Do More of What Matters Most: Debunking the Work-Life Balance Myth

September 5, 2017  Amber Olson Rourke Avatar
Do More of What Matters Most: Debunking the Work-Life Balance Myth

Here’s an idea: next time; when a co-worker or friend makes an urgent request, instead of frantically shuffling or postponing priorities on your own to-do-list to accommodate, slow down and consider how this interruption will impact your own productivity and efficiency. You see, people have different priorities — maybe it’s going to the gym, reading your kid a bedtime story, or advancing your career. Spending your time doing the things that matter most to you are how you live a happy and fulfilled life. The challenge here is asserting boundaries and aligning your priorities with your time to ensure optimal productivity and efficiency in your work and personal life. Easier said than done, right? That’s exactly why we’re going to chat about it.

Attention Management

I don’t like the term work-life balance. It implies there is some magical scorecard that you are constantly trying to keep balanced. It leads to many people feeling like they’re not doing “enough”. Here’s a spoiler alert: You will never have enough time/attention to do everything everyone wants you to do. But you do have enough time/attention to focus on what is most important – if you are mindful and purposeful in the daily decisions you make. Perhaps you’re single and working two jobs because you’re starting your own business on the side or maybe you’re working two jobs because you’re a single mom raising two kids. Despite similarities, these two examples show two lives with very different sets of priorities. Remember, we all have the same number of seconds, minutes, and hours in a day which is why it’s essential we prioritize and let go of everything else. That’s the reality! My advice to you: stop chasing this idea that having a work-life balance is the be all and end all. Instead, set a new goal! Learn how to more efficiently integrate your professional and personal priorities to allow for complete focus and attention on being more productive, strategic, and present in the things you do. Here are my three steps to being more effective in your daily life:

Identify your life priorities: If you don’t have clear priorities you are more likely to say yes to everything, instead of saying yes only to the things that are in direct alignment with your priorities. The more clear you make your priorities, the more useful they will be as a guiding compass of how you should focus your attention.

Below: Struggling to put your life priorities to paper? Here’s my personal example that I use as a way to determine what I say “yes” to and what I say “no” to.

If every day you focus your attention on what matters most, you can reduce stress, achieve goals, increase enjoyment, and overall live a more constructive and satisfying life.

Value your attention: Avoid trivial activities, e.g., watching mind-numbing TV, scrolling social media, participating in activities you don’t care for. You would be surprised how many precious minutes and hours most people waste on such actions. And guess what…I doubt such activities are on most people’s list of top life priorities! By avoiding these mundane tasks, you can use the same time and apply it to developing one of your life priorities.

Be all-in with the activity at hand. Focus all your undivided attention to what you are doing in that moment. This leads to higher productivity and more enjoyment. In an article titled “Study: Multitasking is counterproductive” researchers discovered that “focus, possibly more than any other factor, is what separates average performers from peak performers” in their professional and personal lives. Did you know, according to the same study, that the “average worker is 20-40 percent less productive when multitasking than when concentrating on doing one thing at a time?” Be in control of how you direct your attention by 100 percent concentrating on tasks that are relevant to your purpose and vision.

Learn to say no: Many people struggle with saying no. Here is one way to reframe it in your mind. Many times, you must say no to something, to allow you to say yes to a higher priority. So really you’re still saying yes — it’s just saying yes to something that is more in direct alignment with your life priorities. For example, I have had to turn down many a team happy hour. Not because I don’t want to hang out with my co-workers, but because my bigger ‘yes’ was eating dinner with my daughter. I have had to turn down serving on boards, speaking engagements, exclusive parties, you name it. But what saying ‘no’ allowed me — is the ability to say a higher ‘yes’ to my life priorities, which ultimately is what makes me feel fulfilled.

Do More of What Matters Most

In between daily meetings, phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and more, it’s almost impossible to focus on the task at hand. Technology and daily distractions can leave many of us feeling out of control and disorganized. Not to mention; with the average attention span of people declining, maintaining focus is fast becoming a top skill, especially considering how many external factors are vying for your attention. International speaker and trainer on productivity, attention, and effectiveness Maura Nevel Thomas explains that attention is fast becoming the most valuable commodity while focus is becoming the most valuable skill.

My daughter, Hattie, is my top priority. My career is also a priority. Sometimes, I have to integrate both these important aspects into my daily schedule.

The trick is to be as effective as possible in accomplishing your goals by being 100 percent present in the moment. You see, I have to juggle priorities just like everyone else. I’m a daughter, mom, executive,  friend, and wife, which means I’m pushed and pulled into different directions all day long. For this reason, it’s essential I know my priorities. For example, when I’m with my daughter, my focus is on her. My phone is switched off. She is a top priority in my life, and because I’m a working mom, I value each moment I get to spend with her. She has my undivided attention. When I’m at work and in a meeting with my team — they have my undivided attention. I’m focused on helping them achieve their goals.

Here are my three tips to help you do more of what matters most:

  1. Set time blocks: Set aside a block of time to focus on specific key activities. For example, on Friday afternoons I set aside time for planning and strategic thinking. Unless it’s an emergency, my team understands that this time is allocated for a specific task and interruptions should be kept to a limit.
  2. Get focused and plan the upcoming week: Be proactive rather than reactive! By planning for the upcoming week, I’m prepared for what’s to come and better equipped to handle unforeseen circumstances. More importantly, because I’m focusing on my top priorities, I feel less stressed, tense, and anxious.
  3. Remind yourself of your life priorities: I review my life priorities each week and reflect on how my actions were in or out alignment with those priorities for that week. This allows me to constantly adjust and make different decisions the following week if needed.

Well, that’s enough about me, I want to hear from you! Join in on the conversation and comment below to tell us what tip resonates the most with you?

We will continue the conversation on a Facebook Live Event this coming Tuesday, 12 September, at 4:30 p.m. CST. Visit my Facebook page on the day at the right time and click on the LIVE event displayed at the top of the page or send this link to prospects. If you’re sharing the event with a prospect, they must LIKE my page prior to watching us LIVE.

Follow me on social media: @AOlsonRourke


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