At the end of 2014 I experienced a really low point in my personal life. My career was on a crazy high- I was earning money, I was feeling fulfilled, but the trade-offs were taking their toll. I was leaving the house before my children would wake up, coming home after they were fast asleep. I never saw my spouse and when I did I was always an irritated mess of exhaustion and impatience. I ate so much drive thru food and my prayer life was hanging on by a thread.
I kept telling myself this is only a season. I just have to get through the next few weeks and then I'll be OK. But what was supposed to be a season just kept going as I kept committing to things, saying yes to more opportunities, and all in all not designing my life around what matters most to me.
Over the Christmas break that year we took our family to a cottage we frequent often and I can remember so clearly having a moment of clarity when I realized no one controlled my schedule but me- and it was me that was digging myself into the perpetual hole of "yes, I can do that."
2 years later, while I certainly still struggle with things, I have thankfully developed systems and boundaries that help me achieve more balance. And if you are feeling overwhelmed, like you just cannot keep up anymore- this post is for you. Here are a few questions that I hope can really help to clarify your purpose, save you time, and focus on what really matters to you.
1. What kind of legacy do you want to leave on the world?
In Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy's life planning book Living Forward, they challenge you to write your own obituary. I know it sounds kind of morbid- but it was a hugely challenging exercise for me and it made me examine the way I am spending my time. The exercise basically challenges you to think about how you want to be remembered- what impact do you want to make on the world? When your children or grandschildren google you, what will they find?
As I have shared earlier, writing mine revealed a lot. I want to leave a legacy of helping families thrive at home. I want to help mothers find balance and fulfillment at home and in their careers through my content. And I realized that I really hope a part of my legacy is how I live out my Catholic faith in the modern world. With this in mind, my husband and I and another partner launched a membership site called UEvangelize to help Catholics share their faith more effectively. Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to start a membership site or some brand new venture to leave a great impact on the world- but when you take serious stock of your current activities, and figure out if they are in line with the legacy you want to leave on the world, some major revelations can occur.
2. What fills you with energy?
My friend Lisa Ferguson of the 1000 Watt Life often shares this question when coaching people to figure out their true calling. What fill you up? What makes your eyes sparkle, your body language strong, your energy peak? What activities make you so excited and motivated to get to work and get things done? You might want to ask people close to you the areas they see you get most excited.
In my life, I get REALLY excited when I am living in my top 2 Strength Finder strengths which are empathy and strategy- and I use these strengths often in my 2-hour design consultations. Recently switching my business to focus primarily on 2-hour consults was the best thing I ever did for myself and my family- and I argue for the clients that this is a fit for! The clients I serve get me at my best- and being able to schedule my work in the compartmentalized way I am able to in consults allows me lots more margin for my young family.
3. What can I uniquely do? What can only I do that no one else can do?
Understanding this concept was another huge game changer for me, and it very much came from reading Greg McKeown's book Essentialism. This is an amazing question to ask yourself if you are trying to figure out how to spend your time. What are you best at? What "magic trick" do you have up your sleeve that people are always amazed at? What comes so naturally to you that others might see as arduous work?
Another way to frame this is- what do I do currently that someone else could do just as well, if not better? When I was a young entrepreneur, I did EVERYTHING. From book keeping to graphic design, to marketing to content creation. And that was pretty exhausting. Now, I really do stay within my strengths where possible- which means automating, delegating and deleting a bunch of other tasks from my plate.
4. What am I terrible at?
The final question I think is helpful when trying to determine how to best spend your time is to examine what you are terrible at. Literally, ask yourself what gives you no joy, what do you consistently procrastinate on, what is simply not in your wheelhouse of awesome strengths? And don't do them. Stay away! Your time is so much better spent in the areas you can create the most impact.
I hope this list of questions is helpful to you in clarifying where you should focus your time. I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below!
WORK AND FAMILY