my last 3-4 months and I could see it coming. But, this Monday was the father-daughter banquet and my four daughters were super excited about putting on their beautiful gowns, doing their hair and spending the evening at dinner and dancing with Daddy. So, what did I do?
On Monday at 2pm I put my work down and got into my own fancy duds. And trust me, at 2pm I left behind a massive
pile of important
work. But at 3:15pm, we rolled out and headed for our special evening. We had a fantastic
evening and I never once worried about the pile!! (Check out my Facebook
page for some pics). That event was on my calendar weeks in advance and, therefore, I planned my busy life of competing priorities around it. Putting that priority on my calendar made a tough decision much
As another example, I am just about to pause as I type out this blog post because I have a Bible study scheduled with my five sons (ages 15-23) on Tuesday evenings. I really “don’t have time
” for this tonight. I need to finish this amazing blog for you (insert rimshot
) and then I have to work on finishing up preparation for the 4 talks I am giving at a conference this Friday and Saturday. But, I’m going to stop and I am going to meet with my sons. Why? Because as important as you are, and as important as my audience this weekend is, my sons are more important. I know that hurts, but you’ll get over it.
By the same token, there have been plenty of times that I’ve had to say “no” to my wife or one of my children because of pressing work-related matters. You can’t do it all. Eventually, you’ll have to decide. That’s what real
4. Do a quarterly review.
I won’t take a lot of space here, but I’ll direct you to my blog post from last week
and my e-book, “10 Ways to Live on Purpose
.” The quick summary is that my wife and I do an overnight each quarter to reflect on the past 90 days and plan out our priorities for the next 90 days. It has been a hugely
positive rhythm for our marriage, our family, our church ministry, and our business.
5. Remember there are seasons.
This is simple, but critical. The priorities you set today are not likely to be the same as the ones you had five or six years ago, nor will they be the same five or six years from now. Life is a series of stages and seasons.
Don’t get stuck feeling like your blowing it because you’re not keeping the same priorities you had back then. Nor should you automatically feel a lack of integrity if new priorities are rising to the top of your list. Some things should stay the same, but others may experience radical change. You need to be the judge of that.
So, don’t worry if you can never get the scales to balance. That’s a pipe dream. But, live a life that gives appropriate honor to what matters most.
Question: What is one of the top priorities in your life over the next 90 days, and how will you get that on your calendar? [question]family-work-balance[/question]