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Lifebalance: A more flowing approach to time and life management
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

The third method for time management is called Lifebalance. While this approach appears significantly different than the previous two approaches, it can be equally as effective in helping you organize your time in a manner that is stress-relieving for you.

Critics of traditional time management approaches contend that more rigid planning tends to focus too much on doing and having, and not enough on being.

They do not take into consideration our natural rhythms of life. It is as if we can only stop to smell the roses as we are running quickly by them to do something apparently much more urgent. In the meantime, we miss life's important moments that are given to us and for which we could not have possibly planned. If we have planned every minute of our day and if we do not cross off every planned action from our “list” we feel like we have failed. These approaches don't appear to allow for spontaneity, for freedom, and for “going with the flow.” To some, there is emptiness to the traditional approaches.

Lifebalance is an approach to time and life management that promotes a balance of purposeful planning and a healthy mix of going with the flow.

Richard & Linda Eyre write about this in their book, Lifebalance: Bringing Harmony to Your Everyday Life. The Eyre's contend that we live too much of our lives out of balance. The result of this imbalance is what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation.” The search for simpler, slower, more flexible and more meaningful lives has vanished with our culture toward the constant search for more, better, and different. Contentedness has been replaced by competition. Serenity has been replaced by speed. Balance implies a healthy combination of all that is important to us and letting our inner nature, rather than our environment and culture, dictate our speed and direction. The Eyre's describe the current frustration and dilemma that many feel with time management planners.

Here is what they found:

  1. Ninety-five percent of what is written in planners has to do with work, career, or finance – creating an imbalance between work and family and personal needs.
  2. Planners cause us to live by lists, to act rather than respond. If we're not careful, our lists control us rather than the other way around. We begin to view things that are not on our lists as irritations or distractions rather than as opportunities, and we begin to lose the critical balance between structure and spontaneity.
  3. Because they are accomplishment-oriented, most planners focus our attention on things, on getting, and on doing, sometimes at the expense of people and giving and thinking. Thus they can be destructive to the balance between achievements and relationships.

Some people are more comfortable with a lifestyle that simply takes things as they come and simply “show up” with whatever seems to unfold in their daily experience. To those who are vigorous planners, this approach seems frivolous and unproductive. How could anyone ever accomplish anything if he doesn't know where he is going?

It follows the old adage, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

 “Let's consider a typical businessman who uses a typical schedule book or time organizer. If we analyze the contents, we will find three things:

  • First, we find that more than 95 percent of his entries (lists, plans, appointments, reminders) have to do with work. It is hard to find anything relating to his family or to his own personal growth.
  • Second, his planning leaves no time for spontaneity or flexibility. He prides himself on using every hour of the day, and he gets his kicks from checking off everything on his list. His motto is “act, don't react,” and he likes to say that people who are good planners hate surprises and avoid them by only allowing things to happen if they are on the list.
  • Third, just as there is no room on his schedules for spontaneity and surprises, there is precious little space for relationships. Planning and lists seem to deal much more with things than with people.”

Unbalance, the Eyre's contend, results from bad habits – habits that emphasize work at the expense of family and personal growth, structure at the expense of spontaneity, or accomplishments at the expense of relationships (or vice versa on any of these).

The Eyre's found, as they traveled around the country, that people list their priorities in this order:

  1. Family
  2. Personal character, including beliefs, education, inner growth
  3. Work or career
  4. Other interests, including recreation, TV, etc.

Compare this with how people actually spend their time:

  1. Other interests, including recreation, TV, etc.
  2. Work or career
  3. Personal character
  4. Family

A clear discrepancy exists between what is most important to people and how they spend their time.