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How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

Health and meaningful relationships add years and quality to our lives. Few people contest this fact.  Does it then follow that more people are focusing on these areas of their lives?  Do you regularly exercise and go for holidays or fun meals with your spouse/partner and family?  If the answer is no, why not?  Expense could be an issue.  If your reason is  “I can’t find the time,”  you’re not alone.  You keep track of your expenses and know how much your bank balance is, but do you also know exactly where your time goes?  Here are simple tools to manage time and become conscious of how you spend it.

1. Pause and review your past week.

You attend to many things at work and after work.  How do you decide on which tasks to prioritize?  Usually, you first do those that need to be finished sooner or whose deadlines are looming.  This generally works, but over the long term it could turn into crisis management rather than a way to manage time.  Cheryl Richardson in her book Take Time for Your Life challenges us to check where our time goes. Determined to get an accurate indicator for the exercise, I came up with these forms that assign colors per Life Area to make it visually easier to track time.

First, look over a typical week.  On the Time Tracking Daily Form, block the hours spent per day according to color of the Life Area they fall under.

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    Next, total those hours by Life Areas on the Time Tracking Weekly Totals Form. An optional step is to convert those weekly totals to a pie chart for a more dramatic visual.

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      So just where does your time go?  Aside from sleeping and eating, which area of your life do you spend the most time on? Which life area gets the smallest portion?  I had expected work to eat up a big chunk of my time, but was surprised at how little I spent on Spiritual well-being and on Fun and Adventure.

      2. Make a plan to manage time; decide which life areas need attention.

      These forms are not absolute and have room for improvement.  Exercise, for example, is grouped with sleeping under Physical and Emotional Health. Although this area gets the largest share of your time, it does not necessarily mean you are spending that time on exercise.  Watching TV falls under Fun and Adventure, but it’s a poor substitute for traveling or participating in a hobby. Reading falls under Physical and Emotional Health when it could actually be considered a hobby.  You can tweak the activities that go under each life area or even change the colors altogether.  What’s important is you’re aware of the other areas of your life you may be neglecting and can then decide to manage time so these get more attention.

      The Simple Abundance Companion author, Sarah Ban Breathnach remembers the shock she had felt while looking at her calendar and realizing, in her own words, that “there was no space in the day, week, or month for me to take care of my needs.” She talks about how our inability to say no to family, friends, colleagues, and volunteer work can quickly fill up our calendars, leaving no time for ourselves. Taking action, she set aside two hours a week on her calendar just for her.  She didn’t label it, but blocked the time with a bright yellow marker. This visual prompt made it easy for her to say no to any activity that was in conflict with her “just my own” time.  Her color-blocking tip inspired me to use colors on my weekly and daily schedules.

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      3. Prepare your weekly to-do list and daily schedule to prioritize those life areas you want to focus on.

      Planning what you want to accomplish on a weekly basis works well.  List the tasks by Life Area on the Weekly To-Do List.

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        These tasks can then be carried over to your Daily Schedule.  At the end of each day and week, review what you have accomplished.  The colors will clearly show which life areas you spent most of your day and the week on. You can then decide to focus on the other areas in the coming days and weeks.

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          Often, there will be demands on your time beyond your control. These effective, colorful tools will equip you with some leeway for deciding how you spend your time.  Consider it like a bank or expense account that shows you where your money goes.  Unlike money, time is a finite resource.  Once spent, it can never be recovered. When you consciously manage time, you can balance not just your finances, but more importantly, your life.

          Featured photo credit: Hour Glass, flickr, Nicole Gaunt via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on January 21, 2020

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

          your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

            Why You Need a Vision

            Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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            How to Create Your Life Vision

            Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

            What Do You Want?

            The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

            It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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            Some tips to guide you:

            • Remember to ask why you want certain things
            • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
            • Give yourself permission to dream.
            • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
            • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

            Some questions to start your exploration:

            • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
            • What would you like to have more of in your life?
            • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
            • What are your secret passions and dreams?
            • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
            • What do you want your relationships to be like?
            • What qualities would you like to develop?
            • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
            • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
            • What would you most like to accomplish?
            • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

            It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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            What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

            Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

            A few prompts to get you started:

            • What will you have accomplished already?
            • How will you feel about yourself?
            • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
            • What does your ideal day look like?
            • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
            • What would you be doing?
            • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
            • How are you dressed?
            • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
            • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
            • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

            It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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            Plan Backwards

            It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

            • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
            • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
            • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
            • What important actions would you have had to take?
            • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
            • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
            • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
            • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
            • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

            Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

            It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

            Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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