It’s a popular tradition around the turn of the year to spend time setting goals and planning the year. Everyone seems to be reviewing the passing year and updating resolution statements. While I don’t think the turn of the years is an essential component, I’ve chosen to share with you my favourite goal setting technique as the very first post of this year. Unlike many other goal-setting approaches, it has proved to work for me. It also naturally restores the life-work balance if applied thoroughly and regularly.
All of us are familiar with the idea of work-life balance. In short, work-life balance is a state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritises one’s career and personal life.
More often than not, this prioritising seems not to work, though. No matter how hard you try, there will be times when work bleeds into your personal life and vice versa. Just because you clock out for the day doesn’t mean that you’re 100 per cent free from work. You may still respond to an email or review your schedule. As an entrepreneur, you’re always thinking about work in some capacity (10 myths about life-work balance).
The number of tools and techniques found online is truly innumerable. Most of them equip you to manage your life as a project portfolio.
Life is not a project
And because it is not, project management skills and tools will not necessarily help you uphold the balance. When I studied and mixed various techniques, my primary focus was on connectedness with all the vital areas of my life.
I wanted a tool that would empower me to lead a fulfilled life, nourishing my connection to each life sphere.
Holistic, by definition, considers a whole thing or a being to be more than a collection of its parts. Therefore, holistic goal-setting allows you to achieve professional and personal goals in a sustainable way.
My preferred tool to see how I am doing in my life spheres is the wheel of life, not only because it is holistic, but also because it visualises the results. I use the life sphere model with six spheres (finance, career, relations, health & body, personal growth and family and friends).
When I first discovered the wheel of life, I was uncomfortable that it primarily uses the 1 to 10 scale (some examples are here and here). I have adjusted my working model to be 1% to 100% connected to each life sphere. Being 60% connected to my health & body feels authentic, whereas scoring six out of ten feels competitive and artificial.
I actually draw a circle in my notebook and split it into six parts, each representing one sphere. Then I score the connectedness level for each of the spheres. If you want, you can use the Wheel of Life exercise you’ll find in the Document Library.
I believe in the quote by Tony Robbins – where focus goes, energy flows. Two to three focus areas with the lowest connection score are optimal to allocate my energy wisely. In this way, I don’t undermine the result I am striving for by trying to do everything simultaneously. I then define action items for each focus area and split those into smaller doable steps.
A spoken word takes its flight
I believe in the power of written goals. I usually allocate a page in my planner to each focus area, listing the action items (and steps, where necessary). This page usually contains a short statement about why this is important to me.
Planning, action and accountability
My notebook also holds a monthly accountability section. I spread my action items across the year – it gives me a clear understanding of what I want to be working on and when. Then I visualise specific tasks as placeholders in my calendar, ensuring that I keep enough time for sleep and my day job. In the beginning, I used to have a task list instead of calendar placeholders, and I learned that I always planned more than I was physically able to do in 24 hours of every day. Visual placeholders help me avoid overplanning and save me a lot of monthly frustration at what I have not managed to do.
Grant Cardone, the bestselling author, writes that he has been writing down his goals every morning and night to feel connected. In my experience, a short weekly check-in helps me to stay on track. I use a monthly review to check off the tasks and write a summary of what went good, bad and what I would like to do better. Additionally, I do a semi-annual evaluation of my current focus areas (because they tend to improve when I work consistently). Once a year, I re-read monthly summaries and create a year statement. It is a great way to summarise what I have achieved and how I have grown.
Sometimes, procrastination happens because I am immersed in a particularly complex project at my day job. Sometimes, it happens because the activity was not as important as I thought. When I see that I have been postponing something for over three months, I try to understand whether it is because I am busy (which is normal) or remove it from the action list altogether. Regular check-ins and monthly reviews enable me to reflect on what I do and, most importantly, why I do it.
Having a goal and setting out the steps to reach it is empowering. Acting on those steps and adjusting them whenever the circumstances have changed shows responsibility and ownership. The sustainable and holistic approach to goal setting puts me into the driver’s seat of my life, which is the only seat I want to occupy.
New Year Goal Setting!