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Balancing Work and Family

For a while now I’ve been wanting to write and smash this myth about balance.  
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  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.  
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  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 easier.   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 leaders do.   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]  
 Seize the day!
Personal Development

How Were Your Personal 1st Quarter Results?

My wife and I completed our first quarterly review of the year last week. It was incredibly refreshing and energizing.  
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  As has become our habit, we enjoyed an overnight getaway in order to look back over the last 90 days and plan for the next 90 days. I have written about this practice in my e-book, “10 Ways to Live on Purpose” and would highly recommend it to you. Whether you’re married or single, an organizational leader or aspiring to a place of meaningful influence, I believe this is a critical exercise for us to commit to so that we don’t lose sight of, or a grip on, the things that matter most to us.   It’s easy to get caught up in the current of life, especially our businesses or vocations, and it will carry you away if you’re not careful. It starts out like the slow drift of the lazy river, but will quickly transform into the torrent of the white water rapids and capsize your boat. Some people have made a complete shipwreck of their marriage and life because of a failure to do this kind of a check-up and tune-up.   Maybe you’re saying you don’t have the time for this. I’m here to tell you that you don’t NOT have the time for this, unless you want to wind up as another government statistic or have your life serve as a warning to others.   Living a life of purpose requires that we live our lives on purpose. It requires that we take a measure of ownership and recognize that experience is not the best teacher, but that evaluated experience is. And that requires intentionality and time.   I remember a saying I heard many years ago. I cannot remember to whom it is to be attributed. But the person said, “You can have what you want, or you can have all the reasons, excuses and complaints about why you don’t.” Which would you rather have?   I’d like to share with you the brief outline that we follow for our own quarterly review. I’m confident you’ll find it helpful.
 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

1. Review progress on your goals. My wife and I each share with each other how we’re doing with the goals that we set at the beginning of the year (or the end of the previous year). What is there to celebrate? What adjustments or course-corrections need to be made in order to hit the target or cross the finish line? Course corrections are a fact of life. Embrace that reality and keep pressing on toward the mark.   One of the most important aspects of this goal review is to review the key motivations behind each goal that has yet to be completed. What makes this important to me? Why should I care if I succeed or fail? About a year ago I heard a quote from Gail Hyatt, the wife of Michael Hyatt. She was quoted as saying that if you lose your “why,” you’ll lose your way.   It’s so true. It’s easy to get out of the shoot in January with all kinds of good intentions and aspirations. But, if we don’t keep our key motivations in plain sight, there are a million other tasks or projects that will distract you and take you off the path you determined had the biggest payoff for you. Internal motivations outweigh good intentions every time, especially when “life happens.”   2. Review the last 3 months in all areas. For us this includes our marriage, our family, our business, our church ministry, our health and our finances. We ask questions like:
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • How did we do at executing on our priorities from our last quarterly review?
  • How has our calendar reflected the priorities that we previously set?
  Some of the most important questions we ask are, “How are we doing at cultivating our marriage? Is it the priority it should be? How is that reflected by our calendar?” Without this kind of honest evaluation and review, it would be all too easy to get way off the track.   3. Lay out plans for the next 3 months. What is most important for us to focus on in each of these areas mentioned above? For example, we talk about each of our children, how we feel they are developing, and where they need some additional education, coaching, or mentoring.   One of the best things we do is review our calendars to make sure we have the same events scheduled, so there are no unnecessary miscommunications about what we are committed to during this period. The whole calendar thing is a big deal to me. One of the shortcomings I recognized over the last few years is that as a husband, business owner, and pastor, I have had a tendency to only focus on my own commitments. That has been a terrible undervaluing of the rest of my family and all of the commitments and responsibilities they have that affect our family.   We also ask the question, “What are the 3-5 top priorities for us over the next 90 days?” This is where we try to gain clarity about what matters most to us for this window of time. There are so many competing demands. We can’t do everything. So, we have to identify and name what needs to rise to the top so we can stay consistently focused on these key areas.   4. Work on some projects/goals that need some focus time. On this getaway, my wife spent time going through her recipes, emails, and computer files to both catch up and get everything in order. You all know how that stuff can pile up and get away from you without that kind of maintenance.   I worked on the project plan for my product launch (more on that later) and took care of a host of work and church-related tasks that I just never seemed to get time for during the hustle and bustle of everyday life.   5. Time for fun. This is totally up to you. Everyone is different. What do you enjoy doing as a couple? Maybe it’s dinner and a movie. Maybe it’s a long, slow drive through the countryside, or a nice long nap. We both love to read. Actually, the funny (and sad) thing is that one of the things we both enjoy most, is getting a ton of stuff done. So, for us we have to work hard to make sure that #4 doesn’t take up all the time we should be setting aside for this aspect of our getaway.   If you’re single, make sure you give yourself time for whatever it is that will refresh and recharge your batteries. An appropriate amount of self-care is critical so that you have the energy you need to attend to all the other priorities in your life.   6. Time for prayer. For us, this is foundational. This has become one of the keystone habits of our marriage, both at home and when we’re away. We both agree that everything else in our lives is affected by how faithfully we engage in this practice together. Our time away is an opportunity to spend some extra, extended time on this.  
Living a life of purpose requires that we live our lives on purpose. Be intentional.

