Work-Life Balance Is a False Dichotomy, Why Living With Intention Is Greater & How To Integrate This Approach In Your Daily Work
Listen to the audio guide to this training:
Dear Digital Growth Operator,
In today’s modern workforce working remotely and digitally, there seems to be a lot of fads and hacks on how to approach productivity, how to focus at work, and how to find the proverbial “work-life balance.”
Nearly every time I get asked to speak at leadership events or do remote team training at management meetings, or have 1on1’s, I always get asked about the topic of remote work and “balance.”
I will say this, this training, along with the worksheets, is a way but not the ONLY way. You’ll have to adapt it to yourself, just as I have been developing and adapting this since around 2011.
This training is the most comprehensive iteration yet.
The 80/20 Journal is specifically designed to help you thrive in your digital work and life.
✅ Detailed training to develop a holistic and flexible approach to your day ✅ Direction setting, habit development, and reflection worksheets ✅ 100 Days worth of entries to last you well over 3 months
My aim in what I will show you today will allow you not only to be better in your day to day but also in alignment with the extensive overview of your life’s goals.
My promise to you is that we will have a holistic approach to your biggest dreams and goals, and we will boil it down to how you approach your day without being super regimented or overwhelming. (As a creative, I designed this with flexibility in mind).
We’re going to dive into the holistic framework of how to approach your work more efficiently and how to win the day in a more fluid manner.
A Better Way
Can You Relate?
It’s 6 pm, and you’re relaxing, watching TV, eating dinner with the family, walking your dog, or hanging out with the kids, but you HAVE to hold on a minute and check your email, Slack, or project management todo’s really quick.
That’s one of the many problems we face with knowledge work nowadays. Work is always around us, and it’s coming from multiple directions:
Work is not a physical place.
The answer to solving this problem doesn’t exist in tactics, being more regimented with your tasks, or sticking to a tight schedule in 15-minute increments (trust me, I’ve tried that).
As a matter of fact, it’s something less measurable.
It’s about intention.
The answer to every point in this training will be around that one word:
The reason why it’s important to emphasize intention is that we’re human beings and we have our brains always working.
Therefore what we intentionally focus on matters.
You might be working before you fall asleep, thinking about that project or comment you made on the call, the upcoming presentation you have to give next week, or the meeting you have to run tomorrow at 9:30 am.
Momentum, Movement, Velocity & Speed
Before we can dive into the granular “how-to” and get detailed, we must first understand what we will fine-tune regarding our focus and intentions.
Two things I like to ask digital teams are:
1. What is the difference between momentum and movement?
2. What is the difference between velocity and speed?
Take some time to explore those two questions, as they will affect how you operate personally and your team implements collectively.
If you are executing quickly, taking fast action, implementing new initiatives, and making forward progress, that’s good.
But if you’re taking fast action and implementing in multiple directions, are you really going anywhere?
While movement may feel good, momentum is forward progress toward a defined purpose.
The same with speed and velocity.
Taking action quickly and implementing rapidly is a praiseworthy behavior, granted that you are executing the right things in alignment with your destination.
Sometimes to increase velocity, you have to reduce speed by cutting actions (tasks or habits) that are just movement (busy work). You can slow down a bit and offload but actually move forward in the right direction faster.
This is, by the way, one of the primary reasons why digital teams and individuals falter: lack of direction.
If you want to execute at the top of your game, have your team work collaboratively, and at the end of the day know (not just feel) that you made significant progress in the day, you need to begin with direction.
Direction = goals.
WARNING: This is NOT a goal-setting workshop. We are not going to dive into how to set your goals.
What we are going to do is dial inon the direction you’re focusing your life in and create a concrete plan that can allow you to make progress DAILY to achieve your goals and dreams.
We will take the goals you are Called-To and distill habits from them and, from there, integrate them into your daily life systematically in a simple approach that I use to this day.
As you read this, I am sure that you know your goals and aspirations and what you’d like to achieve in your health, with your relationships and family.
And if you don’t, now is an excellent time to review the core areas of your life and create definitions and direction as you follow this process.
As you reflect on your goals for your health, relationships, for your work, legacy, your contribution, you want to boil down the following aspects for every goal you have:
What is the goal
Why do you want to achieve this goal
Who can help you, or what resources do you need to succeed
And finally: what will you commit to doing to achieve this goal
Commitment is the key to reaching all your goals.
What will you commit to doing every day to move closer in the right direction?
Fill in the GOAL worksheet in the Journal. As you do so, think about what simple, essential daily habit you can practice.
For example, for my personal goal of fitness and health, one of my daily commitments is to walk 10,000 steps a day and get a workout in.
When you set your commitment, keep it as simple as possible because we want to focus on creating momentum in the right direction.
Momentum doesn’t require a sophisticated plan, just consistent action.
