In 5 Steps to Work Life Balance I give an overview of achieving that work-life balance we all strive for. In this post, I will focus on setting priorities as a way to improve time management.
Sometimes it seems that everything is the top priority.
Raising the children is the most important thing, being at all of their activities, being the involved mom, and getting to know their friends.
Building my business is the top priority because I need to pay the mortgage, buy food, pay for all of those activity fees and buy all of those T-shirts for said activities. I feel like an ATM machine running on empty. What is a mom to do?
Budgeting and Dieting
Setting priorities is like budgeting money, but it is also like going on a diet. Imagine a person, we will call him John, who is concerned about not having money for savings or retirement as being obese. He is on a diet, according to him, with a few slips.
Plan vs. Reality
Here is how John describes his diet: He drinks a healthy shake for breakfast and a skim milk latte on the way to work. Then he intends to have shakes in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. John often forgets the shakes and swings through a fast-food restaurant or goes to the gas station for lunch and a diet soda.
He usually has chicken or fish with vegetables for dinner. But, once or twice a week he has a late meeting so he will go out to eat and his choices are not as healthy as when he cooks at home.
John admits to me that he goes really off his diet in the evening because he usually has a pint of Haagen Dazs. He realized it was a problem when he was going to different stores so no one would realize he was getting ice cream every day. He assures me he has a stressful job and needs the treat.
None of these treats alone breaks the budget or ruins his diet. But, all together here is what you get: latte $5, fast food $10, Haagen Dazs $5. We will skip the going out to eat and figure that makes up for the days he has shakes for lunch. So that adds up to $20 a day or $600 a month or $7300 a year. Besides that, I am sure the calorie count is way over his budget for weight loss.
An hour of television in the evening to unwind and a couple of fifteen-minute blocks of time on Facebook or Pinterest is no big deal. However, when you add it up and you get 10 ½ hours a week or 547 ½ hours a year. Imagine what it would be like to invest another 547 hours a year in your relationship with your kids, your partner, or your career.
There is an old story about filling a jar with various objects: rocks, pebbles, sand, and liquid. You’re supposed to put the big rocks in a jar first to make the most of the space. After the big rocks are in the jar, then you put in the pebbles. Then the sand and then pour in a couple of cups of coffee.
If you start with the little things, like sand and pebbles, there is no room in the jar for those big rocks. That jar is a good metaphor for prioritizing your life. Start with what is most important, the big things.
Many people will say those are friends and family. Decide how you will make your friends and family a priority on a daily and weekly basis. Less important things like pebbles might be the volunteer work you find important. Sand or pebbles might be volunteer work that is important, but not a priority to you. It could be cleaning out a closet or watching a favorite television show.
One way to make a relationship with your children a priority is to have regular family meals. A daily family meal is ideal. If everyone cannot sit down at the table at the same time, can you as a parent take the time to sit with each child as they have either breakfast or dinner? Another way is to have a family night once a week where you play games or do something active together. You could also make attending each other’s activities a priority. Is family a priority? How will you schedule your time to let the people in your life know that they are a priority?
Is it Important?
What about the pebbles? The sand? The cups of coffee? You can identify things in your life as important or unimportant, and immediate or not immediate.
Often the not immediate and important is sacrificed for the immediate and less/not important.
Notice how you use your time and schedule an intentional time for the not immediate and important. Some things in that category may be strategic planning for your career or business, a weekend away with your partner for couple time, or one-on-one time with your child. Those are the big rocks in your jar, put them in first.
The room that is left in your jar of time is where the smaller, immediate and less important activities belong. Some of the pebbles in my life are cleaning out my email inbox, washing my walls, cleaning cabinets. I like it when these things are done, but they need to fit in between the more important things.
What is one change you can make in how you use your time to reflect your priorities?