Joe Denner

    Take this outline and modify it to best fit your situation, whether that be your personality or your marital status. But whatever you do, take the time to step back on a quarterly basis and revisit the path you have taken and ensure it is the one you want to be on. Make sure that path is taking you toward the destination you desire.  

It’s Right Around the Corner

Our new product will be releasing very soon. We are still in the pre-order period, so I strongly encourage you to enroll in the course now and begin reaping the benefits. This product has over 12 hours of material available to you online and at your convenience. I’m confident that it will give you the opportunity to take your management and leadership to an entirely new level.   It is going to retail for $897. But for a limited time, you can use the code PRE16ORDER7DAYS and receive a 67% discount. That’s a savings of $600. This code is only good through April 13th so don’t wait. Order now and get started on your “7 Days to Becoming a Great Manager.” Make sure you use the code PRE16ORDER7DAYS to claim your discount. I also encourage you to share this with your colleagues so they can get in on it too.  
Seize the day!
Personal Development

Why You Struggle to Achieve Your Goals

When you hear the word “goals,” what is your immediate response? Do you wince, or does your heart rate jump a few notches in anticipation?

 

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Goals seem to be a very polarizing topic. Most people either love them or hate them. There are a few people that fall in the middle, but not very many from my experience.

What is it that causes so many people to recoil when they hear that word? While there are some who, by their very nature, are not attracted to goals (they tend to like “problem-solving” instead), many people who I have worked with, who are not big fans of goals, have that attitude because their track record in accomplishing them is so disappointing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of how you are wired, or your opinion about the merit of goal-setting, you can be more successful in achieving goals.

So, what are the biggest stumbling blocks? I would like to show you five that can easily be overcome, so you can get on the right track.

Read more ...

Personal Development

De-cluttering Your Mind for 2016

As you already know from last week’s post, the last month of 2015 has been an extremely challenging one. Regardless, I can honestly say that I am excited about 2016. Not just because I am leaving December behind, but because of the goals I have set for the year ahead.

 

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Goals may not be your favorite subject, but hang in there with me. There’s something even more important I want to share with you.

My wife and I did our getaway Sunday night for our Quarterly Review. If you’re not sure what I am talking about let me refer you to my e-book, “10 Ways to Get More of What You Want.” I devote an entire chapter to this topic.

As usual, it was a very productive and refreshing time. I can only say it was way too short. That’s actually one of my goals for this year – a longer getaway with my lovely bride.

Being our last one of the year, we used a portion of the time to each set our goals for the upcoming year. That was personally rewarding for both of us. But, something else came out of our time, or maybe I should say came clearer into focus, that is critically important.

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Personal Development

I Didn’t Lie to You. I Promise.

<span class="xtypo_dropcap">If you read my blog post last week (and remember it) you’re going to think I lied to you. But I didn’t. Honestly. I fully intended to write to you this week about how to know whether or not you have a problem to be solved or a tension that needs to be managed – either in your business or your life.

 

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And I promise I will, because it is an important topic. But, quite frankly, I’ve had a lot of stuff going on in my life the last two weeks that has been very depleting. Don’t worry I am not looking for you to be my counselor or to send me warm and fuzzy encouragements. I just need to be real with you.

There is no point in putting up a facade. I could just keep putting up good content and sounding very knowledgeable and professional (which I think I am), but this week I felt like I needed to take a little different approach.

Last week I mentioned that I had just come through a really hard, really difficult day. And it was. Unfortunately, the week didn’t get a lot better. The day I released my blog another family who is very important to me experienced a significant loss. One that I could actually identify with very closely…too closely.

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Personal Development

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