Work Life Balance - The Power of a Time Map

I Heart Oils Work Life Balance

Most of us would not start out on a road trip without checking a map. The purpose of the map is to get us where we want to go and to help us identify how we want to get there. Some of us might want to get to the final destination as quickly as possible - bathroom stops only! Others will wander off the main route to take in sights along the way. World's largest ball of yarn? Of course!

It is common to refer to our lives as a journey. So doesn't it make sense to apply the concept of a map to our lives as well? It is easy to let life control us instead of the opposite. We run from one thing to the next just trying to get everything done. Often our goals, values, and how we really want to spend our time gets lost in the shuffle.  A time map can help us take back control and align how we want to spend our time with how we actually spend our time.

So what is a time map? It is a visual representation of how you spend your time. You can use a spreadsheet, a daily planner, a calendar app, or sketch it out on a blank piece of paper - whatever works for you. 

Step 1

Create a time map based on how you would like to spend your time. In "Geek to Live: Map Your Time", Gina Trapani provides a simplistic example in which time is divided evenly between self, work, and family. 

Time Map Example

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Each person's map will be different, but Gina suggests some guidelines.

  • Keep the categories broad and generic, at least for your whole life map. You can do sub time maps (ie, your work time map) separately.

  • Don't schedule things down to the minute. This is a guide, not an exercise in down-to-the-minute accounting.

  • Keep overall ratios in mind, aligned with the things you deem most important in life right now. That is, if career is your top priority, the largest percentage of your map should reflect that.

Step 2

For a week or two, keep track of how you actually spend your time. Create a second time map for this. This one might be a little more detailed so get an accurate idea of where all your time is really going. 

Step 3

It's time to compare your maps and make some adjustments. You may find your maps don't even look like they are from the same planet! A few examples of questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you spending all your time on work and family and never have time for yourself? Time for hobbies, spiritual development, and exercise are important for health and happiness, yet they often are the first things that get cut out.
  • Is your time spent with family mostly running everyone to different activities? Are some of the activities even necessary? If nothing can be cut out, how can time in the car be made more valuable?
  • Are work and family committments constantly at odds? Both usually suffer in that case. Can you make adjustments that will increase the quality of your efforts at home and at work? 

A time map can be a valuable tool to help you achieve balance in your life. Balance between work, family, and self. Balance between what you desire your life to be and what it actually is. It is a map for living intentionally and reaching your goals. 

Have you tried a time map? What other methods do you have for finding balance in life?

Reference: Geek to Live: Map Your Time, Lifehacker


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