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I love the underlying concept of work-life balance, but I don’t love the practicality of it. The word “balance” implies an even distribution over the course of time. So if you work too much one week, you will have to spend more time with the family the next, and vice-versa. You never arrive at your goal because this is an uncertain finish line. Luckily, there is a better way.

For years I have coached and trained others to live a more intentional life, and I am also on the same journey.  I have found that most people have a desire to change but become incredibly frustrated with the results they’re getting. Even worse, they look at those who seem to have it all together and have limiting beliefs that they can’t do the same.  I know how they feel as I have been there as well.

One of the greatest trades you can make when it comes to productivity is trading balance for healthy rhythms. While balance is unclear, rhythms are defined through a series of habits.

Almost forty percent of your actions are simply your habits according to the best selling book The Power of Habits. So if you change your habits, you will change your life. In order to create healthy rhythms, you will need to follow these five steps.

1. Decide on your goals.

The first step in the process of creating health in your life and business is deciding your desired destination, or goals. You need to clearly define what is your most important goal for the main areas of your life. We have our clients fill out a life and business plan.

Your goal should be in the form of x to y by z. For instance, your work goal may be to bring up sales revenue from one million dollars in quarter one to one million two hundred thousand dollars by the end of quarter 2. You may have a personal goal of losing fifteen pounds in the next 60 days.

2. Define your habits.

Once you have clarity on what your most important goal is for an area of life, you need to add the specific habit(s) that will help you to achieve it. Keep in mind that there are some habits, called keystone habits,  that set off a chain reaction for others to happen.

If you are a business owner, one of your habits could be to spend four hours a week working on the business instead of just in the business. Your keystone habit for your sales goal may be to contact ten loyal customers a week to see how they are doing and if they need any further assistance. Your habit to lose weight may be to write down your caloric intake every day and not to exceed so many calories.

Choose one or two habits that when done either on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, that will ensure that you will hit your goal.

3. Disrupt your schedule.

If the way you are currently spending your time is not giving you your desired results, then it’s time for a schedule change. You will most likely need to change your schedule to thrive in your key areas such as self-development, relationships, and business.

Some of your current fruitless activities will change and its place will be slotted for your new habits.

We look at the schedule a week at a time and call it our weekly rhythm. Inside your weekly rhythm is time to accomplish your habits and ultimately ensure reaching your goals.

4. Draw lines in the sand.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. In order to accomplish your goals, you are going to have to set some healthy boundaries in your life. There will be times when you say “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the great.

Since you already have your time slots full of your new habits, you can say no to things since you have a prior commitment. This part will make or break your ability to grow your business or personal life.

5. Dig your heels in.

I would love to say that everything will magically fall into place once you start, but there will be resistance. That resistance will come from the fact you’re already predisposed to your current habits and life itself.

How long does it take to form a new habit? Though it varies, research shows it more likely to take two months or so. This is one of the benefits of our year-long leadership coaching program, the opportunity to solidify many new habits. Here is the good news–once something becomes a habit, it does not require much effort to keep it going.

Take some time and clarify your goals and follow the steps in order. Plan today for the business or life you want to live tomorrow.

Years ago, I began to focus on time management, productivity and living a priority driven life. It was during this season that adopted the process of making a life, organization, and time plan. As a result of implementing these three plans, I have seen results in all areas.
One of the keys to the life, organizational, and time plan is a periodic review. In fact, a quarterly review and revision of each of these plans are essential. It helps to give you the focus you need for the next quarter.
Recently, I have looked at my whole process slightly different. One of the biggest changes would be the way I try to revise the plans. Typically, you would make sure you are making time for your predetermined priorities.
While I still do this, there has been some slight change of perspectives. One of the best ways to open your heart and mind up to future direction is by asking yourself some questions.
1. What is this season for?
What was important six months ago may not be as important today. In light of changing priorities, this is a good question to lead with as you are revising these plans.
Your highest priorities, likely relationship based, should always be at the top of your list. What you focus on in each season with your priorities can change.
Keep in mind, If you are in a season of huge transition or something new is happening, such as having a baby, launching a new initiative, or helping an elderly parent who is recovering from injury, the way you spend your discretionary time will vary from last season.
2. What do I need to say yes to in this season?
Because each season is different, there will be things that you will need to say yes to in order to focus on priorities. You may have a spouse, parent, or child who needs extra attention and cares this season.  Your marriage may be struggling and you may need to find a small group to learn how to love your spouse more effectively.
The goal once you decide what the season is for is to decide what do you need to do to make sure you are caring and investing in your priorities. So what are your priorities?

