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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.

While planning may not be the most exciting thing, it can bring amazing results.

Recently, I have asked a few leaders if they have planned for the first quarter of next year. So far, all of them have not been able to step away to do so. Just like us, their lives are incredibly busy.

Like you, these leaders want to thrive in the New Year. However, a plan helps us bridge the gap between where we are, to where we want to be. It lays out the necessary steps to reach our desired goals.

At the time of this writing, we are approaching the New Year, and there are unlimited possibilities. This can be the year that you chase your dreams, but you need to know how to get there. There are three plans that if you have and follow will help you succeed in the New Year. I was introduced to all these plans when I used the coaching services of Building Champions.

1. Life Plan:

I learned about life planning, and the rest of the plans, years ago and the results I have experienced have been amazing. I call a life plan a personal life blueprint because that is exactly what it is. It is a blueprint for the life you desire to live.

In a life plan, you decide what your most important priorities are. You then decide how you want that key area of your life to look like if it was exactly the way you want. Then you create a plan to get you from where you are, to where you want to be. I wrote a more detailed post here.

2. Business plan:

You don’t have to own a business in order to create a business plan. If you are leading a team, department, or want to start a business, then creating a business plan is for you.

In a business plan, you decide what you want to accomplish over the next year. Once you have your year goals in mind, you can then create a plan for each quarter that will help you reach your desired outcomes for the year. I wrote more about creating a business plan here.

3. Time plan:

I am not sure of a bigger productivity hack than to maximize your most valuable asset through creating a blueprint for your time. Time has a way of getting away from us because we have not laid out a concise plan for how you want to spend it.

In a time plan, you decide ahead of time how you will spend your week. Although this will not always work out perfectly, it will get you much closer than if you just winged it.

The time plan is set up to help you accomplish your predetermined goals in your life and business plan. I wrote more about this here.

These three plans have had a huge impact on my life and have become part of the framework I use to coach others. This next month, quarter or year can be amazing, but you need to decide what amazing looks like.

Take some time and create a plan for your life, business, and time; you will be glad you did.

The life of a leader can be both exciting and challenging; rewarding and exhausting at various time. Leadership can also be incredibly lonely at times, but it does not need to be.

The first few years of my current leadership position were exciting and lonely at the same time. I loved my calling but soon realized the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top,” had some truth to it.

I fought against the loneliness by trying to reach out to other people. I knew in my line of work this took more perseverance than I expected, as my first few attempts at connecting to others in my role were just me leaving voicemails. I didn’t give up, and it paid off.

Eventually, I found a local gathering of others in my position, who met once a month. Through this group, I realized that leaders need to break away from isolation and have others join them on the journey.

I believe, in order to thrive, Leaders need to invest time in five different relationships.

1. God– If you are passionate about what you do, you may have a hard time shutting down the “Thinktank.” For this reason, and others, every leader needs a daily quiet time.

As a person of faith, I spend this time in prayer, scripture reading, or worship. If you struggle to have a devotion time, this post may help you out.

2. Family – This may sound as if it is a given, but it is not. Leaders who are passionate about their organizations, sometimes do so at a heavy price to their family.

I heard someone say, “Do not trade something that is unique to you (ie.your family), for something that may not be permanent.” Your family is permanent, but your job or business may not be.

3. Your tribe – In his book Tribes, Seth Godin states, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea……A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

The group that meets once a month is my tribe. It is helpful to meet with others who can clearly relate to what you are experiencing.

4. A coach– Coaching is one of the best investments you can make in your personal development. I define a coach as someone in your corner to challenge you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Yes, there is usually a price with this, but the return on your investment far outweighs the cost. I personally have had multiple coaches, and have invested thousands of my own dollars, but I believe it was more than worth it.

You can hire a coach that is either experienced in your industry or has the skills to help you reach your desired goals. If you need more motivation to hire a coach, read this article by Forbes.

I have used the services of coaches for years, and now am coaching myself.

