The Myth of Balance: 3 Keys to Intentional Time Management

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On this week’s episode of SUCCESS Line, I talk to Nikolaos. Nikolaos is a computer science Ph.D. student and software engineer. Like so many of us, he has a slew of different opportunities to weigh, future plans to consider and relationships to strengthen. He came on the show to ask, “How do I get to peak performance and efficiency while still achieving a relative balance?”

Time management is one of the things most entrepreneurs are terrible at. Nikolaos has an entire time-management system but is still finding himself short on time at the end of the day. If you are reading this, I am guessing that you similarly have a lot of things wanting your time. You look at extremely high achievers and know they are bound by the confines of the same 24 hours that you are, so what allows them to accomplish things that may seem wild, crazy and unexplainable? 

The way that they get to do that is that they’ve learned very effectively how to manage their time. Time is a finite resource and one of the few things we can’t create more of. If you’re an entrepreneur who has struggled to find enough hours in the day, read on for my top three tips for intentional time management. 

1. Audit your time. 

The things we invest our time in are not all created equal. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of our time produces 20% of our results. And vice versa: 20% of what we do produces 80% of our results. This means we have to gain extreme clarity on what our “20% activities” are. 

What are the things that are most predictive of me accomplishing my goal? What is most important to me?

In a sea of good things it is easy to lose track of the great things. Furthermore, saying yes to a few great things means saying no to a lot of good things. This is the hardest part of time management: making the decision about which of these ostensibly good things need to get pushed down the ladder in order to prioritize the great things. 

We need to re-assess and audit how we are spending our time. And while weeding through and sorting our priorities is not an easy or quick process, the payoff in what you are able to accomplish as a result is incredibly rewarding. 

2. Identify what will shatter.  

One of my mentors shared this analogy with me a long time ago: In life, everything we could potentially give our time to is either a rubber bouncy ball or a ball made of glass. When I drop the rubber bouncy ball, it will bounce and eventually find its way back to me. It will be fine; it is not going to be damaged. However, when the glass ball hits the ground, it shatters; there is no putting it back together.

The job of any achiever is to start to identify which of those things will bounce and which will shatter. What we know for certain is that none of us gets out of life alive. And none of us will get to the end of life and wish we had put more time into the things that bounced—we are going to wish we had better prioritized the things that shatter. 

As you look at your priorities, filter them through the lens of what will bounce and what will shatter. I think you will find that your time-management decisions suddenly become much clearer. 

3. Know that “balance” is a myth.

Throughout my career, I’ve found that this elusive balance we’re all searching for is, in reality, a myth. There is no such thing as balance. The world is set up in counterbalance. Counterbalance is the lens we need to be looking through when we think about our time, and it is the reality of how achievers accomplish big things. 

If you are always striving to find a perfect balance, then the only thing you will achieve is burnout. You have to find the ways you can counterbalance. Choosing to say yes to and prioritize one thing automatically requires saying no to something else. We can either fight that and drown or embrace it and thrive. 

Remember that there will never come a day when you arrive at the perfect balance. Time management is a lifelong process, and setting your priorities and allocating your time is only the beginning. You have to diligently check your hypothesis and see if you made the appropriate decision. And if it wasn’t the right decision, the beauty is that you can make another.

Learn how to manage your time in the most effective realm possible, and you will find you are able to achieve things beyond your wildest dreams.  

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Ben Fairfield is the Managing Director of SUCCESS Coaching & a SUCCESS Certified Coach.

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