By Nancy Singer
Many of the executives I coach have told me they often find themselves so engrossed and overwhelmed with work that too little time is left for engaging with family and community, not to mention having “me” time. This has been especially true over this past pandemic year where boundaries between our work and home lives seem to have disappeared. However, those who make purposeful choices about which opportunities they’ll pursue and those they’ll decline have discovered the keys to personal and professional success. While there isn’t a one-size fits all solution, making deliberate choices can sustain us through the inevitable challenges that life may throw our way. What if we could make the process of deliberate choice part of our annual planning but…make it simpler and more meaningful to bring balance back into our lives?
My Solution: plan-on-a-page
A one page hand written simple graphic, if you will, that contains maybe 5-8 categories of things that are important to you (e.g., Health, Finance, Work, Friends, Family, Community) with a few bullets listing the things you want to do THIS year relative to each category with your three highest overall priorities highlighted. Simple. Not elegant, but highly meaningful.
It looks something like this:
Every year I schedule a half-day “personal retreat” with myself. I look for a location that’s comfortable, usually warm, and away from distractions; a happy place where I can think and reflect. I’m sure a few places readily come to mind for your retreat.
Once you get settled in, I recommend the following process:
1) Identify categories of importance in your life. Mine include Health (mental, spiritual & physical), Work, Family, Volunteering, Finances, Travel & Entertainment and Friends. These categories have stayed largely the same over the past ten years, while the emphasis and priorities have shifted.
2) Identify a few things (bullet points) that you want to work on in each category this year (e.g. support a sister-in-law who is going through a divorce, update your retirement plan with a financial planner, serve on a nonprofit board, schedule two grils’ weekends away, increase the revenues of your business by 10%, read ten books, etc.)
3) Pick your top three priorities overall for a hyper focus.
Keep your Plan on a Page handy so you can see it regularly. I have mine in a clear folder in my inbox where it can’t be missed.
Evaluate your progress. I recommend a six-month check in followed by an annual one. Look at last year’s goals. How did you do? I was raised by a school teacher so I grade myself on each category then give myself an overall grade for the year. Nerdy, I know, but having been highly motivated by grades, I find this works for me. You can carry forward any items that will be relevant for you in the coming year- but only if those are still relevant. Do not overdo it.
It’s for your eyes only. No one has to see this plan – it’s for you and only you, which allows you the freedom to be completely honest with yourself. It also helps you control what you will pay attention to in the coming year.
It’s surprisingly effective. I find this single piece of paper helps guide how I spend my time much more effectively than a more formal template with a set of goals. Obviously, this is not meant to replace your company’s annual planning or development process but it will help you focus on YOUR highest priorities and lead to sustained balance in your life.
Bringing it all Together
No one can do it alone.
Of the many paths to success, none can be walked alone. In pursuit of rewarding personal and professional lives, we all face tough decisions about where to spend our time. Great advisors, like the ELAB team, can provide an outside perspective on the highest priority work and its impact to your organization. Earnestly focusing time on the top priorities, you and your employees can and will bring balance back into the workplace.