In a society that glorifies "busy" and working around the clock, it can be easy to adopt these habits in the pursuit of success. However, research is proving that constant busyness does not equate productivity and can lead to more stress as well as burnout. It is important to evaluate how our lifestyles are moving us toward our goals so we can make mindful decisions to optimize our time according to our definition of success and what’s most important to us.
Define your Priorities
The first step to auditing your lifestyle is reflecting on and establishing what is most important to you. Determining your end goals and the principles you want to honor in the process of achieving them will enable you to create a focused direction of how you want to spend your time and energy:
What are your values, passions, priorities, and long-term goals?
How do you want to honor your values in your day-to-day life?
What are you trying to achieve and why? What steps do you need to take to get there?
Evaluate your Time
Below is the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which you can use as a guide to reflect on how the way you’re currently optimizing your time is serving your goals and priorities.
How the matrix works:
When an activity is important, it contributes to your values and high priority goals. When an activity is urgent, it requires your attention immediately and it typically produces a “reactive” state of mind.
While Quadrant I tasks are urgent and important, if we spend too much time here, this can lead to burnout, leaving us no choice but to escape to Quadrant IV activities. Many people spend their time in Quadrant I—think of those who are crisis-minded, problem-oriented, always saying “yes,yes,yes” to every “urgent” matter that pops up. They definitely work hard, but how effective is this approach in the long-term?
Quadrant II is the key to effective time optimization. This is the quadrant of important, but non-urgent tasks. When we spend more time here, we can eliminate many quadrant I crises before they happen. Quadrant II enables an opportunity mindset, effective planning, and invests in our personal and professional growth and overall well-being.
Spending most of our time in Quadrant III and IV can lead to irresponsibility, short-term focus, and a dependence on others. If we want to re-balance our lifestyle, these are the quadrants where we must begin. We must first eliminate the activities in these areas, so we can invest more time in Quadrant II. As we shift our energy and time to Quadrant II activities, this will enable us to plan, prepare for and eliminate Quadrant I crises, which in turn will provide us additional time and opportunities to spend in Quadrant II.
Lifestyle Audit with the Matrix:
What percentage of your time are you spending in each category?
What are some Quadrant II activities that if you prioritized would have a significant impact on your personal or professional life? Why have you not prioritized them yet?
What are some Quadrant III and IV activities that you can eliminate or say no to?
What are some Quadrant II activities that would help you manage and eliminate Quadrant I crises?
What changes are you going to make with this new information? When are you going to start? What will it help you accomplish?
Remember that no lifestyle is perfect! You can still indulge in your favorite reality TV shows that lie in Quadrant IV, and it’s perfectly normal to sometimes get caught up in Quadrant I crises. That’s just life. The key is balance and ensuring that overall, you’re living a lifestyle that serves your true intentions, best interests, and long-term objectives. Stay tuned for a follow-on post that will describe how to leverage the matrix to allocating your time moving forward.