Posts Tagged ‘Work-Life Balance’

Dont-Suck-the-Life-Out-of-LifeFor the last couple of years I’ve been very public with my annual personal goals, including progress reports along the way as to how successful (or not) I am in achieving them. I’m not going to run down item by item the goal list from last year. Suffice it to say that I met or exceeded some and didn’t achieve others. If you’re curious about what they were, you’ll find posts about them here, here, here, and here. Instead, I want to write today about the overall lesson learned from 2014 that relates significantly to the goal effort. Here it is:

Don’t be so goal oriented that you suck the life out of life.

My first time for setting a long list of personal goals related to body, mind and spirit was in 2013. It went really well, so it’s no surprise I did it again in 2014. But we weren’t many months into the year before I felt overwhelmed. All of the goals were in addition to my work and volunteer efforts, and it was simply exhausting to try to stay up with all of them. I needed more rest, more sleep, more down time not focused on a never-ending to-do list.

While I made a mid-year correction and lowered the bar on some goals, that still wasn’t enough to put me at ease. I still wasn’t getting enough sleep. I ended the last few months of the year choosing a couple of the goals most meaningful and worked on them while letting the others go. My body, mind and spirit needed the break. It was the right thing to do. I had put so much emphasis on a long, ambitious list of what I wanted to get done that I had succeeded in sucking the life out of life. Surely that wasn’t good for me or anyone else around me.

So I’m determined in 2015 to take a different approach to goals for the year. There will be no long list of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll still continue the personal behaviors that have by now become important regular habits (getting in 10,000 steps per day 3 days per week, reading through the Bible in a version or study edition different than one I’ve read before, and spending time weekly on 100 Bible memory verses). But the only other goals will be very simple – getting more sleep daily than I averaged in 2014 (trying for 7.5 instead of 6.5 hours nightly), finishing the books I intended to read last year but didn’t complete, and being more intentional about serving my church and others rather than setting self-focused goals.

I recall a sermon by my former Associate Pastor Kris Billiter from January 2014 when he suggested we set other-oriented goals rather than self-focused ones. That message stuck with me throughout 2014, so I’m taking it to heart. I want to be a better person – not just someone who does a lot of stuff. Drastically reducing self-focused goals and saying “yes” to opportunities to serve others while still reserving enough time for adequate rest will be my basic plan.

I’ve always been a task-oriented person. Plans and goals and checklists fit me well. That isn’t the case with all people. But there is a point where too many to-do items just suck the life out of life. I reached that point in 2014 and have no intention of doing so this year. In fact, I’ve already scheduled one day per week for vacation every week from January through March, plus a full week off in February for the heck of it. I’m writing this post on the first of those restful, stay-at-home days where I slept late, read, played with the dog, spent a couple hours at church helping with our youth program, and now am finishing a blog post.

2015 is off to a good start. You’re welcome to hold me accountable if you like. I hope your year is both productive and meaningful at a deeper, personal, more satisfying level than mere checklists can guarantee.

Don’t suck the life out of life. It’s too precious.

keep-calm-and-finish-strongI’ve been very goal oriented the past two years in publishing on this blog very specific goals in the categories of body, mind and spirit. The goals for 2013 were many and I was glad to accomplish nearly all of them. I started down a similar path at the beginning of 2014, but soon felt burdened by so many time-consuming goals outside of work and volunteer endeavors. By my March update I had reduced the goals a little bit, and by May I had decided to take a few months off from a couple of them entirely. My brain and my spirit needed a rest from the physical activity goals more than my body did. I still continued work on most of the goals, but filed a couple under “not gonna happen” and went on with life.

Now that we’re in the final third of the year and the end is in sight, I’m back in gear and ready to finish out the year completing those goals that are most important and putting aside officially those that aren’t. I’m already looking forward to a very different approach in 2015 which will not  have me listing all kinds of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll talk more about what it will include when the time comes.

