When it comes to our lives, we always hear about achieving balance. In fact, if we Google the term “work-life” balance, we get about 693 million hits in return. That’s a lot of talk about a topic. For comparison purposes, we Googled Tom Hanks. Turns out this famous actor and producer, who has more than 140 acting and producing credits to his name at the time this article was written has 36.8 million. While no small potato, it’s still more than a mere 656 million fewer hits than the “work-life” balance phrase. That’s a lot of wasted writing on a topic that doesn’t actually exist. That’s right. Balance seems to be a magical, mystical state of being that’s tossed in our direction as something we should want to achieve but is just out of reach to actually attain. But is it balance that we’re really looking for?
No. What we’re looking for is counterbalance.
Having a balanced life is a lie. The very act of balance, whether you’re standing on one leg, applying weights to a measure, or trying to juggle is just an illusion of counterbalancing—shifting back and forth. When we balance on one foot, we are constantly making micro-adjustments – constantly counterbalancing – to appear like we are in balance. Whenever we spend time on one thing, we’re taking time away from something else. That means that when we talk about balancing our time, we really mean counterbalancing where we spend our time.
At its core, to counterbalance is to allow yourself to go out of balance. Like we say in The ONE Thing, the magic doesn’t happen when we invest our time in “the middle”, it happens when we invest in it the extremes. That means fully committing to one thing over another, then pivoting back to achieve counterbalance.
By committing to a single priority and giving it its unfair share of time, we increase our focus and our chance of achieving the results we desire. Because things can get hectic when we dive in head first, it’s important to set rules around how long we’ll counterbalance for any given stretch of time. Setting up barriers actually helps us achieve more, because it narrows our focus. More than that, it sets up the expectation that when we’re counterbalancing, we’re working, and when we’re not, we’re not.
The What and How of Counterbalancing
As discussed in The ONE Thing, there are actually two main areas of counterbalancing: your work and personal life.
Teetering between our work and personal life can get tricky. Almost 40 percent of employees have missed important life events because of work. But although it may seem counterintuitive, this is an area where counterbalancing can actually help.
When we counterbalance, we know that while we may be putting extra hours in at the office now to achieve a particular goal, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever the situation may be, counterbalancing helps us make that time productive so we can put the same level of focus in another important area of our life like our family.
Counterbalancing the Seven Circles
So we talked about counterbalancing as a whole between your professional and personal life, but what about your job and your business, your personal relationships and your spiritual life? Counterbalancing doesn’t just exist between our work and personal life. Our lives don’t operate in a vacuum. In all, there are seven areas of our life that are constantly vying for our time. In order to live a fulfilling life, we have to learn to counterbalance our time between each one:
- Our spiritual life
- Our physical health
- Our personal life
- Our key relationships
- Our job
- Our business
- Our finances
We know that everyone has more than one thing that’s important to them in life. But it’s fair to say that in each of these areas, we have things that are very important to us that get done and get done well. When things are running smoothly in each of these areas, we feel pretty good about ourselves. It’s when things start to slip in any of these areas when we recognize the need for counterbalance.
Sometimes important things fall by the wayside more often than they should. Everything can get confusing at times. That’s probably why our readers have asked us on occasion: if I’m following the principles of the ONE Thing, am I “allowed” to have more than one ONE Thing?
The answer is yes. We never said “only one thing” we said “one thing at a time.”
If you don’t have more than one area of importance in your life, chances are you’re neglecting some key areas of your life. Our approach to life cannot be piecemeal as no single area of life operates by itself. These different areas of life, such as your spirituality, key relationships, or physical health may impact other areas and share great importance to you – and that’s 100% ok.
The Focusing Question (What’s the ONE Thing I can do [in this circle] that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?) is a question that should be applied to each of the important areas of your life.
If we could only do ONE Thing in each specific circle, what would that ONE thing be and what would it look like? Once we figure that out, we can put aside the necessary time to focus on that one important thing until we achieve it. This is where time blocking comes into the picture.
Counterbalance Time Blocking
Mark out time on your calendar for your most important priority. At work, we advocate for time blocking a 4 hour stretch that we can dedicate to our ONE Thing. This time block for our business or our job can allow us to do what is necessary to take our career to the next level. For instance, if your business goal is to add ten people to your database a day, you would block out a period of time every morning to dedicate toward completing this task.
During this time, you only work on the thing that will help you achieve your goal. Nothing else matters. Lock yourself in a self-made bunker and prepare to dedicate yourself to the task at hand. When you’re done with this time block, you counterbalance into another area of your life.
Counterbalancing Key Relationships
Chances are, when we look at how our circles are performing, your “family” and “friends” circles are often in need of TLC. If you feel this is the case within your own life, there are many ways to counterbalance, depending on the areas you feel can be improved upon.
Consider scheduling (and sticking to) a family meal around the table, taking a daily family walk after dinner, or holding a weekend movie night to instill togetherness and communication.
If your physical health appears to be lacking, ask yourself what needs to be done in order to give yourself a higher score. Or better yet, combine your activities with other buckets. Commit to an exercise routine with your spouse or get involved with your children’s sporting activities.
When going all-in on counterbalancing in another area of your life, it’s important that you don’t let certain areas, like your key relationships, fizzle out. There are lots of ways to counterbalance the other areas of your life to ensure happiness that don’t necessarily require a 4-hour stretch of time. It may be as easy as making a daily phone call to reach out to your parent while you wait for your curbside groceries to be delivered. Open communication with those relationships that matter most is essential when you’re counterbalancing other areas. Let these people in your life know how important they are to you and what you’re going to do to ensure they continue to feel valued while you pursue other circles. By keeping them in the loop, you’re preventing them from feeling excluded or left behind due to your other pursuits. If you’re looking for more tips on building these key relationships, check out our relationships guide here.
Determining what matters most in each area and asking ourselves how best we can achieve it is the first step to a counterbalanced life. Next, time block what is necessary. Your ONE Thing in each circle is ultimately what will help you achieve your desired outcome when you counterbalance and give yourself time to accomplish it.
How have you been able to counterbalance the key circles of your life? Continue the conversation on our Facebook page and let us know what has worked for you!