June 19, 2019

33. Balance in Busy times

This week our topic is balance in busy times. So often within our lives we are out of balance. There’s a sense you’re just going around, you’re spinning and on a treadmill. We know all these sound like things we hear all the time. You feel a sense, I’ve got no particular power here, and I’m just rushing, rushing, rushing, go, go, go. I’m out of balance.

It is a feeling of a lack of power and this is so important. Because when you’re out of balance, it can be really draining, you just feel like you’re not winning the battle every single day, and you can often feel a lot of guilt.

Because you feel like you should be in one place when you’re in the other, you get to the other place and you feel like you should be somewhere else, and you’re at work and you know you should be at home helping out. Or you’re at home and you know you should be doing work. So we get this constant sense that we’re just not set up right.

One of the things we’ve discovered is the sense of balance will change over time. So we’ve got to look at the particular context of where we are in our life’s journey. It’s our vision, it’s where we are at this point in time. What chapter of our lives? So balance for a person beginning to go into retirement, into a retirement village, might be a very different … hopefully will be a very different thing to a young person of 17.

Someone like Greg with a young family, three small children and it’s a very, very busy part of your life. The important thing is to understand the role of those different chapters. And to know that they have a very different dynamic to them. The way you feel about that is important because what we talk about is you have to create, to get balance right, create something like a life scoreboard for that particular chapter of your life.

A life scoreboard has a list of all the most important things for you in life. So it might be a partner, your family, your wider family, mates, your career, any volunteering contribution to the greater good, health, fitness, finances, hobbies, travel, whatever’s most important to you. And give yourself a score on each and every one of those, to tell you how you’re currently going in each of them. And that gives you a sense of, am I spending my time right, given what’s most important to me right now?

And that’s going to actually change. So one of the things we’ve talked about before is that famous story where a university professor standing in front of his class. He gets out a large jar from under the bench. The class is there and he puts in three or four relatively large rocks. He says to the class, “Is the jar full?” And the class will say, “Yes.” Then from under the bench, he pulls out a container full of grit, of large pebbles. He pours that in, shakes it up, pours them in again, “Is it full?” They all say, “Yes.” Then he goes under the counter, pulls out a container of very fine sand, pours it in, shakes it, pours it in. “Is it full?” And they’re all very, very quiet. Then finally, he goes under the bench and pulls out a pitcher of water and pours in that.

So what we’re saying, balance is about different stages of your life. At the chapter of your life, what are your particular rocks and the pebbles then? The rocks will be the key aspects of your life scoreboard.

In life, because it is so busy, don’t then add into your life balance, the grit and the sand and the water. Because if you have filled your vessel, so to speak, completely, there’s no room. No room for downtime, for relaxing, for being impulsive and creative and doing something different. You don’t want to be so busy in life, it’s impossible to have any flexibility.

So the balance comes then when you become aware of this particular chapter, my rocks, my core values, my core tasks, who I want to be, or what I want to do. They are my rocks and my particular pebbles, I am deliberate, and I name them and I plan. These are my core, core things.

So you get those three or four, maybe even five things that are most important to you in life. You create a bit of a life scoreboard of how … and that life scoreboard will just tell you what is the right makeup. Then you need to define how you can win in this chapter of your life, in each of those elements. What does success look like? Give yourself a bit of a goal to say, well at work, it’s going to look like this, at home, it’s going to look like this, with my fitness, it’s going to look like this. With our finances, it’s going to look like this. With my kids, if you’ve got kids, this is what it’s going to look like. So that when you then work with your boss at work or your partner at home, you can actually co-define an outcome and then go, “Well, can I achieve all this?” You need to have an achievable set of outcomes across your life because if you’ve got a whole bunch of outcomes and they’re all not achievable, you won’t win any.