3. What do I need to say no to in this season?

Even more important than the ability to say yes, is the ability to say no. Remember, you can do anything, but you can’t-do everything.
I am still a recovering people pleaser. I want to say yes to almost everyone, but I can’t, and neither can you. If you say yes to everyone, you will end up having to neglect your priorities at some point.
Here is a list of a few things you may say not to: working late every night, watching television late every night, putting purchases on credit cards, spending hours a day on social media. All of these add stress to your life or consume a good amount of time while taking away from more important priorities.
I would love to learn which one of these questions are most beneficial, or what other ways have you found helpful to give yourself a healthy perspective for a new season.

There can be a myriad of things trying to get our attention, and consequently pulling us away from the things we want to accomplish.

Over the last few years, I have set many personal and professional goals. My personal goals usually revolve around my key relationships and family goals, while my professional ones are around developing the people and organizations I lead.

I have had seasons where I was failing at accomplishing most of my goals. While I had clarity around what I wanted to accomplish, I was failing on execution. Then a solution came.

While on the phone one day, someone told me that there were some goals if accomplished would help you accomplish many other goals. So instead of focusing on dozens of goals, we can accomplish more if we have just a few goals.

1. Personal:

Is there one goal personally that if accomplished, will help you accomplish your other important goals?

For instance, eating healthy will help you with your fitness and health goals. Another benefit is that you may eat out less, which will help you achieve your financial goals.

For me, my one goal that helps accomplish many others is waking up early. If I wake up hours before the rest of the house, it helps me accomplish my goals in the areas of faith, health, and my coaching business. In fact, I am writing this post while the rest of the house is sleeping.

2. Organizational:

You have probably seen a company or department have ten to fifteen goals they are trying to accomplish this year. So how many of those get achieved? Very few.

Look at the findings of the Franklin Covey group shared in the book  The Four Disciplines of Execution:

If a team focuses on two or even three goals beyond the demands of their whirlwind, they can often accomplish them. However, if they set four to ten goals, our experience has been that they will achieve only one or two. They’ll be going backward! If they go after eleven to twenty goals in addition to the whirlwind, they’ll lose all focus. Confronted with so many goals the team members will stop listening let alone executing. Why is this so? The fundamental principle at work in Discipline 1 is that human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence.

The book also stresses that organizations should only attempt to achieve one or two wildly important goals (WIG) at a time.

The less you do, the more you can do with excellence. If you focus on just a one or two wildly important goals in your life and business, you will get more done, by focusing on less.

What is your wildly important goal in your personal and professional life?

Many children are diagnosed with ADHD (or ADD) in their adolescence, and it goes away as they get older. Then there is the rest of us.

Growing up my parents did not see eye to eye on whether or not to medicate us for ADHD, and I believe they both had good reasons. They spent a small fortune (enough to buy a brand new car) to have my twin brother and I extensively tested. The results after a week were that we indeed had a little bit of an attention problem. Okay, maybe I was given the highest legal dosage of Ritalin as a kid, or at least that is what I remember. Like most people, I stopped taking medication before I became an adult, but guess what; I still have issues with my attention span. Though my attention span has improved tremendously over the years, there are a few apps that help me focus even better while I am at work.

1. Focus at Will:

Focus at Will combines scientific study and music to help you to concentrate for a longer period of time. I remember the first time I used this app, I was able to concentrate for a prolonged period of time. They also have a timer on the app that allows you to set self-deadlines for tasks. There is some learning curve with the different types of music offered with Focus at Will. I use quite a few of them, though I am not convinced that the one listed for those with ADHD works for me. Please do yourself a favor and see if you concentrate better with the app and give me your feedback.

This is the most expensive of all the apps and hacks that I use and recommend, and unfortunately, there are no free options.

2. Rescue Time:

Rescue Time allows you to track how you are spending time on your computer. If you are on Facebook a ton, it will let you know that you are very distracted. It also will compare your current week to the previous week to let you know whether or not you are improving at being a good steward of your time. Luckily, there is a free version of this application. Here is the description of the app from their home page:

“With so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered. RescueTime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.”

3. Stay Focused:

Potentially the greatest value comes from being able to limit how much time you spend on a certain website or a group of sites collectively. So if you are spending too much time on social media sites, you can let Stay Focused know to only allow you to spend thirty minutes total a day on all the social sites.

There is also a nuclear option on Stay Focused. If you want to keep yourself off certain sites that are a time waster for you; you nuke the site. Just remember, you will not be able to get back on that site.