With that background, here is where I stand with the original goals for 2014 and what my plan is to close out the year with each:

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. After taking the second quarter off from this, I’m back on track. My company has a 100 Day Dash going on right now until late November where we’re on teams recording and tracking steps daily. My goal for these 100 days is to never get less than 11,000 steps per day and so far I’ve done that. I’ll end the year strong and will keep at this pace until I reach our company’s top rewards program level which should happen around the end of the year.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I started the year doing this faithfully but took a break after hurting my back. I never got back into the routine and don’t intend to for now. I’ll stretch before and after running, but not otherwise.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. I haven’t run 10 miles this year. I walk 5-6 miles a day between work and walking the dog, but I just haven’t gotten back into running. This goal will not be met. Walking will have to be good enough.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. My average is more like 6.5 hours per night year to date. That isn’t enough. My body is calling for more and I have to find a way to make it happen. Of course, the 6.5 is more than years past, but I need more than years past.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. For the first year in the 11+ I’ve had with my company where I’ve tracked hours, I’m actually staying within the 45 per week limit. I’ve learned to adjust some things and manage my days differently to get to this point.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. Now that we just completed the first year of the weekly Twitter chat I lead on enterprise social networks – #ESNchat – I’m planning on putting together a free e-book PDF that contains the first year’s chat archives plus a little background info on the experience. It’s the one and only book I’ll be responsible for this year, but I’m pretty proud of what it should be.
  • Write 100 blog posts. Earlier in the year I changed this goal to average one post per week instead of 100 for the year. Making that goal should not be a problem.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. In the interest of time, I abandoned this goal earlier in the year.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. I don’t track this and I know I don’t always accomplish it either, but I’m certain I’ve been better about allowing myself guilt-free free time this year. There is still room for improvement here, though.

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. I should be able to do this just fine. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve read Genesis – Isaiah so far, taking this one in order cover to cover.
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. To date I’ve completed the third book and am about 2/3 through the first one. I should be able to complete this goal as planned. I have to say that Grudem’s book is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I’ve love to take part in or lead a one-year study of the contents of this book with a group of people.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. I’ve missed days from time to time which is disappointing. Nothing should crowd this from my schedule. There is really no excuse for that. I must do better.

So there you have my goal update for mid-September 2014 – on track with some things, abandoned a few and modified others. At least I’m in that mode now of seeing the finish line for the year ahead of me and I’m working hard at a number of the goals to finish strong those that are most important.

What about you? How are you coming on what you set out to accomplish this year?

 

detourAny regular reader of this blog will know how goal-focused I am. I’ve written a lot about them throughout 2013 and early in 2014. I honestly thought that I was lightening my load a little for 2014 with my goals, but it turns out I was waaaaaaaaay off in that estimate! By the time of my March 1 goals update, I was already backing off a little. Now that it’s May 1, I’ve made even more reductions in the original plan for the year.

Why? Because being so goal-oriented above and beyond what is happening at work was simply making life too hectic and unsatisfying. I have yet to get the number of hours of sleep I want to average this year. I’ve failed far too many days reserving a single hour to relax and do as I please. I’ve felt an unnecessary weight on my shoulders and self-induced guilt for not being as up-to-date on my personal to-do list as I wish.

Frankly, I’m tired of all that. As the months have progressed in 2014, a few priorities have risen to the top that take precedence, while others will be reduced or eliminated if need be in order to preserve such simple things as sleep and a little unstructured time.

So here is what has changed recently and what stands out to me related to my goals going forward:

  • I have put aside the daily step goal of 10,000 steps at least through June. I averaged 18,000 steps a day for several months last year and hadn’t had any day with less than 10,000 steps since sometime last September until I recently decided to not care about my steps daily for a few months. That has been liberating. When my employer’s annual incentive program for steps kicks in again in July, I’ll make sure I do what it takes to maintain my current top rewards level, but I won’t commit to more than that going forward.
  • Previously I announced that I would reduce my blogging from the original goal of 100 posts for the year to one per week on average. I’m behind that adjusted goal since I only posted once in April, but I have a series of them planned that will easily catch me up to the one per week average. That’s still doable, but it was nice to take a break for a month.
  • I’m proud of myself for keeping my work hours to an average of under 45 per week this year. That saves me 8-10 per week compared to the past many years, so I’ll keep doing that.
  • The dream of writing or co-authoring a book on enterprise social networking is coming to fruition. May will be an important month for finalizing some plans with other co-authors who have agreed to participate. I’m very excited about that, but it’s going to be time consuming until it’s done. I’d like to wrap it up by late summer or early fall.
  • I’m behind somewhat on my reading goal, but not so much that some planned vacation times in May – July won’t catch me up.
  • I’m spending a lot more time managing my church’s Facebook and Twitter accounts than I ever dreamed I would – things not really taken into account in the year’s goals on January 1. This is incredibly important to me, however, so it is a high priority. It’s actually going very, very well which is encouraging. This is something I’m doing for others and not myself which is another reason it’s near the top of my priorities.
  • I love the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat that I founded in September, 2013, but it is more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I’ll keep doing it, but it consumes on average an hour per day to pull off that one-hour-per-week chat. I’ll re-evaluate around the one year anniversary mark this fall following publication of the book mentioned above and another e-book publishing the first year’s chat archives.