When you are clear in your planning and you say, “These are the achievable outcomes I can want,” and you deliberately plan them, they get energy. Then all of a sudden, you’re getting up at 5:00 in the morning for that run or for the gym session or for the work, you’ve got into a pattern of it, you’ve got a discipline wrapped around it. You are ticking off a rock within your life. You’ve got a particular sense of balance then.

This is really important. If you can turn those outcomes into that rhythm, into your weekly schedule. An important thing is either on a Sunday afternoon or a Monday morning, spending a bit of time, either on your own or with your partner, to plan the week ahead. Own your time. It’s the most precious resource you’ve got.

So we spend it wisely and look, make sure you’re spending your time on the right things and you’ve got enough time to get from here to there. And you’ve got all the key outcomes for the week ahead. If you don’t have that, you’ll end up running around like a headless chook all week. And you’ll never be in front of the game.

It might be as simple as this. One of the little things Pricey does is to get to a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday, and into his diary, he’ll actually write something like “Damien time”. So then when he gets the phone call saying, “Hey Damien, we actually need you to do A, B, C. Are you then free?” He goes, “No, no, sorry. I’ve actually got a commitment then.” And it’s only a tiny little thing but saying that, that little downtime is like a rock.

One of the things we’ve discovered about all of this too is you’ve got that day-to-day, week-by-week thing, but part of balance is having the bigger picture too. So you’ve got the whole weekly sense of balance and rocks, et cetera, but then you’ve got to sometimes step back and say, “Okay, I may have a period when I’ll be lacking a tiny bit of balance. I’ve got to go for a trip overseas. I’ve got 15 meetings in seven or so days. I know I’m going to be out of balance a bit there. But in the bigger picture, I can claim that back.”

And that’s where, what we all do and we say, “Gee, I’ve got no life balance.” What’s actually going on is a couple of things. First of all, there are criteria for which you are assessing that against is based on time first. Over what time period have you had no balance? So you’ve got to work that out. Most people work this out on a week to week basis. But sometimes it is more real to see it over a month and say, “Over the last month, have I had some balance?” Sometimes you’ll find that is more achievable. So work out what is the right chronology, so to speak, or time span to measure your balance against.

An example of that would be that every year, Pricey goes for one week where he goes for an 80 or 90 kilometre hike. So once a year, everyone knows Pricey is going to be away. He has got a couple of really good friends and they’ll go hike for 70, 80, 90 or so K’s. Now that’s put into our diaries very early in the actual year. We get together, we talk about where, it gets set in actual stone. And then for another week of his year, Pricey will take a week out where I have a bit of time for myself and I’ll pray and I’ll reflect. It’s more of a quiet Damien time.

Now even though it’s only over a whole year, having those two weeks set in place, gives him a balance. The beautiful thing about that, even though he’ll be busy in between those two weeks, just knowing he’s put them into place, he has a sense he’s in the driver’s seat.

Using those rituals and traditions over a year are vital. Greg and his wife every Saturday morning, go to this local café that they love, and do the Saturday quiz in the paper. They have a cup of coffee and a breakfast. Because it’s in there, they know they get that moment every week to reconnect on a Saturday morning with the family.

Greg’s got an annual golf trip with all his best mates that just goes from a Friday to a Sunday. It’s in the calendar, they’ll all be there every single year. It’s lock in. They have an annual ski trip we do with their friends. Because those things are in there, Greg doesn’t have to worry so much or be stressed about the fact that he’s not seeing his friends. He knows he’s going to see them in a couple of months time anyway.

So ritualize or use traditions to lock things in over your life and it’ll make a really powerful way of achieving balance.

Those particular choices, some of them are big, some of them are actually small. Greg and Pricey both have a mutual friend up in Queensland there and every weekend he gets up early, and his dad and him go down to the coast and they actually have a really good surf. Now he’s been doing that with his dad for years now. So he doesn’t even have to think, but that time with dad, that quality time going for a surf, helps him get a particular balance.

So simple rocks, and on a regular kind of a basis.