4. Nozbe:

Nozbe is the task management system that I have used for years. It is geared towards David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system.

This app helps me to remember the things I need to be working on; therefore lowering the risk of me entering into a state of prolonged distraction.

5. Evernote:

It if weren’t for Evernote I would not have an enjoyable way to retrieve much of the digital information I collect. This is my go-to application for many good reasons. Most importantly it is the location where I store many important documents, notes, quotes, business cards, and likes for later retrieval.

The free version of Evernote is very good. I sprang for the premium version because I utilize the premium features on a frequent basis.

6. Weekly Rhythm:

While this is not an app per se, having a weekly rhythm helps me to stay on track by using my time in a predetermined manner. In my rhythm, I schedule a time to finish the needed tasks, develop leaders, develop myself, spend time with family, use my quiet time, and so forth. When coaching an individual or company, I encourage them to create a rhythm to maximize their productivity.

While my attention span still affects my productivity from time to time, these apps and hacks have helped me to move forward tremendously.

If you have any other apps that you use to help you stay focused I would love for you to share.

(Some of the links are affiliate links. I only recommend apps that I am currently using. I use the free version of everything listed, except for Evernote and Focus at Will.)

How to Create a Weekly Rhythm

As leaders, we have aspirations to be incredibly productive every week. We come to work determined to get ahead and take care of what is most important. By the end of the week, many of us are left wondering why we didn’t get the results we were hoping for. So what is the secret to a successful week?

A few years back I struggled to stay on top of things, which kept me from getting ahead. I remember taking a self-evaluation test where I was asked to rate myself on how organized I was on a scale of 1–10. I gave myself a raving 3, only because I felt confident—confident my organizational skills needed a little attention.

This evaluation was given to me by Building Champions, whom I had hired for personal executive coaching. This was one of the best investments of my life. In the beginning stages, they had me create a life plan, which I have since renamed as my personal life blueprint. If you don’t have a personal life blueprint, I would encourage you to complete one of those first.

Once I became clear on what I wanted in my life, it was time to make it happen by scheduling it. Your desires will not become a reality unless you make time for them. If you really want to know how you spend your time, you can do a write-down for three days, listing how you spend every half hour. Yes, this is a grueling, yet eye-opening exercise. Building Champions has a time-blocking document you can use here.

[bctt tweet=”Your desires will not become a reality unless you make time for them.” username=”justinsetzer”]

Now it is time to create your desired time block, which I have renamed ‘desired weekly rhythm’. The weekly rhythm shows how you would spend your time if you could control it. While there are many unforeseen circumstances that can come up in a week, many weeks are normal.

The rhythm is broken up into thirty-minute segments, showing how you would spend your time in an ideal week. There are a few keys to creating a weekly rhythm that will help you get the most out of your week:

1. Plan your day’s theme.

The focus is important and having your day’s theme can be a huge boost to productivity. Instead of jumping from one unrelated task to another, you can get into the groove of working on one aspect of your job. You will notice that I have my theme listed at the top of the spreadsheet. The theme is my primary focus of the day.

2. Schedule your personal priorities.
• Them time: This is the time you have scheduled for your relationships. This should include time for dates with your spouse, time with your children, and friends.
• Renew time: These are the activities that renew you and keep you at peak performance. These could include your time with God, exercise, reading, outdoor activities, etc.

3. Schedule your high payoff activities.

These are the activities that Stephen Covey would place in quadrant II, as described in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These activities will differ from person to person. High payoff activities may include vision casting, coaching your team, recruiting, managing sales relationships, top-level meetings, appointment setting, lead generation, etc.

4. Schedule the heavy lifting early in the week. 

If you don’t knock out the tougher aspects of your job early in the week, you will likely procrastinate with those tasks. If you are like me, it is better to get the hard projects done first.

5. Schedule time to work in the business and on the business.

• In-time is when you are working in the day-to-day operation of your organization when you are in the thick of things.
• On-time is when you walk away from working in the business to working on the business. This may include strategic planning, brainstorming, or working on a new initiative or product. In some settings, it can be easier to focus on working on the business at the end of the week when the other work is completed.

This process may take a few times to get down, but the return on investment is amazing. I have been able to free up an entire day of work per week for on-time.

More importantly, my family and priorities are not being neglected. It is an incredible feeling to know that you are spending time on the things that matter most, and still being productive in your organization.

If you are looking for further help. creating a weekly blueprint for your life is one of the steps I take my coaching clients through, Do yourself a favor and schedule a few hours to make a weekly rhythm. You can download a template here.

How would following a weekly rhythm be beneficial for you?