Lately, I’ve had a lot going on personally and professionally, and yet I feel balanced. I’m actually quite satisfied with myself that I don’t feel stressed, despite everything.
The holiday season is near – that time of year when year-end goals and endless personal commitments threaten to overwhelm us. It’s also the best time to ask, “Where should I be spending my time?”
This month, I discuss honing my personal strategy to shed unnecessary obligations. The result has been that sense of balance and peace that we all seek. My wish for you is that you find a personal strategy that brings you balance.
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What’s Your Strategy
My family was at home celebrating my birthday over dinner. I, on the other hand, was thirty-five miles away in an office dealing with a difficult situation and even more difficult person. I knew I was stressed. It didn’t go well and I left feeling discouraged. Why was I spending my birthday this way? I had made a commitment. I felt like I needed to help the people involved and resolve the incident. Yet I was overcommitted, out of balance and I was neglecting some important people and areas of my life.
Two days later, while in Maine at Acadia National Park, reflecting on Jordon Pond (pictured above), I made a decision. I was going to give up all activities and commitments that were not in alignment with my most important priorities: service to my family, my faith and women in business. Everything outside of those three areas had to go.
I went home and started making calls. Some obligations took months to shed. Some required me to stand my ground and be strong in the face of pressure to stay. But within three months, my strategy was fully implemented.
In my situation, I had gotten off track, getting involved in “too many good things”, some of which were taking an inordinate amount of my time and energy. But how do we decide which good things stay and which go? While sitting by Jordan Pond, I asked myself:
What’s most important to me? While I was involved in many meaningful and enriching activities, I had to drill down to what was most important. When we focus, we can be more effective. More isn’t always better. It can dilute our energy and focus.
Where can I have the most impact? We tend to think that we’re the most qualified person to handle every task. While we each bring our unique talents in ways that others cannot, there are also other people who can handle tasks that arise. I resigned from several activities that were important to me, and for which I felt a connection, knowing that there were other people who could step in.
Where would I enjoy spending my time? That day in Maine, I realized that my friends and family were all having more fun than I was. They were enjoying their work, their leisure and the people around them. I was not. It was time for a change.
Which activities most closely align with my personal life mission? I wrote my personal mission statement thirty years ago. I review it periodically and I can honestly say it has guided me throughout life. My strategies have changed over the years, depending on what phase I was in, but the mission statement has stayed largely the same. It’s a reflection of who I am and what I want to be known for. If you haven’t written a personal mission statement, it’s not too late to do so.
What do I need to say “no” to? The previous questions help make this answer clear. This is where the culling begins. It’s very tempting to keep “just this one little thing” on the agenda. But too many “little things” can take over your calendar before long. I was strict with myself in saying “no” to anything that didn’t meet the criteria. In doing so, I was saying “yes” to something much more important.
What’s the timeframe for my strategy? If it’s hard to get your head around this, think of it as a temporary strategy. You can change and revisit. Mine was 18 months because I knew that would be a period when we would be facing a lot of life transitions in our family. I then reassessed and extended it. My decision was 2 ½ years ago. I still find that staying with my personal strategic discipline has made me more effective with others and helped me remain balanced and focused.
We all go through up and down phases of life, coming into balance and centeredness, then drifting out again. The key is to recognize and make adjustments when we get off track.
What’s your personal strategy?
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our website for upcoming programs, articles, and resources to advance your career.
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