Now if you are still afflicted in your mind with a sense of, “Gee, I just can’t keep on top of this life balance thing.” Here is a cool little trick. What we want you to do is make a list of all the activities in your life that you have to do every day. Go to work, your commute to work, pick up kids, drop off kids, whatever it is. And that all the things you want to do on top of that. Right. So maybe it’s go to the gym, maybe it’s doing a hobby, whatever it is. You need to write all those things down and then write how many hours per week you have to do them or how many hours per week you want to do them. Every single time Greg has done that with someone, the number of hours they have in a week that they should be spending, is far more than the numbers of hours in a week. Which means their unconscious criteria for balance is impossible to achieve.

Even to become aware of that is a tremendous thing. If I am aware that I’ve got these 25 things that I really, really want to actually do. That awareness brings us to a space where we have to then choose what is actually core. What are the things I really want to do? What are the things I really get energy from? A lot of those things are likes, shoulds, could’s, which is all good. But if I want to get a sense of balance, I’ve got to go beyond that.

Because in the end, if you’re in one place and feeling like you need to be somewhere else, that’s when the guilt comes in. So if you can be really nailing each one properly. Gee, you’ll just feel so much better about yourself.

What Greg has found is, he knows he travels a lot with work and so does his wife. One thing that they do is if Greg’s going to travel internationally or Sydney or interstate on business, if he’s going to go away for three days, he make sure that there is something there to make up for that. So he doesn’t feel any guilt. You don’t want to be away from home feeling guilty about not being there. Because they don’t have any family in Melbourne where they live, they make sure they get a babysitter to help out on the more difficult nights during bath-time or something like that. Or when Greg gets home on a Friday, his wife can go out and have a bit of free time on her own, or go and get a massage or do something different. Just a bit of time for herself and Greg is aware of that.

This is a negotiated thing. It has to be agreed with your partner. You say, “I’m going to go away for a few days. I know it’s a bit of an extra pressure on you. Why don’t you do this? Is that okay? Does that make it feel a bit more even?” And then vice versa. When they go away, make sure that there’s that same discussion. How can we get … sort of balance up the ledger a little bit. It sounds funny, but it absolutely works. And it means when you’re away, you’re free to be present.

When you can chat about that and when you can talk about that with the significant people within your particular life, things get a sense of clarity. Your friend will often say, “Hey, do you really need to be doing that?” So they will ask the actual balance questions!

It works with work as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying with your boss, “Hey, listen, I need to do this. I need to be at this event. Or pick my kids up from swimming two days a week at 4:00PM. But what I’m going to do in exchange is the following.” Because perhaps there’s a certain number of hours you really should be working or there’s a project that needs to be done. Absolutely fine. Reset the expectation so you don’t have this gnawing feeling that just eats away at you day and night to be somewhere else, or you should have done this, or you should have done that.

And do you know? Part of all that is that sense of being, you’re really personally aware. If you can get those quiet times in your particular way, that stillness, et cetera, when you grow in awareness of why you’re doing things or what’s actually happening to you, when you can then step back from it all and see it in a clear type of way, you see the treadmill for what it is. You can see that you are or are not in the driver’s seat. And you become aware of why am I not? And out of that, a stillness or awareness, and everyone does it in their own particular way. You’ll then have a skill and make a choice. Therefore because of this awareness, I now choose to do A, B or C.

The thing is awareness will allow you to think, to give yourself some slack every now and then. I mean, if you’re in the middle of your life or whatever period of your life you’re in, it’s going to be busy at certain points. And sometimes, you’re not going to get the pebbles done. Sometimes, you’re not going to get the rocks done.