Remember, goals don’t work without commitment.
You can visualize your goals, talk about them daily, see yourself achieving success, and so on, but if you don’t commit or take action, they simply won’t come to pass.
Your daily commitments are your daily habits.
This is why we use the Habit Sheet to ensure you keep yourself accountable for reaching your commitments.
You are what you practice.
And what you focus on is what you’ll take action on.
The formula is thus:
As you focus on your daily habits, understand that this becomes a sort of game to keep your daily habit streak alive.
And if you miss a day? That’s ok!
Tomorrow is a new day, and you can recalibrate. The point is not to give up simply because you missed a few days but to recommit and try again today.
With the HABITS worksheet in the journal, you want to write your commitments on the left-hand side and then enter a check mark for every day of the week you hit your commitments.
You can circle that day and try again if you miss a day. At the end of the week, you can reflect on your attitudes that allow you to remain committed and what you want to focus on to ensure daily progress on your goals.
As you focus your days and week with this approach, you’ll find that you are moving towards continuously optimizing and improving. No day is the same, and each day presents itself as a new opportunity to hit your habits that will move you closer to your goals.
The Balance Myth
Now, as we turn the corner, we must identify the myth and buzzword of “work-life balance.”
Work-life vs. personal life seems to be at odds with each other.
This is a false dichotomy, assuming a zero-sum game.
Regardless if you are on a Zoom call, texting your friends, shutting off the laptop at 7 pm, and eating a late dinner at 8:30, you are living YOUR life.
What matters is HOW you want to go about living your life, utilizing your gifts to the fullest, nurturing meaningful relationships, and practicing being PRESENT in the moment.
We don’t want to aim for “balance”; we strive for quality.
Quality requires intention.
And living with intention is significantly better than being tossed around daily without making progress.
Let’s tie everything together to approach your day with more intention and not only achieve more but achieve more of the right things that will move you closer to your goals and becoming the person you aim to be.
80/20 Day Optimization
You can have a holistic approach to your day where you focus on the most important habits, the most important relationships, the work outcomes, and the specific things others depend on you for.
And when you do that, you can have a full day, not just an iron-clad, regimented task list full day. (Remember, you are not a computer or automation, you are a human being.)
To optimize how you approach your day with your habits, your goals, and your daily focus, we will need to add a simple bit of structure to your day. Don’t worry that this will help you arrive into your day with more intention, get the most that you can out of your day, and, most importantly, allow you to enjoy your day.
Somehow we forget joy when it comes to our schedules and work.
The phrase 80/20 is a callback to Pareto’s Principle, which states that 80% of your outcomes are produced by 20% of your focus and actions.
We aim to first focus on the highest leveraged activities in your day. If you recall Stephen Covey’s time quadrants, we are focusing on important but not urgent habits and actions.
The first stage here we will be doing is called day mapping.
On this sheet of paper (high tech, I know), we will do a quick exercise together to map your day.
Day mapping consists of 3 super simple phases:
Phase 1. Outlining Your Current Day
Phase 2. Balance Your 80/20 Actions
Phase 3. Build Out Your Time Blocks
Phase 1. Outlining Your Current Day
We want to outline your current week and day on your piece of paper. If you want, you can take a screenshot of your calendar, print it out, and use that instead. Remember, we aren’t going super granular here; we just want to outline your days and the current flow.
The key is to identify the 3 following areas:
1. What are your routines? And this does not include just work routines; we want to look at your life routines as well.
Do you work out in the morning? Or do you work out at midnight?
Do you like to make coffee in the morning? Or do you fast until 1 pm?
What do you do? When do you eat? When do you usually hang out with your family? When do you hang out with your pets? When do you do what you like to do?
Also, outline what actions/routines others depend on you for. Others can be friends, family, peers, community, and teammates…
For your work, you also want to review which actions you need to take to advance in your role.
Now, if you’re a manager or an owner of your business, you want to focus on the key actions required to move the business forward. There are some tasks that you do in particular that make a significant difference in the company.
2. We want to look next: where do you perform the best? What actions contributed to your excelling?
What are you extraordinary at? We will call these your “80/20” actions—the actions you take that drive the most impact.
And if you don’t know that, ask your team members; you’re just a question away from unlocking real insight about yourself and how you approach your work and day. You can do this with family and friends as well.
When you get this level of clarity, you will then start to identify what actions you can take to achieve your highest level of output and performance and vice versa; you’ll also specify actions that might be hindering you from doing your best work or performing at your best during your day.
This leads us to the final area of day mapping.
3. Review: Which actions are hindering you from being your best, both in your personal performance and the actions others depend on you for?
Here is a summary of what we just did:
1. Outline your current day/week on a piece of paper
2. Review the following questions:
What are your routines?
Where do you shine in your work (what are you extraordinary at)?
