“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”
Have you ever had those weeks where it seems like you are just being pulled around from one assignment or activity to the next? It seems as though you are just able to keep your head above water and waiting for Friday to get here, hoping for some reprieve. Many of us feel this way as we jam pack our work day and evenings so full that we are left with nothing in our tanks to enjoy our family and friends. What can we do to break this cycle? How can a new teacher or student just coming out of college find a sense of balance when all they see is a rat race that won’t stop until retirement? I think part of this answer is finding balance by being intentional. We need to be intentional about what roles we take on, and if we take on new roles and responsibilities, how those affect our other roles in our lives.
How then do we become intentional about balance in our lives? Lately I have been reading the book 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. Throughout his third healthy habit-Putting First Things First, Covey not only describes prioritizing the days activities, but breaks each task in to four major quadrants:
- Quadrant I- These issues are often urgent and important, which means they must be dealt with ASAP
- Quadrant II– Not urgent, but important. This could be continuing your education with periodicals, working on planning long-term goals, building relationships
- Quadrant III- Urgent, but not necessarily important. These type of activities could be things like responding to various phone calls, making appointments, opening and responding to emails, some other problems that pop up throughout the day.
- Quadrant IV- Not urgent and not important. These types of activities usually include binge watching tv, social media, busy work around the home or office, returning some phone calls.
Covey might argue that in order to be the most productive we can be and also get the most out of our day, we should strive to be in Quadrant II most of the time. There will be some emergencies and other things that pop up throughout the week that could keep you in quadrant I. If you are engaging in important activities that focus on long-term results, you would then be more proactive toward some of those other issues that might come up in quadrant I.
How am I able to narrow down all of the things I need to do in a day or week?
Covey discusses that usually we make our To-Do lists for that day, and usually what gets pushed back during the day are our quadrant II activities that would create larger results and help us get to our long term goals. He suggests taking a step back and taking a broader look at the week and carving out specific times to fulfill those quadrant II items that are the most impactful and meaningful. I have recently started doing this myself and it does take a while (about 30 minutes or so to start) but it gives you a chance to carve out time each day for activities that you find the most meaningful.
In order to get to some more of the more meaningful work that will benefit yourself, work, and your family long-term, you may need to delegate some of your workload. You may need to train your children how to do some of those cleaning jobs around the house to free up some of your time to do other things such as manage your finances, plan for retirement, exercise, etc. This could look the same at work as well. If you are in charge of other people, train them in jobs that enable you to take some off of your plate. This will not happen overnight and may take several weeks or months. The payoff is that you are able to manage your time and resources better to help yourself, family, and be more effective in the workplace.
How to Get Started Today
If you are interested in being more efficient with your time and are doing the things that will have the most positive impact for yourself, co-workers, and family, then let’s get started.
- Get the Template– First, either download this excel sheet or printable version of Covey’s 7 Habits weekly schedule.
- Define your Roles– Everyone has many hats that they wear each day. For example, I am a father, husband, son, teacher, case manager, Christian, and friend.
- Goals-Once you have determined your roles, write down a few impactful goals that you have for each of the roles in your life. Something that could or should be done this week.
- Prioritize– To the right of those goals on the worksheet, is a place where you can prioritize all of your goals for the week. You want to try and meet all of your goals within the 7 day period. For example, grading a set of math tests may take priority one day in the week over listening to a podcast or periodical reading.
- Plug them into your Schedule– In the template, there are one hour time blocks from 8AM-8PM. For each day of the week, plug in where you think you can best achieve the goals you have prioritized for that day. For example, if you want to exercise three times this week, you may have to check with your spouse and see what days and times will work out for your family schedule.
- Check Your Progress– Throughout the week, check and see how you are doing in meeting those quadrant II type of goals.
This does take a little bit of time on the front end to set up, but you then have a blueprint for your week on how to hit some of your small goals, which will in turn help you reach larger goals you have set for yourself in every role that you play in your life. I know I won’t hit every single goal every week, but that’s ok. I am making a plan instead of waiting for the week to come at me on Monday morning. Spring is almost here! Good luck with reaching those goals!