There’s a great quote, fairly certain it was by Bill Gates and he said, “People vastly overestimate what they can do in one year, and hugely underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Let alone a week. Sometimes you get to the end of the week and you feel like you’ve done nothing. Right? And you need to cut yourselves some slack on that. One thing that Greg does, is on a Friday afternoon, he sits down and says to himself, “What are all the things that I have done this week? What are all the meetings I’ve been to, the coaching sessions I’ve done, the business work I’ve done, the podcasting?” And he gives himself a little tick for all the things that he’s done that was good, that was on the journey, that was a part of what he should have been doing now. And you know what, friends, if he doesn’t do that, he conveniently forget all the great things he’s done, all the value he’s added to the world. That’s such an important thing. To recognise what you’ve done.

If you’re going to get balance within your life, if you can act on knowledge and name many of those particular things that are part of your effort to get balance great things happen. Pricey’s got a friend who came back from a business trip from up in Sydney, got into Melbourne very, very late. Pricey said, “Mate, I’ll catch-up with you tomorrow.” He said, “Yeah, sure,” and he just said, “Hey, I’m just going to take my boy to his footy game fairly early in the actual day. I’ll catch up later in the morning.” But there was a sense of balance there. When they were chatting, Pricey’s friend was kind of aware and he was kind of celebrating that he’d done that which was core; getting home late at night but in the morning, getting up and taking his boy to a game.

That whole cutting yourselves slack is a really important thing and one of the most difficult things within our lives because our lives are so, so full. Can we be gentle with our own selves? Can we forgive ourselves? You could be in a space where you’ve got phone calls and texts coming in and there’s phones beeping because you’ve just come late for a particular meeting, et cetera, you can feel a sense of being overwhelmed. Can you get to the Friday night and take your partner out for a drink or go for a run and just say, “Hey, I did okay. In fact, I did more than okay.”

What we sometimes do, is we don’t give ourselves credit for just the everyday things. So if you picked your kids up from school two days a week or you dropped them off, or you went to the gym twice, that’s balance. Give yourself a tick for that. It’s doing the core roles and doing them well, so don’t discount how well you’ve actually done. That’s a really important thing.

The next thing that we all need to do, is to have a really hard look at the number of rocks and pebbles they have got. A little process of simplification, doesn’t have to be a lot. But the art of saying no, it is so important, in being able to achieve your life vision and your career goals or whatever it is you want to do. You cannot do it all. You have to make some hard decisions.

And if you were to just think about all the things that are on your plate right now, think of the first thing that you could drop off that wouldn’t really make a difference. Maybe you just go back to, instead of doing it every week or every once a month, go back to doing it once a quarter or once a year. Ritualize it, make it a tradition or something. Simplify, get it off your plate, and you will make life much, much easier. So look at some deletion of things; that’s important.

Part of what we’re doing there is we’re creating a rock over a lot of stuff which actually isn’t. Do you know, part of that is we’re putting energy into a dead-end, it’s almost a sense of, “Oh, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.” And the answer is, step back and ask yourself do you really, really have to?

That’s one element of simplification. And the other one is what we said earlier on about using rituals and traditions. Because what that does is automate life balance.

We always talk about automating the pursuit of excellence by putting certain rocks into your work life or whatever. It’s the same with balance. Put in some rocks, put it in your rhythm and it will happen. If you’re going to meet a mate at the gym three mornings a week at 6:00, it’ll happen. Because there’s someone else there to help you do it.

Part of that whole getting life to be as simple as you can is saying ‘no’. Pricey once had a case where the chair of his board was a little bit concerned, he was working a bit hard. And on a Sunday, Pricey was out going for a long walk; a rock within his life. He needed his own time. His phone was ringing – several times during the walk and Pricey just said to himself, “No” and just enjoyed his walk. Then when he got back and there were these five texts from the board chair. Pricey rang the Board chair and after they talked about the particular relatively minor issue the chair asked, “Now what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Pricey simply replied, “Not answering my phone on a Sunday while out walking.”

