My 9 Week Challenge and a Framework for Yours

Balancing Act
Balancing Act (Photo credit: Digitalnative)

Every now and then the right article comes along at just the right time. Recently, the guys at Asian Efficiency (AE) put together ten insights from the The Power of Full Engagement, a book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Why is this the right time?

Because a few things have conspired to generate a number of barriers for me in relation to my physical activity and overall lifestyle balance over the past month or so. The middle of winter, working to get this site up and running, and the ongoing and seemingly increasing demands of a regular job meant something had to give, that something largely being a combination of regular physical activity, sound nutrition, and sleep. Now it has to give again, this time towards the positive end of the spectrum.

None of these ‘barriers’ I would consider to be insurmountable obstacles, nor even valid excuses. I am simply making a conscious choice to redress the balance, using the framework outlined in the AE post for ideas on action steps to begin generating momentum towards positive change. Without thoughtful self assessment now, I can see things continuing to slide in a direction I do not wish to go.

Struggling Yourself or Looking to Make a Change?

Though not a recipe, these ten insights provide the perfect framework to review your current status in a way that provides an overview of key lifestyle areas for maximum productivity, balance and enjoyment of life. The focus is on your energy, rituals and purpose – not just time management, to optimise the quality of both your work and play.

An emphasis on energy management has long been the message of Tony Schwartz, for example in this article from the Harvard Business Review (free HBR login required for complete article). There is also much more to read and learn on his website, unsurprisingly called The Energy Project.

Why use this as a framework?

Because, as with any larger project, breaking it down into specific, manageable actions will significantly increase your likelihood of completing each, and generate enough momentum to push the entire project (or in this case life balance re-boot) along. It is considerably more realistic to check off a review of these ten items than simply “improve/rebalance my life”.

My plan is to ensure I am making positive change or progress in each of these ten key areas in turn over the next nine weeks, and assess the results after that period of time. Whoa right there – nine weeks? There are ten items here, would this not fit ten weeks? Of course it would, which is exactly my point, this is to be tailored for my circumstance – I have a week-long beach holiday booked in nine weeks time and this is the “hard out” at the end of this particular review. Plus, I can see one item (napping), that will not fit my corporate environment for the five days of the week I am in the office. So nine it is.

Where is the list?

For the specific ten item list, go and read the AE post. I plan to take actions on each of the items individually, however they fit the broad categories below.

  • Physical

Maximising your energy, optimising sleep, napping, attending to your diet and physical activity levels.

  • Engagement and Purpose

Be actively engaged in what you are doing. Work in short bursts with maximum energy. Take regular breaks to recharge both in the short and long term. Quality not quantity – that old adage is never more relevant.

  • Mental and Emotional

Here, we are looking at rituals, getting rid of negative thoughts and at times, listening to your body and where necessary ‘going with the flow’.

  • Spiritual

The final insight which in my opinion is the key that unlocks the rest – live with purpose.

Consider periodically what you are doing, relate this to why you are doing it (the end goal or what you set out to achieve), and undertake the most effective means to get there. Be deliberate in looking after yourself, considering your approach in each of these areas, and align these towards not only your goals, but also in achieving an appropriate balance in your life.

If you have not yet done so, your next action is to go and read the AE post, consider the ten items and the recommended actions for each. Hope you’ll be back…

Will I follow the recommended actions exactly as written by AE? No. Again, this is a framework. In my opinion you will never read a motivational or ‘self help’ article or book that will fit your particular circumstances exactly, and to think one will is to set yourself up for failure. This is about self-awareness and being flexible to your own needs. Be purposeful about it and you will likely succeed.

Another excellent article by Michael Schechter over at Workflowing hits the mark when discussing productivity and workflows in a post written for those struggling to improve:

I’m not suggesting you start reading every self-help book out there, I’m not really even suggesting you stop considering your options. I’m just suggesting that you spend as much of your energy improving your self-awareness as your workflow.

Occasionally, just take the time to sit back and ask yourself, what’s going on here? Don’t kid yourself that you do not have time to do this, because simply being aware of where things stand in the balance of your professional and personal life, will lift a significant burden off your shoulders. The killer blow is then to take action, but you have to know where to start and what actions to take. In reality, when broken down, these are likely to be less complicated or difficult than you imagine.

Conclusion

The end of the nine weeks – what then? Well, put simply, I plan to enjoy a relaxing holiday with my family, and thereafter continue to build on the foundations of what I have found to be useful and relevant for me from the areas above. As we all now, a lifestyle is something that you lead with purpose, but a healthy and well-balanced one should not be a constant fight once things are in place. As the AE guys indicate, make things easier on yourself:

When you try to rely on willpower and discipline to get stuff done, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There will always be times when you let things slide. On the other hand, when you make it habitual you don’t have to use any brain power or willpower to get things done. Once it’s automatic and ingrained, you just do it.

My next actions? A new folder in Omnifocus called Nine Weeks with nine individual projects and their next actions. You don’t need specifics as you will go and create your own in whatever task manager or system you use right?

Good luck, there are real benefits to be gained from a review such as this, and these ten insights are a great place to start.

A note on Asian Efficiency.

For anyone looking to seek out some great advice on productivity and ways to achieve optimum overall function in both work and play, there is no better resource than this site. Some premium content is at cost, however what you will obtain for free is more then enough to see positive changes if you make the effort to apply it.

One of the real strengths of the writing on the AE site is their ability to take a large amount of information and disseminate it in a way that is easily consumable and relevant. I highly recommend a subscription to their newsletter, and while you are at it I would do the same over at Workflowing.

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