Teaching > HP 442 Professional Practices > Time Management >


Creating Balance
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT


In theory, knowing what we value most and acting on those things we value is an obvious way to live. In practice, it is something very different. We are always wishing that we had more time for the really important things in life.

In this type of balancing, when we sit down to plan, rather than asking, “What do I have to do?” we ask different questions, such as, “What do I choose to do? or “What do I want to do?

Unfortunately, day-to-day concerns occupy so much of our time and tend to keep us from making time for these more important things.

The essence of priority balancing is to simplify. The ability to simplify our days, and our lives, can be developed by regularly asking these four questions:

  1. Will it matter in ten years?
  2. What do I need more of in my life?
  3. What do I need less of?
  4. How can I make this simpler?

When we begin to ask these questions, we learn to say “no” more frequently to those things that simply aren't worth doing. Continually adding more things to our life frequently complicates and speeds up the pace of our life. Removing things from our lives creates simplicity and freedom.

The first step to balance our priorities is to simplify.

Doing what Really Matters

The second aspect of balance, and related to simplification, is to focus our priorities on three specific areas, then work to balance these areas. The three priorities common to everyone include:

  1. Family – This area includes our relationships with family and friends.
  2. Work/Career/School –This area includes all areas of our professional development.
  3. Self –This area includes not only development with our inner self, but the way we function serving others, activity with church and community groups.

The first step in creating more balance in our lives is to spend five minutes each day, before writing down any other plans or thinking about our schedule, deciding on the single most important thing you can do that day for your family, your professional development and yourself. Imagine how much you would accomplish that is really important in your life if you focused on those things that really mattered.

Don't just do something, Sit There!

Planning our days involves a commitment to stop everything and spend at least 5 minutes stopping and doing nothing other than thinking. Before planning your schedule, give yourself some sit-down time each day to ask yourself the key questions that were mentioned previously.

In our solitude time, rather than asking, “What do I really want?” we can ask challenging, but perhaps more useful questions like “What do I need?” “What do I need in my physical life?” What do I need in my social life, my spiritual life, my mental/emotional life?” Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions daily - then pick the thing you need to do most and do it that day.

Attitude Balance – balancing structure with spontaneity

Attitude balance involves considering both the destination and the journey. Our culture thrives on arriving, on reaching goals and enjoying the good feeling that comes with accomplishment. We tend to forget, so frequently, about the joy of the journey, about the footsteps we make on the way to the goal, which are just as important as the goal itself.

The Eyre's use the comparison of the jets and the hot air balloons. The jets are those who strive to arrive. People ride in jets to get where they are going as quickly as possible. People ride in hot air balloons for the sheer pleasure of riding in them. The hot air balloons are those who stop to smell the roses, who go with the flow of the wind wherever it might take them. People who dislike formal planning because of its inflexible structure say the jets lack spontaneity. The Eyre's contend that we can have both – the balloon and the jet – on our way to living our days in more fulfilling ways. The Yin and the Yang of the Taoist symbol implies that we are made up of both the jet and the hot air balloon. We feel drawn to both ways of being.


Antiplanning describes the attitude of making goals, being firm about where we want to go, but at the same time, being very flexible on how we are to get there. We don't always know, with our limited wisdom, what is the best way to do something. If we remain open to opportunities, rather than staying rigidly attached to what we have planned, we may find new directions, new opportunities, and sometimes even better goals that present themselves. Antiplanning shifts our focus to a simpler attitude of enjoying each step of the journey as much as the goal that we will reach.

Freeing the Mind

When is it that our best ideas come to us? When we are running around frantically working through the daily “to do” list, there is usually no room for insights or ideas to pop through into our awareness. On the other hand, our best ideas come in those times when our thinking has slowed and we aren't focusing on anything in particular.

Examples of these times are when we are in the shower, times of daydreaming, when we sleep in, when we take a leisurely stroll by ourselves, when we are jogging, while driving, or when we are sitting lazily by the pool. It is during these times that we should have a pen or a recorder handy to catch these fleeting ideas. Oftentimes, these insights can completely change an entire day or an entire lifetime toward a more fulfilling and joy-filled experience. But if we don't let the ideas through because of the busy-ness of our minds, we miss out on these best things.