Balance Your Life Well
- 2007 23 Apr
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Bill Butterworth's book, On the Fly Guide to Balancing Work and Life, (Waterbrook Press, 2006).Stress, frustration, exhaustion, and guilt are the symptoms of a life out of balance. You’ll feel them if your work eclipses your relationships. You want to be successful at everything in your life, but too often, you run out of time and energy trying to do it all.
The key is realizing that life isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon. If you balance your life at the right steady pace, you can achieve long-term fulfillment.
Here’s how you can balance your life well:
Pursue endurance. Stop rushing through life as if it were a sprint instead of a marathon. Don’t burn yourself out. Pray for the patience you need to approach situations with endurance. Ask God to give you His eternal perspective on the various aspects of your life.
Get rid of the “hazies.” Don’t let hazy thinking cause you to lose sight of your long-term goals. Think and pray about what’s most important, and establish priorities. Then make all your decisions with those priorities in mind. Remember that you only have so much time and energy; use it well. Focus just on what choices are best for you to avoid being distracted by the many other good choices you have available. Regularly remind yourself of your priorities, and build your schedule around activities that will most help you fulfill those priorities. Study how you usually spend your time, and notice how you’re currently balancing your attention between tasks and relationships. Frequently stop to consider whether or not you’re living your life in a way that would cause you no regrets if you were to die unexpectedly.
Ask yourself these questions to check your priorities: “What is my mission in life?”, “Why do I do this kind of work?”, “Where is my focus these days?”, “What are my long-term goals?”, “What are the important things in life to me?”, “Who are the three people to whom I am closest?”, “Are my relationships characterized more by giving or by getting?”, “Are my relationships characterized by love?”, “Who would I like to get to know better in the next six months?”, “To whom am I accountable?”, “Do I set aside a regular time and place for reflection?”, “What does quietness look like in my life?”, “What is the most common roadblock that keeps me from a regular time of quietness?”, “How might keeping a journal help me to achieve more balance?” and “What qualities would I most like to possess?”.
Get rid of the “lazies.” Ask God to help you develop the self-discipline you need to bring your life into the right balance. Realize that you will have to make some sacrifices to achieve a healthy balance in your life; be willing to do so. Know that you should eliminate one activity from your schedule for every new activity to which you commit. Be creative about how you can cut down on your work hours to free up more time for your relationships. Consider shifting your work hours to times that conflict less with your family’s schedule, eliminating distractions that decrease your productivity during work hours, delegating certain tasks to others, and other solutions that will free up time for you. Be patient while working to achieve your career goals; acknowledge that it will take some time to earn a promotion, start a business, etc., and don’t burn yourself out while you work toward those goals. Don’t let your job become the dominant influence in your life, crowding out everything else that’s also important. Instead, be proactive and intentional about planning your life well.
Ask yourself these questions: “Will the thing that is causing imbalance in my life really matter 10 years from now?”, “Is it possible for me to do fewer unimportant things at work and outside the office?”, “Can I accomplish my goals and be flexible at the same time?”, “Can I replace ‘either/or’ thinking with ‘both/and’ solutions?”, “Can I work smarter as opposed to harder?” , “Can I pencil in time to reflect on my life on a regular basis?” , “What issues in life and on the job should I plan for so I can stick to my priorities?”, “How can I become more flexible?”, “How can planning help me understand what is really important?”, “How can I include time-sensitive matters in my planning?”, “Do I have a strategy to deal with urgent matters without forgetting about the important things?”, “Can planning help me anticipate problems before they arise?”, “How can focusing help me cut down my time spent doing things that don’t matter?”, “Can I commit to the practice of not adding anything more to my schedule without first taking something else away?”, “Can I begin to think in terms of what must be done versus what might need doing?”, “How good am I at delegating tasks instead of postponing them?”, “How can I avoid traps like excess paperwork or the interruptions of the phone, fax, or pager?”, “Do I need to plan fun in my life, or does it just happen for me?”, “What are the methods I have used in the past for recharging my physical and emotional batteries?” and “How can I overlap the concept of fun with the concept of connecting to other people?”.
Get rid of the “crazies.” Don’t allow your life to run out of control. Learn to say “no” or “not right now” to requests for your time and energy that don’t reflect your current priorities. Think of the people (your spouse, each of your kids, each of your friends, etc.) and things (your job, your volunteer activities, your church, your gym, etc.) that demand your time in terms of laps you run around a track. Then prioritize those laps into levels of importance, and consider what changes you should make to how you spend your time. Pace yourself so you include significant time in your life for both learning and leisure, as well as labor.
As you consider learning in your life, ask yourself: “What class would be enjoyable and enriching for me to take?”, “What is the last book I read, and when did I read it?”, “What book would I enjoy reading?”, “What is the biggest hurdle to overcome regarding learning, and how can I get over it?”, “What form of learning do I only dream about, and how can I make that dream a reality?”. As you consider leisure in your life, ask yourself: “What is my favorite form of leisure?”, “How can I incorporate leisure into my routine?”, “How can my fun activities even benefit me at work?”, “Am I getting enough exercise?”, “Am I eating healthy?”, “Am I getting enough sleep?” and “How can I better mix business and pleasure?”. As you consider labor in your life, ask yourself: “How can I be more efficient at work?”, “What would make my work more significant?”, “How can I refocus my job so that it helps me achieve my life’s goals?”, “How do I prioritize?” and “How can I learn to focus on the most important clients and customers I have, while still getting all my work done?”.
Stay on track. Remember that balancing your life isn’t just a one-time event; it’s a process that needs your constant attention. Stay connected to God through prayer each day and rely on His strength to help you keep your life in the right balance as your circumstances change.
Adapted from On the Fly Guide to Balancing Work and Life, copyright 2006 by Bill Butterworth. Published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook/.
Bill Butterworth blends humor, storytelling, wisdom, and practical advice, which has made him a popular speaker throughout North America. Bill speaks frequently for corporate clients that include American Express, Ford, Disney, Bank of America, and Chrysler. A highly regarded author, Bill has written books on topics ranging from sports to psychology and self-help issues. He has been a columnist, editor, and scriptwriter. Bill lives with his wife, Kathi, in Newport Beach, California.