10 Questions to Ask When Making Your Personal Life Awesome The busy professional's guide to rocking a richer, more meaningful life off-the-clock.
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Having a life outside of work is typically a tall order -- and sometimes not even an option -- for time-strapped entrepreneurs and other busy professionals. Never mind having a happy, organized and fulfilling one. But being all work and no play doesn't just lead to a dull, dissatisfying personal life. Worse, it can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, too.
If you're toiling away all day and night, your personal life and relationships could be suffering as a result. To be successful and happy at work and outside of work, you have to get your work-life balance in check, says Justin Klosky, founder and creative director of O.C.D. Experience, a Los Angeles-based organizational consulting firm, and author of the forthcoming Organize & Create Discipline: An A-to-Z Guide to an Organized Existence (Avery, 2013).
"Getting your personal life in order and on track provides peace of mind and can radically improve your productivity at work," Klosky says. Start by putting your smartphone down for a minute or two (unless you're reading this on it, in which case carry on) and chew on these 10 key questions to ask when making your personal life awesome.
1. What do I really want out of my personal life?
Knowing what you hope to achieve in your personal life is just as critical as clearly defining your business goals, Klosky says. Research shows that people who write down their goals and share them with friends are 33 percent more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don't.
Start by creating and documenting specific short- and long-range goals for the major aspects of your non-work life -- including your health and fitness, relationships, travel plans and hobbies -- and revisit them weekly. Flesh out realistic action steps to help you reach each goal.
Klosky visualizes his personal and professional goals on vision boards, which are collages filled with images and affirmations related to his dreams and what makes him happy. Hang your vision board where you'll see it often, like at your desk or on your bathroom mirror.
2. How can I organize my home and keep it that way?
Think Organize and Create Discipline (O.C.D). Start by cutting down on paper clutter by digitally scanning all of your documents. Then recycle whichever scanned papers you don't need to keep handy, like your passports and certified documents.
Klosky suggests keeping your desk space clear of "unnecessary clutter and tchotchkes." He says the only items you should have on your desk are: one physical inbox for pressing to-do items, one paper journal for taking notes in during phone calls and multiple computer monitors for a more efficient workflow.
Also, pick one drawer in your home per day to gut and organize. This could be a wardrobe drawer, a kitchen drawer or even the dreaded junk drawer. "Every space in your home must have a specific purpose," Klosky says, "so if you have spaces that don't scream order, it's time to get going."
3. How often should I check my email?
Klosky suggests treating your email as you would your snail mail box. Empty it once a day and immediately triage each piece of mail. How? By ditching, delegating or dealing with individual messages.
"And when I say 'empty inbox,' I mean be disciplined enough to get your email inbox down to zero emails," he says. "It's incredibly liberating and you'll have far less to worry about."
4. How can I be there for my friends and family and still run my business?
The answer boils down to common sense and meticulous scheduling. Start by clearly communicating your schedule to your loved ones. Let them know when you're available to them and when you're not, Klosky suggests. Also consider which major life events and emergencies deserve your full attention. These should be fairly obvious -- births, deaths, etc.
"Strict schedule or no strict schedule, life happens," Klosky says, "and there are times when you'll have to drop everything and be there for your loved ones when it counts most."
This is why it's important, even as a busy entrepreneur, to remain flexible and open to switching gears at a moment's notice, if necessary.
5. When should I put my phone in a time-out?
To build and enjoy deeper, more meaningful connections with the people you truly care about, do something radical: put down your phone when you are with them.
When Klosky meets in-person with anyone, whether a colleague or a friend, he often silences his smartphone and ignores it. Or, better yet, he plugs it in to charge. "That way it's out-of-sight, out-of-mind and I can devote 100 percent of my attention to the person or people I'm with."
Also, don't be afraid to ask others to put away their phones when they're with you.
6. I hardly have time for myself, never mind someone else. How can I maintain a healthy, fulfilling and passionate relationship with my significant other?
There's no magic fix here, but you can rekindle and maintain your romance by doing something very un-sexy sounding: scheduling quality time together at least once or twice a week.
Forget sending a calendar invite, Klosky says. Call or ask your other half on a date in person. The next step is the most important. Actually keep your date. It shows your partner that he or she is a top priority in your life. It also keeps you out of the dog house, which is never a fun place to be.
7. How can I streamline mundane tasks and chores?
Carefully schedule any recurring chores and tasks that you can't outsource, like laundry, housekeeping, paying bills and grocery shopping.
Klosky suggests entering individual calendar items for each chore, perhaps in Google Calendar or whichever calendar app you use. For example, set a particular date and time once or twice a week to wash, fold and put away laundry and stick to it.
Or if you work from home and are good at multi-tasking, Klosky suggests setting aside time for chores during your daily work schedule.
It might sound a little over-the-top, but calendaring everything you plan to do during your likely limited downtime can be wise. Doing so helps you maximize the little time you have to unwind and pursue hobbies, exercise and, yes, even dream up innovating ways to improve and grow your business.
8. Sleep? What's that again and how can I get more of it?
Sleep is that that thing you used to do at night before you caught startup fever. Klosky's advice for falling asleep easier and staying asleep for longer is to force yourself to put down all electronics an hour before going to bed.
"Whatever you do, never ever bring your smartphone or tablet into bed with you," he says, citing a study by the Lighting Research which revealed that a two-hour exposure to electronic devices with backlit displays suppresses melatonin, which could lead to delayed bedtimes and trouble sleeping.
Instead, Klosky suggests reading a light, non-business-related book or listening to relaxing music before dozing off. He also suggests keeping a notebook next to your bed to jot down any worries keeping you awake at night.
Another benefit of making your bed a technology-free zone, Klosky says, is "a lot more passion and intimacy in that shared space."
9. How can I think of exercising when I'm so busy?
It's hard to have an awesome personal life if you're sick or not feeling great. So treat your body like your business, Klosky says. Invest time and effort into keeping it fit, healthy and strong.
Squeeze scheduled exercise sessions and healthy snacks and meals into each day. You'll fend off extra pounds, sickness as well as stress and anxiety. Consider one of these efficient fitness regiments that are perfect for people with overbooked schedules: P90X, INSANITY or the Time Crunch Workout.
10. Is there such a thing as a non-working vacation?
Most startup owners who invest virtually every fiber of their being -- and their hard-earned dollars -- into successfully launching and running their business often can't completely unplug and go on vacation.
Still, Klosky suggests carving out a few days a per year, or even a full week if you can swing it, to take a breather. "If you don't, you could suffer from burnout, depression and even exhaustion," he says. Depending on your availability and budget, jet off to Hawaii, kick back in a hammock or settle for a low-key staycation at home.
Before you take a break, though, make sure you decide whether or not you'll check work-related emails on vacation and how often. Or, better yet, don't check them at all. Leave the time-sucking, stressful task to an employee or colleague you trust while you're away -- living the good life you deserve.