Finding Balance in 2020
Last year was chaotic. After taking two and a half weeks off in December, I came back to work determined to be more calm and balanced in 2020. So far, it's off to a good start and while it typically takes a few months to see the consequences of particular courses of action, my personal and professional lives seem to be more productive, less stressful, and more enjoyable.
Things are off to a great start, but what's different? How can I maintain this sense of equanimity? I've identified a few key differences in how I'm approaching life in 2020 than in the past:
1. Clear and Communicated Priorities
This year I've been very clear with myself and my fiancé: my physical, mental, and spiritual health come first. In a world of competing priorities, I've made the mistake of trying to accommodate others' schedules at the expense of my desires (and sleep). When I do that, I end up showing up for others in a half-ass sort of way (i.e. if I skip yoga or cut short a meditation session, I'm likely to ruminate over that the rest of the day, or resent the person who I was attempting to accommodate). My priorities are family, professional life, and the practices that underpin both: meditation, yoga, exercise, and reading.This means I'm scheduling (in writing) my priorities and communicating them to my fiancé and my colleagues. If I have less time for networking events and discretionary meetings this year, so be it. It feels very indulgent to prioritize myself ahead of business; however, viewing “self-care” as “performance optimization” certainly helps.
For the past few years, I've tried to journal daily with varying degrees of success. After researching journals, I decided to purchase a SELF Journal from BestSelf Co and I've been using it throughout the day for the past three weeks. Adopting this type of journaling style seemed a bit basic, some sort of easy way out -- like I wasn't really journaling, due to the limited room for in-depth reflections. However, I quickly realized how (once again) my desire for perfection tends to get in the way of progress. The SELF Journal is organized into weekly and daily sections, with a day taking up two facing pages and gives space for the following items:
Schedule (6am-9pm) + Notes
Morning gratitude (list three items)
Goal (for the day)
Today's Targets (three items that if accomplished would make the day a "win")
Lessons Learned (opportunities for improvement)
Wins ("brag zone")
Evening gratitude (list three items)
Each morning and evening I set aside 10-15 minutes for planning and reflection and while I still rely mainly on my digital calendar, the exercise of capturing my day on paper has been immensely helpful. I really thought this was going to be a simple exercise but I've been amazed at how much insight I've gained: (1) I always try to fit too many things into a single day; which leads to (2) setting myself up for failure; (3) my tendency to let professional obligations encroach on any free time; and finally (4) how little time is actually spent on "big picture" projects and thinking versus dealing with seemingly urgent items that are rarely important.
3. Sourcing Feedback
I don't trust my instincts, especially when it comes to judging my own performance. Over the years, I've seen how my mind works at the behest of my ego -- serving mainly to confirm convenient beliefs even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Because I want to see reality (which includes myself) clearly, I've learned to be skeptical of my inner dialogue, especially when it's talking about me! It's easy for me to do all of the things I want to do, but if that's my only priority, am I being a good partner? A good leader? To be successful both personally and professionally, and to understand how I am perceived, it's necessary to source candid feedback from others. Over the past few years I've grown increasingly comfortable with receiving constructive criticism. This was difficult at first -- no one wants to hear that they're falling short as a leader, significant other, or family member, but receiving that feedback can be the first step in the process of growth. This year I'm sourcing feedback early and often -- not just at some formal juncture, but every day. I'm asking about my effectiveness in presenting material, my value-add in various parts of the business, my ability to show up for my fiancé at home, etc.
2020 is starting with a real sense of balance, maybe for the first time in my life. It feels a little scary -- especially on the professional front -- can we get results without anxiety? Is it possible to perform better without the hungry ghost of ambition? I'm already looking forward to revisiting this post in Q2.