Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Beyond the Juggling Act to Living in Balance

Beyond the Juggling Act to Living in Balance

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by
the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover" - Mark Twain

If tennis balls represented areas of your life, how many balls are you currently juggling? Too many? Which ones are you dropping daily -- is it spending quality time with your family, working out, planning for your business, or doing what you love to do? In today's world, we are constantly juggling our priorities and trying to make everything fit. How does one maintain balance and still be a juggler? Most people find this aspect of life both exhausting, and stressful. You don't have to live your life on the edge of collapsing. You can create a balanced life where you have time and energy to do what is really important to you.

How balanced is your life?
Exercise: Take a blank sheet of paper, and write down the words Health, Relationships, Career, and Spiritual life. Then rate these areas of your life on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being absolutely perfect and 1 being in the royal dumpster (absolutely terrible). Convert these ratings into centimeters, and draw a box with four lines that are the length of the rating you gave each of these categories. For instance, if you gave yourself a 3 in the area of health you would draw a straight line 3 cm long. Then, if you gave yourself a 7 in the area of Career you would draw another line 7 cm long . This will give your a clear picture of how your life looks. What does your box look like? Is it lopsided? Is it a rectangle? Does it have a big opening or gap because the lines don't connect? If you had a balanced life, your life would look like a perfect square.

Develop a vision of each area of your life.
Life is not a dress rehearsal. You only have one shot at designing a life that is perfect for you. In order to create a balanced life that supports you, you need to have a vision of what you want to create. A vision is something that you stand for happening in the future that orients all of the decisions that you make. Having a vision allows you to consciously channel your energies and time into avenues that will ultimately result in your dreams.

Ask yourself these questions to help illuminate your vision.
- What is really important to me?
- What do I want to create in every area of my life?
- When I look back on my life at the age of eighty, what do I want to have experienced or accomplished?
Turn over the sheet of paper, and write down the category where you scored the lowest. Then, write down your vision for this area of your life by asking yourself the above questions. For instance, in the area of health, a possible vision could be that you want to be completely fit and trim, and be able to run a marathon. Lastly, write down two action steps that would help you achieve your vision. For instance, two steps could be exercising 5 days a week, and eliminating sugar from your diet. Continue this exercise with each of the categories.
Create space in your life for what is important.
How can you begin implementing the actions steps that you have just written down on your paper. Most people have trouble adding new commitments because their life is too full of things that must get done. The first step in designing a balanced lifestyle is to clear out some space for new activities that support the hitherto ignored areas of your life. Here are two ways that you can begin to create space for what is important:

a. Eliminate activities that are no longer supporting you.
What are you doing out of obligation or habit? Make a list of all of the activities that you do. Then ask yourself if each activity is bringing you joy and helping you create your vision. If the answer is no, delegate it or drop it. For instance, if you dread cleaning the house every week, hire a maid instead. With the time you save, you can go to the gym and begin actually developing your vision of physical health.

b. Under-promise and Overdeliver.
Over-promising can throw you off balance. A sense of urgency causes you to ignore certain parts of your life in favor of one specific task that must be completed immediately. When you under-promise, you give yourself ample time to do the task which
* allows you to keep your commitments in the other areas of your life.
* eliminates rework due to mistakes (an all too common time waster).
* enables you to deliver ahead of schedule, resulting in the respect and admiration of your clients and thus attracting more business opportunities to you.

Where are you over-promising in your life? I challenge you to begin to under-promise today, and see how dramatically this new habit can change your life. In fact, one coaching client used to get in trouble for finishing projects behind schedule. She began to under-promise by giving herself 3 extra days to do a project. After a few months' time, her boss promoted her because he was so impressed with the way that she was now finishing projects on time. Go ahead and see how this
new technique can work for you.

Schedule your big rocks into your life first.
Your big rocks are things that are a priority to you, and that positively impact your life. Some examples of big rocks could be going to the gym, writing a book, learning French, meditating, etc. What are your big rocks? Sand and pebbles are the things that naturally fill in your day and that you tend to do automatically out of habit or necessity (i.e. eating, watching TV, going to work). Most people have trouble finding time for their big rocks because their life is filled up with sand and pebbles. In other words, they are so busy just keeping up, and doing everyday things that they don't have time to do what really matters (i.e. the big rocks). However, when you schedule big rocks into your agenda first, the sand and pebbles of life can easily fit in between the big rocks. This technique will help you reorient your life around your priorities and re-establish more balance.

There are two important keys to making this work:

- Honor your appointments with yourself as you would an appointment with your most valuable client. You will be more effective and productive if you take the time out to do things for yourself.

- Set strong boundaries. Be vigilant about people asking you to give up your plans in favor of their needs. Write down your boundaries so that you know where you stand. Then, begin saying "no" when people ask you to give up your big rocks.

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