When most people start talking about their need for work-life balance, if you listen really well, you will notice that balance is not what they are really looking for at all. Instead, most people are talking about their need to spend more time with their family or their interest in getting back to the gym. Some people are even talking about the need to find the time to study or to take up some hobby they have always wanted to master. Or maybe they are trying to find the time to work on a side hustle so they can earn additional income. Whatever the reason that is driving them, most people are really just saying that they want to be able to use their time outside of work to do something that is important to them.
Most of us spend a lot of time coming up with strategies to be effective and accomplished at work. We have planners, to do lists, techniques and processes that we use throughout the day at work. However, when it comes to our personal life and the things that we want to get accomplished outside of the office most of us assume it will naturally fall into place.
Here are a few insights that may be useful in helping you to plan your activities outside of working hours:
- You do not need balance.
When I work with my clients, I tell them that their need is not for balance. Instead what they really want is to be able to do something that they consider important. This shift in thinking is important because it makes the issue a lot easier to address. You don’t need to spend as much time and effort on activities outside of work just to have experiences that are fulfilling and life affirming. You may be able to accomplish that in a few days of concentrated effort or a few hours where you unplug and fully engage in something else. Instead of trying to tackle the problem of creating balance in your whole life, you just need to allocate time for one or two activities.
- You have to be willing to sacrifice.
Most people already have a packed schedule and to try to add anything new into the existing plan seems overwhelming and daunting. Therefore, if something is important and not already scheduled, then you are going to have to find something that you can sacrifice in the short term for the long term benefit of doing what is more important to you. You have to decide what matters to you most and then go forward from that point.
- You have the power.
The secret to making better use of your time is to recognize that you have the power of choice. You can choose to do anything you want with the time that is available to you. You can choose to put in the long hours at work because doing a good job and getting ahead is important to you. You can choose to spend time with your children on weekends because that is important to you. You can choose to go hiking in the Himalayas or spend the weekend binge watching movies. No choice is inherently better than the other, it is all a matter of choosing what is most fulfilling to you and most likely to help you achieve the life you want to live.
- You cannot waste time or get more time.
There is no such thing as wasting time. You may not be making the best choices, given your goals, but still it is an experience for you. You cannot save time nor can you get more of it. Therefore, the notion that we will do what is important at some designated point in the future when we are not pressed for time, is not a good approach to have. Whenever we use the phrase that we cannot find the time to do something, what we are really saying is that we choose not to use our time to do that task. We choose something else instead.
- You must manage you.
The secret to successfully using our time to the best of our ability is to manage our energy and the choices that we make in expending that energy. Most people are looking for is a way to recover from their daily grind so that they can feel mentally engaged and capable of being productive outside of their working hours. To do this anyone can engage in activities throughout the day to ensure that they keep their energy up.
If you have something that you need to do because it is important, then you are going to have to give up something else that you currently do. It’s that simple. Time is inelastic. It doesn’t change. You will not get any extra amount no matter how often we say it. Therefore, we have to decide how to use what is available to us. That means that we cannot pursue things that are of less importance to us. The secret to effectiveness is making the best choice possible.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live