What is your life frame? What are the key buckets in your life that you need to balance across? If you have a frame, you can balance your life through thick and through thin. If you have a life frame, you can more thoughtfully allocate your time and energy for maximum results. More importantly, when things aren’t going well, you have a tool to help you spot where you are not investing enough.
This is a baseline of your personal portfolio of your most important assets:
Note – if those buckets don’t work for you, change them. It’s a starter set.
I’ve been sharing this life frame with those I coach, and some colleagues and they’ve found it helpful, so now I’m sharing it more broadly. It’s a great starting point when you’re not getting what you want out of life.
Spread Your Energy and Time Across Your Buckets
Spread your energy and time across them. If your current investment’s not working, turn up the dial on some. If your stuck in one area, then try turning up another. For example, if you’re not getting the results you want at work, then crank up your relationships dial. Remember that with this portfolio, the sum is more than the parts. It’s the net effect.
What Can Happen When You Don’t Use the Frame
When I first got to Microsoft years ago, I didn’t have this frame. Sure I knew about these areas of my life, but I didn’t have the mental model of a portfolio. Instead, all I knew was that I would throw all my energy and hours at my career bucket. To put that in perspective, 80, 90, 100+ hours a week. The problem is I consistently got rated highly and produced results. But at what cost? Well, if you spend 100+ hours in one bucket, guess how much energy you’re spending in others? Granted some buckets overlap, but I’m talking about when you really shine the spotlight on them.
Improve Your Approach Over Spend More Time
Time is a limited resources. So is your energy. Interestingly, while working on performance modeling, the light bulb went off. If I carve out a minimum for some buckets and a maximum for others, it would be a forcing function. What’s the maximum I would throw at my career bucket? 60? 50? 40? Timeboxing my career bucket forced me to identify the real value of all my work and to heavily prioritize. It also forced me to find the most effective principles, patterns and practices for project management, personal productivity, running high-performance teams, … etc. Which is better … more time at the problem? … or better techniques, more value, and a sustainable pace?
Set Boundaries (Minimums and Maximums)
The real lesson is that if you don’t first set your boundaries, then you never really have a way to prioritize. For example, if you allocate fifty hours to your career bucket weekly, now you know how much to bite off at a time. Otherwise, you’ll just work until everything’s done, but there’s always something more to do. Priorities, focus, and value are your friends.
As another example, I now continuously invest in my relationships bucket. For example, each week I have lunch with an old friend, and lunch with someone new. At Microsoft, and in life, it’s what you know and who you know.
How To Use This
To get started, just put these categories on your whiteboard or a pad of paper. Take a look across your portfolio and figure out your current investments in time and energy. Look at your results. How well are you balancing? If you’re on track, great. If not, try increasing your investment is some areas and lowering another. The goal is to improve the quality of your life. If you want to really put some focus in an area, try a 30 Day Improvement Sprint.
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