The number one question I receive with regards to my own work structure is how I manage to do all that I’m doing and still show up as a member of my own family. It’s not easy, and it requires a lot of “ifs,” but I can share my methods, and maybe you can see what matters out of the list for your own pursuits. Fair?
My method, in a box, is this:
Goals Always Rule
I’m working on improving the quality of my life in all aspects: health, home, financial, and creative pursuits. If you don’t have a vision for those goals mattering to you, then it’s hard to lay out any kind of time and life balance plan. Let me break down just a few of my goals, so you can see what I do.
- Family – be home more days in a month than away.
- Family – put my daughter on the bus, or pick her up.
- Family – have one meal (at least) with them daily.
- Health – improve daily minutes of activity.
- Health – discover some new solo activities, maybe a partner activity.
- Health – half my plate at any restaurant.
- Financial – do I need this? (filter)
- Financial – keep my eye on my earnings statement
- Financial – work bigger, not more
- Creative – diversify my writing projects
- Creative – build businesses that make me smile
- Creative – work on artsy stuff with Josh Fisher
So, those are examples of goals I have that drive my actions. Those are just examples (although they’re not half bad).
This one is VITAL. I learned that the more I can say no kindly, the more time I have to do what matters most and what I perceive will aid the greater good. I say no to television. I say no to too many tweetups and meetups. I say no to conferences that aren’t giving me enough direct value back. I say no to projects that I can’t take on due to time constraints.
Saying no is the single most important way I reclaim time for my family. It’s also a great way to be clear about why you can’t help. Family comes first.
The best way to get a lot done, I’ve found, is to have chunks of it ready to go at any point. So, when I’ve got an extra 30 minutes lying around (and it happens), I’ll see what I have for goals. For instance, one of my goals is to have two posts a day ready at [chrisbrogan.com], and that’s what I’m writing right now.
I break every project down into chunks of time. So, one project (ongoing) is the little things (like paper mail), and that involves a quick ride to my mailbox. Not unlike the David Allen system, I try to schedule all my “out of office” contexted stuff to happen at the same time, so that I’m not running around willy nilly.
The other thing I do is I try to diversify my chunks so that when I look at all the things I’m doing, I see whether or not I have enough family ones, enough financial, enough health, enough creative (or whatever ways you want to break them up). I do this with colorful sticky notes (either in real life or on a website), and it makes it REALLY easy to see what’s dominating my time and my day.
If you don’t review your goals, your chunks of time used, and/or review WITH PEOPLE who represent those goals, you’ll have no idea how you’re doing. I review how I’m hitting on my goals, and I review whether or not there’s enough balance in all that I’m doing. I review whether I’m doing too much of one thing at the sacrifice of something else.
One example: I’ve really neglected my physical health these last few years. Now that I’ve realized this, I’m scheduling in time to do more with that every day. But that time has to come from somewhere. So, I’m taking it out of some of my creative pursuits and definitely out of my “general networking” time chunks. It doesn’t make sense to try and visit every Tweetup if I’m going to be visiting them in a wheelchair due to personal neglect. Make sense?
The single biggest piece of advice I have in maintaining a work-life-family balance is communication. I check in with Kat all the time. I ask her how I’m doing. I see whether or not things make sense. I reiterate my plans. I tell her why I’m spending my time where I do. I communicate as much as humanly possible as often as humanly possible.
That way, we’re aligned. She knows what matters to me. I know what’s important to her. I can work to keep the family’s goals in mind when I’m doing my business goals, and I can really work to explain and/or justify the exceptions. It doesn’t always work well, but that’s why it’s a relationship and not a robotic ruleset.
Your Mileage Will Vary
It’s just not likely that you can do exactly what I’ve laid out and it’ll work flawlessly. You’ll have fewer restrictions, or not enough support, or a standard 9-5 or something. Don’t let that disturb you. Take the parts you can take, work with those parts, and see if they make any difference.
What did I forget?