Is Balance Even Possible?

April 28, 2008

There is an awful lot of talk about work-life balance these days. Everybody is trying to attain balance. And mostly, everybody is failing making themselves wrong for that.

But what is balance really? And how do we get there?

I read an interesting message today from Bob Proctor:

It’s possible to focus so much on one thing that your life becomes imbalanced.

How can you avoid this? Through an attainable goal … which occurs when you pay attention to all areas of life and neglect none.

To create … a fulfilling life with riches in every category – let’s think of life in 5 key areas:

  1. financial;
  2. relational;
  3. mental (including intellect and emotions);
  4. physical; and
  5. spiritual

Visualize these as pillars. If you weaken any of them, you start falling apart, either all at once or by bits and pieces. And you can’t strengthen the structure by reinforcing the strong pillars; instead, you must attend to the weak ones – areas of neglect.

Your pillars will never be equally strong all of the time. This is what some people call “balance,” but it’s misleading. You can’t establish absolute strength for all five areas and then keep your life in that pose for an easy and unchanging live. (Thank God!) Life would be uneventful – and incredibly boring.

Think about this: In perfect balance, nothing happens – nothing!

Creating [balance] starts with realizing that all areas must have some attention all the time – not that all areas demand all your attention all the time.

The key is to plan for finite periods of focus and defocus – but never total neglect.

Finite periods of focus and defocus – in other words, things will go out of balance from time to time. It is a dance of correct and adjust, correct and adjust, correct and adjust.



Managing Your eMail Inbox

April 25, 2008

I am sure you have heard the reports that the average business person is receiving 470 emails every week, and is spending up to 15 hours a week just trying to get through the inbox. This doesn’t count the time spent doing any actual work on what has come in.

If you do the math (and I did), that is up to 19-1/2 weeks just sorting through the inbox. That is just crazy!

So, what to the rest of us do? Because I am definitely NOT going to be spending 19-1/2 weeks in my inbox this year.

First, set up a time to check your email. Disable the automatic send/receive, or disable the automatic notifier – so you won’t get sucked into the vortex. Then, during the scheduled time – motor through your inbox using the following steps:

Divert – set up rules for various types of email that you don’t need to see right away. For example – newsletters you have subscribed to, or mail from the one person who still insists on sending you the joke (or hoax) of the day. Send them all into their own folder (or the trash), and check them when you can.

Read and delete (or file) – look to see how much of your messages are just something you need to read and can then just file or delete. No response is required. No further action is required.

Read and respond – some messages can be dealt with quickly. You don’t need any more information, you can just respond and move on. Do that.

Read and schedule for future action – then there are those that need some further action. So, either file in your ‘to be scheduled’ folder, or go ahead and schedule it, and then you are done with it until the time arrives to act.

I’ve been doing this for years. I get 70-100 emails every day. I spend about 30 minutes a day going through the inbox, and it is empty when I am done with that time block.

Even if you only add one of these steps to your routine, it will make a difference.


Does your schedule work?

April 11, 2008

Some comments I have been hearing recently are “I never get through my list” or “there aren’t enough hours in the day” or “if I only had more time.”

There always seems to be far too much to do – when looked at in relation to the hours in the day. And when viewed that way – there really IS far more than can be done in that amount of time – usually. There is everything you need to get done at work, plus everything you are responsible for at home, what needs to happen with the kids, and with this committee and that organization, and let’s not forget the things we should be doing for ourselves (but we do tend to forget those).

There is a reason why there are personal conceirge services starting up every week! These services are made up of people who will do anything from running your errands, to preparing meals, to handling your paperwork. And there are thousands of virtual assistants out there to assist you with paperwork, research, travel planning, scheduling – almost anything you can think of.

What are the benefits of having someone else take over some of your to do’s? You get more hours in the day to use for what is imporant to you.

If your schedule is crammed full you might consider looking at what you could give away…

Benign neglect

April 7, 2008

My sister recently won a lunch for coming up with the best suggestion for how someone could deal with normal life in the face of a major circumstance.

Her recommendation was ‘benign neglect.’ Don’t jump at every request. Don’t respond to every question. Don’t answer every email. Don’t try to get everything done.

It is amazing what can be removed from your list of things to do when you apply this principle. You begin to ask if it is even yours to do. You know what I mean – are you the best person to do this? Can anyone else do it? Are you doing it because it is really yours? Or are you doing it because it is expected, or because it is easier for you to do it than to deal with someone else who is not doing it? Does it even need to be done?

What is the worst thing that will happen if you ignore a request, an email, a phone call? Tim Ferriss talks about the art of letting bad things happen in his popular blog. One of the main points:

Will “bad” things happen? Small problems will crop up, yes. A few people will complain and quickly get over it. BUT, the bigger picture items you complete will let you see these for what they are—minutiae and repairable hiccups.

So much of what appears to be urgent will disappear and disolve in the face of benign neglect.

It is worth a try…

The ‘perfect’ system

April 2, 2008

Women discovered a long time ago that ‘one size fits all’ is an incomplete sentence. Fits all what?

Well, I have been running into people who are telling me about the ‘perfect’ system for getting and staying organized and productive. This person teaches this system, that book discusses the other system, and you can buy this other version at your local store. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that the systems and approaches aren’t valid and valuable. They clearly work. And for the right person they work quite well.

The problem is – the person they work the best for is the person who designed the system.

The other problem is that I see friends, colleagues and clients buying into the structure completely, and then thinking there is something wrong with them when it doesn’t work as advertised or expected.

Does that mean I think they shouldn’t buy the system? No. But I do think they should give some thought to what part of the system is appealing to them the most.

My own approach is more ‘a la carte’ – I take this part from this system, and that piece from the book, and another bit from something I saw or heard about. I end up with a completely customized system that – you guessed it – works perfectly for me! And I am not afraid to revise and tweak it as I go along.

We don’t have one size fits all people, so why think we have a one size fits all solution?

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