Do you ever worry that life is passing you by? Are you concerned you are not making the most of the opportunity life presents, and maybe one day you will realise it is all too late? If this rings true, you are not alone! These are fears that affect most of us.
The good news is that this does not have to be an abstract concern. In this article I explain a very practical approach you can take to make sure you are getting the most out of your life.
It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
We all want different things out of life. People mistakenly think ‘balance’ is what we need to aim for between, for example, home and work life. But it is less to do with balance and more to do with alignment. The noticeable difference comes when you spend more of your time on what you want out of life. It may sound simple, but it is astounding that most people do not necessarily follow this simple rule! When the time you spend is closely aligned with your hopes and dreams, you will get closer to realising your personal aspirations and living your own personal dream.
Follow these five simple steps to make it work for you:
1. Identify the main important areas in your life
The following life categories are a useful starting point:
- Health and wellbeing
- Family and friends
- Rest, play and pleasure
- Growth, learning and development
Feel free to adapt the list to match what you assess as your main life categories. You may, for example, consider friends and extended family as a separate category to your immediate family. Perhaps you have specific spiritual needs, or want to finally get around to writing that book you have wanted to for the last few years. Or, maybe you have a hobby you enjoy doing that warrants its own category (I have playing tennis on my list!). Create the list of your categories that is right for you and your life.
2. Score how important each of these areas are to you
Assign yourself 100 points. Allocate these 100 points across all the areas, based on how important they are to you. Choose how many points you will allocate to work, how many to growth, learning and development etc. When added together, the number of points for all the areas must total 100. Look at your final allocation and make sure you are comfortable that the scoring reflects how important each area is to you (relative to the other areas).
3. Score how much of your time you currently spend in each area
As with the last exercise, assign yourself 100 points, but this time think of them as hypothetical aliquots of your time. Divide these 100 aliquots (percentage of time) across your listed areas based on how much time you actually spend on each – how many of the 100 aliquots of time do you spend on work, how many on family and friends, etc? Again, your individual scores should total 100, and should indicate the relative apportionment of your time on each area. Be honest with yourself – this needs to reflect how you actually spend your time, not how you think you ought to be spending it!
4. Compare the two lists
For most of us, the two lists show that how we spend our time does not match what is most important to us. Typically, we spend a disproportionate percentage of our time at work compared to the priority we actually give to it. Some of the things most important to us, in particular some of our key relationships, do not receive the time and attention their importance to us would suggest.
Awareness of the difference and disconnect between what we want and what we do is crucial to getting closer to living the life we want. Once you notice a disconnect between what you want and how you spend your time, you can move to step 5 and start to take action!
5. Take action to create more alignment between your two lists
Don’t expect to fix the difference between the two lists overnight! We often have demanding jobs that take up much of our time, and it is often not possible to change this straight away especially when the income is essential to maintaining your family. My advice is to pick one change you want to make that will have the biggest impact, and focus on that. It might, for example, be you want to spend more time with your family, or on improving your health. Consider what steps you can take to make this a reality.
I worked with a client who developed a side business designing and selling notebooks to supplement her income (as part of a larger plan to eventually move to part-time working!). She ingeniously involved her teenage daughter to help design the book covers. This meant she was able to spend more time doing fun things with her daughter as well as take positive steps to spending less time at work in the future.
After following the 5 steps, another client found a huge discord between work and family time. In addition to being at work, he was taking work home. Consequently, he spent very little time with his family, even when he was at home. He established a specific time when he committed to stop working and dedicated the evenings to focus on his family.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, and so even if you give work less of your time, it is still possible to achieve the same amount of work. This was certainly the experience of my client. He was amazed that his fear of not being able to be as effective at work if he stopped taking work home did not come to pass.
Time is your most precious resource. You only have one life. Consciously choosing how you spend your time, rather than allowing your time to be consumed by those who demand it most, is the key to living your own personal dream life.