It’s as simple as that, but when you set the boundary, when you know what your rock is in all the aspects within your life, other people accept that. Other people know, hey you don’t, unless it’s a really important thing, you don’t talk to Greg on a Friday night. You don’t ring up Damien on a Sunday morning, because we know he’s going to be out having a walk or in the garden or something. People understand.

There’s a great CEO Greg met a while ago called Mike Pratt, he’s the CEO of National Australia Bank, CEO of Bank of New Zealand. Enormously successful CEO, and he had a Friday night ritual with his family. They had dinner every Friday night at his place. Now it wouldn’t matter who within the bank or within the industry set an event on a Friday night, he would not be there. He just said, “Don’t even bother inviting me, I won’t be there.” And he maintained it for his entire career.

Now if the CEO of a bank can do that, the average person can put a bit of a line in the sand. When you get very resolute and you get very, very clear about who you are and what you want to be at this point in life, those things become a lot easier.

And it’s not a big deal. You simply say, “Sorry, I’m not available on that night.” Now sure, you’re going to make the exception. But after a while, people actually understand. You’re with a group of mates, it’s Friday afternoon, you’re having a couple of drinks, you suddenly say, “Hey, sorry fellas, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go pick up my kids,” or whatever the particular rock then is.

Celebrate it too! All this stuff, how often are we beating ourselves up because we’re out of some sort of balance? When you choose what’s important, when you put the discipline around it, when you’ve got your plans, you’ve got your short-term, medium-term, longer-term goals, when you’ve done all that, celebrate it. Celebrate, “Hey, I’m doing really, really well here.” Celebrate who you are.

There’s one more little trick that we think is important, which is around buying time. Now, you might be sitting there thinking, “Geez, I just wish there was more hours in the day.” Now there’s a few things right at the moment that we think are costing people enormously.

One’s social media, which is just designed by people who are psychologists and gamification and attention, they have you absolutely enthralled into social media. They’ve done everything they can to convince you to just keep looking at it. So if you can use that, the mode on your phone which is Screen Time or something to get yourself off it for … from 6:00PM until the next morning or something, get rid of social media, it’s costing people hours and hours and hours a day. I’m like, “I’m so busy.” Well, you know what? How many hours were you on Facebook or Instagram today?

And it’s not only buying you time, it’s buying you quality time. Pricey was in a space a year or so ago, he normally get up about twenty past five, and for the next hour just sits and prays and reads and do all things such as that. He was finding he’d get to his little space, make himself a cup of coffee, used to have a little candle he would light and then he discovered that he ‘had’ to check Facebook or emails. How bloody stupid is that? And it’s just garbage. So what Pricey now does is simply leaves his phone in his room during his ‘quality morning time!’ So he’s not only just buying time, claiming time, he’s getting quality of time.

We sure we’ve all been out to dinner with friends, you sit at the table and your friend’s there and they’ve got their phone out, texting!

Buy the time with social media. TV’s the other one. It could be as simple as taking the TV out of the main part of the house. You’ll be surprised how much time this frees up! The last small suggestion is the very early mornings. We know sleep is important, you’ve got to have recovery, but what we have found is that if you go to sleep a little bit earlier, you don’t really feel like you’re missing out on anything. That means you can get up at 5:30 – and have a quality start to the day; again this will vary according to your personality. In Greg’s household they have a rhythm where his wife takes the kids to school and he picks them up. So Greg is working from 5:30, quarter to six, he does a few hours of really hard work until about 8:00 before he has breakfast, and his day’s underway. By small rituals, disciplines such as this Greg has bought myself almost eight to ten hours a week.

The words that keep on going to come up over and over again, is that there is a sense of stillness in some way. There is a flow, you’ll find a rhythm within your life. There is that particular word, no. There’s that word, rocks. And when you get the no and the rocks and the rhythm and the stillness, you’re in the driver’s seat. You’ve got the power. You’re being the very best you. And there’s a freedom about that.

And that is what we want.

That is balance.

Stay legendary

Grego and Pricey