5. A friend- This is the person you want to go fishing with, watch a ballgame, or meet up with for coffee. You can talk about a myriad of subjects with this person, or say nothing at all.

You can also share about things that have been bottled up and needed to be shared. An article from the Harvard Business Review tells us:

“Emotional support is equally essential. Like anyone else, executives occasionally need to vent when they’re dealing with something crazy or irritating at work, and friends and family are a safer audience than colleagues. This [support] serves as a much-needed outlet from the pressures of raising a family and leading an organization.”

As you can see, a leader does not need to be lonely. The relationships mentioned can help a leader endure challenges and thrive in their role.

The level of change I have experienced when I have all of these relationships in my life is revolutionary. Prioritizing these relationships not only helps you keep the right perspectives by honoring God and your family with time, but you are also getting the other supports you need to be the best version of you, you can be.

Take out your calendar and give some space for each of these relationships.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Is something else you would add to the list, or are there one of these that you struggle with?

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?

The one hour a week that can change your life

We are all given 168 hours a week. I believe that there is one hour that will help you stay on top of a busy life.

Many times I’ve had an experience at the beach that reminds me of how my life was going. I am enjoying myself in the water, bar the occasional splash of saltwater in the mouth. After an hour or so, I look up to see my stuff on the beach and realize I have drifted far away from my belongings.

My life for many years felt like this experience at the beach. The current of life was constantly trying to pull me away from things that are important to me. This has changed since I became intentional in the areas of my life that matter most.

I learned about the Life Planning process. This process that ultimately changed my life was picked up from Michael Hyatt and Building Champions. After learning the process, I created what I call your Personal Life Blueprint. You can learn more about creating a blueprint in this post. Once I knew what was most important, I implemented a weekly review to stay on top of those areas.

In the weekly review, you take about an hour out of the hustle and bustle of your life to look up and ensure you are not drifting away from what is important. The system I use is an adaptation of the Getting Things Done method from David Allen. Here are the steps I go through during my weekly review:
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1. Read your blueprint.
Once you have created your blueprint, review it every week to help you reach the goals you have set. Reading about what is important to you will help you from drifting too far from your goals. This built-in accountability will go a long way.

2. Process all emails and get my inbox to zero.
Emails are like weeds. If you don’t stay on top of them, they will get out of control. During the weekly review, you decide what to do with each email.
• Respond immediately if it takes less than two minutes
• Put in a respond-later file
• Delegate the needed action from the email
• Delete

3. Review other digital messaging outlets.
Check other accounts for outstanding tasks/items including:
• Social media
• Work Instant Messengers
• Software- CRM or other management systems

4. Process any loose paper.
File or process all loose paper including:
• Notes in Evernote- are they tagged properly so I can find them later?
• Receipts- tag or process
• Paper inbox (file any papers that have made it to my paper inbox throughout the week).

5. Go over previous week’s calendar.
Make sure you didn’t overlook something, such as a task assigned to you from a meeting. You may realize there is something you have to follow up on in the near future. You may be reminded of a thank-you note you want to write.

6. Look at the upcoming week’s calendar.
Make sure you are ready or will be ready for upcoming projects or meetings. Ask yourself what are the three to five things that must be accomplished this week?
If you are married, go over the calendar with your spouse. Once you are finished with it, make sure to ask yourself the question, “Have I scheduled the most important things in my life?”

7. Review and add to task/project list.
I use Nozbe to help me with my tasks and projects. There are many other project management software programs such as Asana, Trello, and Basecamp. The goal is to find a system or software that you enjoy.

Whatever task manager you use, I encourage you to set up a template for your tasks that are recurring. This will help you from having to reinvent the wheel every week.

This one hour (or less) weekly investment has changed my life and paid more than its fair share of dividends. I am more prepared every week than I ever was before and able to stay on top of a busy life. The more important areas of my life are getting the attention they deserve, and everyone around me is benefiting.
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Action Step: What one hour a week works best for you to do a weekly review? What else would be beneficial to add to your weekly review?

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