This is the first of two planned vacation weeks in May (although only about half will really be vacation due to preparing for and speaking at a work-related conference next week in Philadelphia.) Two more weeks of time off are scheduled for June – one of which will be my periodic getaway to a monastery for a quiet time of reading and relaxation. It is apparent that I need to schedule two-week blocks off in order to actually take enough time off for other things. I’ll keep doing so until I’ve used up a majority of my bank of days off available.

While having a number of goals in the areas of body, mind and spirit was a nice approach in 2013, the goals for this year should have been fewer and more balanced between those that benefit me versus goals that benefit others. That’s the biggest takeaway so far for me as I ponder what changes to make in this mid-course correction. Deciding on the top few priorities for me (down time, sleep) while making sure that major goals also benefit others (my church, my profession) is the focus of this correction. And if this correction doesn’t balance things out, then more course corrections will happen in the months ahead.

Life shouldn’t be all fun and games, but neither should it all be work. This year – unlike last year – I’m not hell-bent on pursuing the original goals no matter what. I have adjusted and will continue to adjust as needed to find the sweet spot of how I spend my time. That’s hard for a goal-oriented person to do, but it seems best and most sensible.

I’m tired of chasing so many goals that I end up feeling daily like I’m missing out on life.

Progress ReportThe year is done. I’ve reported here monthly on my eleven goals for 2013 categorized in the areas of body, mind and spirit. Now it’s time to give you the final report.

Before looking at the details, though, I want to summarize my main lessons learned for the year. I blogged about them separately in the following posts:

While I will continue to be goal-oriented and publish each January 1st a new set of goals, the first of the lessons learned above is a biggie for me this year – rest. I just didn’t allow myself enough time for that this year and there were times when I was weary of having unending tasks before me. All of these goals are in addition to the 50+ hours of work per week I average, so I longed for more free time and less guilt about what was or wasn’t getting done from this list.

The lesson learned related to taking risks was tied to a major chance I took with a potential impact on my career and professional reputation – starting the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat. Fortunately, that chance continues to pay off in a number of positive ways.

The third lesson related to health comes after a great stride forward in daily healthy behavior once I started wearing a Fitbit Flex in September. The daily tracking associated with that has truly been major in its significance for my daily healthy routines for activity, diet and sleep.

Some of the lessons learned will be reflected in the 2014 goals I share tomorrow, but others are incorporated into my daily life now in such a way that I don’t feel the need to set, track and report on specific goals related to them going forward.

Overall, 2013 was a very, very good year. I am blessed. I worked hard and accomplished most of what I set out to do, professionally and personally. How can I ask for more than that?

Now, on to the details of my 11 goals…

I first published my goals here on January 1, 2013. These public updates have helped hold me accountable. I color-code the goals with green if I am on or ahead of schedule, orange if I am slightly behind schedule, or red if I am dangerously behind schedule. Here is the final status on the goals.

Goals related to body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds – COMPLETE. I’m glad to say I kept this all 365 days of the year, lowering the maximum weight to 145 later in the year and staying at or below that goal since then.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week – COMPLETE. In terms of total number of days for the year, this was completed in early August. Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I haven’t had any day below 10,000 steps.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night – COMPLETE. Since getting the Fitbit, I’ve been able to verify meeting this goal. Six hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was more than previous years.

Goals related to mind:

1. Read a book every other week. The two reading goals were the ones I was woefully short on achieving. I stopped with 12 books this year totaling a little over 4000 pages beyond the untold amount I read for work. That was a more reasonable total than the 26 book goal.

