In my first post, I laid out my vision for work/life equilibrium. The basic premise is that you achieve balance by intentionally pushing back against the forces in life that tend to take over. At the end of the post I asked you to consider the rhythms and patterns of your week. Where do you have some space? Where do you tend to get stressed? In this post, I’m going to walk you through my own process of personal understanding and hopefully your own will fit in along side.
Finding the pain point
As I reflected on my week, it was pretty clear to me that as soon as Sunday evening came around, I would start to become anxious about Monday. It would feel like the previous week hadn’t finished yet. How is a new week already starting!?
Realizing this pattern started a process that evolved over several months, and continues to evolve still. It began with questions. Why am I anxious about this? Why do I feel behind? What sort of baggage am I carrying around that’s keeping me from focusing on what’s coming up?
Baggage was the magic word. I have this horrible tendency to see a particular email or voicemail and willfully ignore it. If I open that, all that will result is more work. So I ignore it. A week goes by and there it sits. Two weeks. A month. The guilt starts building. The longer it sits, the worst I feel. The longer it sits the harder it is to finally respond to. I was wasting a lot of energy and it was short circuiting my focus.
One step at a time
Now that a tangible problem had been found, I set out with one clear and specific goal. I would clear out an hour or two every Sunday night to reach Inbox Zero. At first, this goal hurt. I think it took me two or three Sundays before I finally hit Inbox Zero, including groveling and apologizing to some people I’d neglected. When I finally hit the goal, it felt really good. This was the critical part. I had replaced a negative habit with a positive one.
Building on the momentum
After a month, the was time thoroughly carved out and positively reinforced. The best part was that it started to feel easy. My inbox was being kept consistently under control so getting to zero was easier.
So I slowly started adding a couple other items to my Sunday night list. Each one addressing a new, particular pain point in my week.
- I keep my inbox in Evernote tidy so I can have easy access to all of my active thoughts and notes.
- I review my calendar for the upcoming week and write down any todos that any upcoming meeting may need me to accomplish.
- I review all of my existing projects in Omnifocus and make sure I have my head around the things I need to
Start small and keep it flexible
The specifics may look different for you, but I believe it will share the same core: Understanding what keeps you from being present and focused and how to help yourself reach that. My process started with a tangible goal and I could meet and I built on how it worked. There were things that didn’t work and so I stopped doing them. There are weeks where I only really do my email. I try really hard to keep this review from feeling like another burden.
Stay tuned for the next post, where I’ll be looking at my daily patterns and how I use this same focus to improve the outcome of each day.
These posts originated in a talk I gave in May 2015 at the Philly Software as Craft Meetup. You can see the slides on Speaker Deck