What are the key actions your work requires (and that you move the needle on)?
3. Highlight the key 80/20 actions you take
4. Circle actions that take you away from focusing on your 80/20 tasks
Phase 2. Balancing Your 80/20 Actions
Looking at the actions you just circled, the actions that detract you from your 80/20 actions, we want to scrutinize them and filter them by using the following 4 questions:
Question 1: Can you eliminate this altogether?
Question 2: Can you delegate these actions to someone you know? What training do they need?
Question 3: Do you need to hire someone to delegate these actions? If so, who?
Question 4: Can you utilize technology to complete these actions or help streamline their completion?
What do you need to build or get built for you?
Once you complete this, you will have a clear focus on the essential actions and habits you:
Like to do
Now we can build your day out using time blocks.
Phase 3. Building Out Your Time Blocks
Now it’s time to build out your time blocks. This is probably the most regimented we’ll go. And it’s only 5 blocks, with a morning block and an evening routine block, so in reality, it’s only 3 blocks you’ll have to build out.
In other words, it’s pretty simple.
This time-blocking method has been tested for multiple time zones; it’s worked with teams in 12+ time zones (I stopped counting at 12). And this has been tested and proven for various types of workloads.
It can also help you shorten your workday or make your long workday more intentional by allowing you to focus on the most essential actions. It all depends on how you approach your day, how efficient you are with your day, how tight you are with communication, and team collaboration.
Here are the proven time blocks at a glance:
Let’s dive into each.
Your morning routine is what you make of it. You can wake up when you desire, execute the habits that are best for you, and, most importantly, prepare yourself for your day. I have no say in what you do for your morning; however, I would suggest focusing on your soul, health, and creativity (we are creative beings, after all).
I would also recommend not consuming distractions in the morning or diving into your emails or pings. Those can wait.
Here is where we start your work day—however, not a peep at an email or pings.
We want to focus your 80/20 time on highly focused and leveraged actions. These actions are your “PUSH” activities, the work you deliver to the team, your clients, and the world. This work may align with the work you excel at doing and be aligned with the habits that will help you achieve your goals.
As a note, you may have to send a message during your 80/20 time, and that’s quite all right, but remember: you are not in intake mode. Do not waste your precious time scrolling through 30 minutes of reading and responding to messages instead of investing in the activities that will help you and your team achieve your next milestone.
Usually, 80/20 time takes between 1-3 hours to complete. This does mean you have to be very particular in what tasks you focus on during this time.
Now that we’ve completed this time block, we head into your day with the Today’s Tasks time block.
Here, finally, you can get that cheap dopamine rush: open up those emails, slacks, Zooms, etc. (I’m only slightly kidding 🙂
Either way, you can start consuming information from the world and start tackling your day!
During this time block, you focus on the action items that need to be done today, attend those scheduled meetings, and also give yourself flexibility for the things that come up.
This time block is intentionally broad because no day is ever the same, and we want to build flexibility into your day.
This time block can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours depending on the type of work you do, the kinds of projects you’re involved in, and the number of calls you allow to be scheduled in your day.
I suggest you emphasize focus on the actions that others depend on you for this time block. There is something about knowing that items that others need from us are done that allows the rest of the day to feel like a breeze.
You might check your communication inbox regularly during this time block or only once or twice.
However, before you finish this time block, I would suggest you clean up and close out your day’s communication to ensure you closed the loop on any active and vital conversation.
Once you’ve done that, we can head for the home stretch.
This final time block is the shortest, easiest, and, quite frankly, the one that may be a game-changer for you (as it has been for others). It’s pretty simple, during this time block, we want to focus on tomorrow by reviewing the following:
Tomorrow’s action items
• You have relevant agendas or notes for tomorrow’s meetings for activities
• You have all your resources lined up to execute your planned actions
While this might sound like a bit of work, once you have this dialed in using your calendar and a digital or handwritten list, this time block can take anywhere from 15 minutes – 1 hour. Usually, it’s closer to 10-15 minutes for me. But you may want to prepare more than I do. Again, the choice of how you want to approach your day is yours!
Finally, we arrive at the finale of your day.
Similar to the morning routine, you set the rules here. My only advice here is to be intentional with your focus when you are around others. However you spend your time in the evenings, please do so with full attention to the present moment.
One image I illustrate in my stories and trainings is a post a friend of mine (a business owner) made a few years ago. He had an image of his daughter holding up a piece of paper with some writing as he worked on his computer. The paper his daughter held up said: “daddy is that screen more important than me?”.
I’m not here to guilt trip anyone, nor am I judging. I have worked late myself (and for a good reason). The purpose of this illustration is to make sure we invest our full intention and attention to what is in front of us.
Living a distracted life is not part of the plan and won’t do you or anyone any good. I have to remind myself of that constantly.