2. Blog every other day (at least) – COMPLETE. With this post, I complete the goal. I had to do some catching up in December, but I did it.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect – COMPLETE. After doing this the past two years, this is pretty much a way of life for me now. If you don’t know what this refers to, read this post.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000 – COMPLETE. This goal was passed in early October. With over 26,000 blog views this year, the visits increased by more than 160%. Many thanks to all of you readers for making this goal a reality.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons. I’m working on the final letter for the year to my boys now and will complete it in the next week or so. I’m a couple of weeks behind where I wanted to be, but I’ll complete it soon.

Goals related to spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible. Since it took me until September to finish reading the ESV, I abandoned the goal of reading half of The Apologetics Study Bible also this year. I started reading it and will set a goal to finish all of it by the end of 2014.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly – COMPLETE. This has been happening for several years, so it is ingrained behavior by now.

3. Come to some resolution regarding an unsettled situation where I worship – COMPLETE.

As I said above, 2013 was a very good year in many ways. I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do, but I did a lot and I feel good about that. As a colleague reminded me several months ago, most people probably don’t even bother to identify goals and track progress for things outside of work, so attempting several in an organized, public manner is out of the ordinary. I’ll be grateful for what was accomplished and won’t beat myself up for what didn’t get done. What I learned about my limits will be reflected in the goals for 2014 that I share on New Year’s Day.

Thanks to many of you for encouraging me in my pursuits this year and for sharing the experience with me. Your presence and words of encouragement make a real difference. I can’t thank you enough for taking the journey with me.

What about you? How did things turn out with your goals for 2013?

Progress ReportOnly one more month of the year to go! This is my next-to-last monthly update on my annual goals that I first published here on January 1 – eleven goals divided into the categories of body, mind and spirit. I share updates monthly as a public way to hold myself accountable. I color-code the goals with green if I am on or ahead of schedule, orange if I am slightly behind schedule, or red if I am dangerously behind schedule.

By mid-November it was evident which goals could be met by year’s end and which would not be. Overall, I’m satisfied with how much I’ve done. I’ve also learned a lot about goal setting that will impact what I plan for 2014, especially considering that these are all goals accomplished in addition to working 50+ hours per week at my job.

So here is where I stand with a few weeks of 2013 remaining.

Goals related to body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds. This has been no issue, especially since I lowered the original goal to 145 and maintain that daily. I entered Thanksgiving Day a couple of pounds under so I could enjoy all the normal foods with family that day and not go over the goal. I’ll keep 145 as my goal going forward – no need to lose more.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week – COMPLETE. In terms of total number of days for the year, this was completed in early August. Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I haven’t had any day below 10,000 steps. In addition, I’ve made sure not to have any 7-day period with less than 80,000 steps total, so my average is a little over 11,000/day now.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night. I love tracking this with my Fitbit. I’ve not had a week averaging less than six hours per night since getting the device. It isn’t enough, though, so I’ll increase this goal for 2014.

Goals related to mind:

1. Read a book every other week. I gave up on trying to reach this goal recently, capping my book reading at 12 this year. The original goal was just too much given all my other goals and work schedule, so I’ll be more reasonable next year in this regard.

2. Blog every other day (at least). I should reach this goal by the end of the year, but being eight posts behind, I will have to blog more days than not this month to reach it.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect. All is well here. If you don’t know what this refers to, read this post.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000 – COMPLETE. This goal was passed in early October. It looks like we’ll finish the year with about 25,000 views, thanks to you, dear readers.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons. It’s time to figure out the subject of my next letter and plan on getting them to my boys by Christmas.

Goals related to spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible. Having completed the ESV in September, I’m still in the early books in The Apologetics Study Bible. I won’t complete half of it by year end, but I’m fine with that. I’ll set a goal to finish all of it by the end of 2014.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly. I’m on track with this.

3. Come to some resolution regarding an unsettled situation where I worship – COMPLETE.

I’m eager to set my goals for 2014. I’ll post them here on January 1. They will not be as time-consuming overall as this year’s goals. I need to bake into my schedule next year more free time and more sleep time, so that will require less in the way of goals outside of work.

With only a few weeks left in 2013, that’s where I stand on my goals. What about you? How are you doing on your goals for the year? Are you thinking about goals you’ll want to set for 2014?