Three Rhythms You Need To Improve Work Life Balance

Syd With Violin.jpg

Rhythm:
A movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions.

While sitting with my daughter Sydney at a recent violin lesson, I watched her struggle to get the rhythm right with one particular piece. Her teacher was so patient and helped her understand how the rhythm of the piece should be played by focusing on a few measures at a time. Then, when they played the whole piece together with different rhythms, it sounded amazing! (from a proud dad's perspective).

The experience reminded me of how important having the right rhythms are in our own lives. With always-on, over-scheduled and under-focused days, however, we often resort to "playing" at full force all the time. The result is a mediocre performance that leaves you AND your audience less than fulfilled.

If you're struggling to find a better way to "play" your days, here are three rhythms I see as essential to creating a more memorable performance:

Rhythm of Daily Productivity
In a recent Jones Zone I asked the question, "What time of day do you feel most unproductive?" While you might like to think that you can go at full force all day, there is a natural rhythm your mind and body find most effective. In his fantastic book, When, Daniel Pink cites research that suggests about 75% of us experience our day, in terms of energy, in three stages-a peak, a trough, and a rebound. Then about 25% experience the day in reverse order-recovery, trough, and peak. If you're not paying attention to your rhythm, you might be getting work done, but it may not be your best work, or tasks could be taking longer than they should.

What changes could you make to better align your focus and energy with the tasks to be accomplished?

Rhythm of Personal Renewal
Regardless of how much you love your work, family, and/or friends, failing to proactively schedule time for yourself creates dissonance. It's these moments of sacred idleness that restore the mental, emotional, and even physical energy we need to be at our best in relationships with others. (Tweet It.) The stories I hear of people unwilling to take a moment for themselves is almost laughable if it weren't so sad. They refrain from basic things like going to the bathroom or eating (even though they have already skipped one meal). Sure there are emergencies that require us to forego any thought of ourselves, but most of us have time in our day to invest at least a few minutes in ourselves. Time that will allow us to pay more attention to the present moment with curiosity and without judgment.

What time do you need to schedule for personal renewal in your day?

Rhythm of Start and Finish
A hallmark of those struggling with too much to do is their tendency to start lots of things and finish so few. Email is a perfect example. You check your email, glancing at the subject lines (start) and then reason that you have so much to do that you''ll come back to them later. You've just mentally started on at least 10-20 items without finishing any of them. Now your mind has to carry thoughts of these unfinished tasks around all day until you return to your email and finish them.

As I've written on numerous occasions, research shows that our brains like for things to be finished. That's why multitasking is such a mistake. You're starting several things, finishing few of them, and having to expend an enormous amount of energy trying to juggle it all. Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book, The Four Hour Work Week, sums it up best when he writes: What if we were totally focused on being one-taskers? What if we truly focused on one thing, one business problem, one task, one conversation? We'd be more focused, adaptive, and therefore better decision-makers. Sounds like a better rhythm to me.

How could you do a better job of starting and finishing in your day?

Just like my daughter learning to improve on that musical piece, creating better work and life rhythms are skills that have to be practiced daily. My resource, 15 Proven Time Management Strategies, offers quick and practical strategies you can build into your day to ensure that the performance you create gets a BIG standing ovation from everyone... including you!