To summarize, here is what we just did together to build your time blocks:
Design your morning routine
Create an 80/20 time block first in your day ~ 1-3 Hours
Create a Today’s Tasks block to focus on tasks that are due today, meetings, and a buffer for items that come up during the normal course of the day ~ 3-6 Hours
Create a Build Up time block at the end of your day to prepare for tomorrow ~ 15 min to 1 hour
Design your evening routine
A few notes to consider:
Set enough time to allow for flexibility
Schedule around the essential meetings you need to attend (optimize meeting times)
Include what’s important in your life on your calendar
The 80/20 Day
Here is the official 80/20 Day:
It’s not an ordinary planner since it’s fully customizable for your needs and has a simple layout.
Let’s start by reviewing the left-hand side.
You’ll see we have the following at the top: Day, Date, and open quotes.
The Day section is where you can add the number of days you are alive. It may be a Monday or Tuesday (depending on when you’re reading this) for some, but for you, today is a unique day in your life; it’s the only day you have to live your 14,000th day… or 16th, 17th.. and so on. No day is the same.
Next, we have your standard date section for the month, day, and year. And below, you have an open space to write a quote you want to focus on for the day. You can use it or leave it blank.
Finally, you have a declaration of the time you aim to wake up. As you may recall from the Build Up time block of the day, you want to get into the habit of planning tomorrow’s activities today.
On the very left, you have a small section to outline your day’s agenda, write the meetings you’d attend, or block out times when you’ll focus on specific time blocks.
The center planner should look very familiar to you, where we have your time blocks:
• Today’s Tasks
• Build Up
You’ll notice that each block has built-in lines to allow you to fill in your tasks per block. You’ll also see an email icon before and after your Today block to remind you that those are the optimum times to check your messages from the world via email, pings, etc.
A Quick Note On Communication
Your inbox might look like this: 🤯
However, we must define the purpose of communication:
To transfer information.
Now, not all information is the same.
We may have information that is:
Highly relevant and applicable: use immediately
Not applicable yet but relevant: save for later
Not applicable and not relevant: consider trashing it
To go one layer deeper, we also must define the purpose of the information:
To drive action.
As a digital leader, you are responsible for leading yourself and others.
And as a leader, you must enable your team to take action.
When it comes to communication and information, as a leader, you must shorten the gap between information and action.
As a responsible leader, here are a few suggestions for doing this:
1. Respond to messages the same day they are sent or no later than 1 business day
2. Never allow someone to be delayed because of you
3. Take ownership & commit to your team’s results
At the very bottom of the left-hand side of the 80/20 Day, we have a final reminder that “Today is the Only Today We Have”. I believe this reminder, with a hint of optimism, will allow us to execute our day in an optimal state of mind.
Now, let’s quickly dive into the right-hand side of the page, where we talk about reflection, reviewing, and optimizing the day.
Now we have a simple notes section to write down any thoughts or notes from your day, be it meetings or ideas that came as you were executing your work. Notes can include action items to plan or information you can use later or save for future use.
Next, we get into the reflection portion of the planner, where you can write what you are grateful for and thankful for that day. You can also do this during the day or save this exercise for the end of your day during Build Up.
Below that, we have // to signify Kaizen, a Japanese term that focuses on continuous improvement. We use it here to review daily what you can do to improve how you approach your day and how you perform at work or outside of work. It’s a daily reflection habit that will allow you to focus on the micro-improvements you can make to make small changes, optimizations, and improvements.
INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
The purpose of these steps is for you to create a simple daily habit to prepare yourself to win daily. By reviewing your notes, taking in gratitude, reviewing where you can improve, and planning for the next day, you can realign your focus and create consistent momentum in the right direction to achieve your goals.
Remember our formula:
Now, we may, at times, not execute at the level we intended. We may not be firing on all cylinders all the time. That’s OK.
As a reminder, at the bottom of the 80/20 Day, we focus on what is possible and what we can achieve and reassure ourselves that we can renew ourselves at the dawn of a new day.
“It’s hard to beat someone who doesn’t give up.”
Our aim is to take action and be consistent over time. Long periods of time.
Remember, this is your life, not a deadline or a sprint.
If one day doesn’t go as planned, it’s OK. Today is a new day, and it’s yours if you’re willing to put in the work.
Included in your journal, we have a separate page for you to track your wins, big and small.
Your journey matters, both the ups and the downs. And you are making substantial progress just by starting now, even if you don’t see it just yet.
The purpose of the WIN sheet is to have factual proof of your progress, your milestones, and your accomplishments!
They will strike up gratitude and optimism, but most importantly, they will give you hope that you are capable of going through, achieving, and succeeding in whatever you are facing and taking on today.
I hope this journal serves you well.
It’s an honor to be a small part of your journey.
Do Good Work,
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