I’ve had a number of conversations this week with friends and with clients that have rotated around life and life planning. I suspect it has something to do with lockdown. Perhaps because we are not racing from meeting to meeting, stuck in hours of commutes, planning evening outs, holidays, experiences, etc. In fact, pretty much most of our social lives have been dramatically stopped. Many of us are turning within and starting to explore what our lives are about. As leaders, once more we must set the standard for creating a full life and not one that is purely centered on work.
We’ve been gifted time through the pandemic. Time to slow down, to go within, to take a deep dive on the what truly matters to us. Time to create balance and harmony in our lives. I would like to introduce you to this idea of life planning and encourage you to give it a go this weekend.
There are two key principles to factor in when you start life planning. Firstly, there is a time element. It’s important to decide whether this is a short-term review of your life (weeks or the next few months) or a longer term, perhaps as far out as 1, 5 or even 10 years. This provides you with a sense of perspective.
The second principle is in reviewing how you live your life now. What are the key categories that best describe the life that you have created? What about the life you want to create? After all, only we are responsible for the lives we live. If you are not happy with any aspects of your life right now, then now is the time to rectify it. Only you can do that. (You might want to check out the excellent work by Brian Tracy – Taking Responsibility for Your Life – it’s a life changer).
Now for the fun part. It’s time to segment your life into a series of life categories. How would you describe the different facets of your life?
Here are the common ones:
- Relationships (this can be broken down further, e.g. family, partner, friends)
- Health (can also be broken down into sleep, nutrition, exercise)
- Wealth (e.g. finances, investments, savings,)
- Hobbies (anything and everything that is not work related and you enjoy doing)
- Personal development (e.g. books, webinars, professional development)
- Community (e.g. school governor, scout groups, working with the homeless)
- Spiritual growth (e.g. meditation, mindfulness, journalling)
It’s such a fun exercise to categorise your life. To deep dive into the things that truly matter to you. And it’s okay to add ones in that you would like to embrace in your life. The idea at this stage is not to overwhelm yourself and think you ‘should’ be doing all these things. But it should shine a light on the things that are out of balance.
If you are feeling that sense of not being aligned, chances are you are over emphasizing some aspects of your life over others. This exercise will help you pinpoint exactly what that is for you.
The next stage in our life planning is to start rating your life as it is today. Now this is quite an enlightening part of the process. Create a simple table (with four columns) on a piece of paper and write the above categories in the first column. In the second column, title it ‘Current Score’.
You now need to give yourself a ‘Mark out of 10’ score against each of the life categories you have identified. At the top, a 10, looks like you have this covered. You are fulfilled in this area; it brings you joy and happiness. At the opposite end of the spectrum a 1 is either not happening at all or you have never really considered it before.
Work through the list of categories you have identified above and give yourself a mark out of 10.
In the third column, title it with the time period you are looking to change, e.g. In 90 days or in the next 12 months or whatever time period feels right to you now.
Next list your future scores, i.e. how you want each of your categories to be. It’s unlikely and unrealistic that you want all the categories to be at a 10. Often you may have a category that’s around a 6 or a 7 and you are happy to keep it that way. There may even be categories you want to have less of a focus on and so the score could be lower.
The key is not to over think this exercise, but to listen to your intuition and go with that.
And in the final column (this needs to be a little wider), title it ‘Ideas to Change’. Jot down all the ideas for how to improve this category. Ask yourself, “Is there anything else I could be doing in this part of my life to bring me greater happiness?”
Finally, it’s time for that reflection. What are the insights you have got? Where do you need to refocus your life? How are you going to do that?
This life planning exercise is a very powerful one. It helps you to make sense of your life and to see where you are out of kilter. It also provides you with a framework for guiding your everyday activities too.
As always, please let me know how you get on with this exercise. I love to hear your insights. Enjoy!