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The Eye-Opening Time Evaluation Exercise That You Need To Do!

I’ve always sprinkled personal development/career/growth/deep thoughts posts into my blog content in the past but in 2017 I’m efforting to share MORE of that with you. I’ll be writing more about some of the topics I talk about in my yoga classes as well as some of the personal growth exercises that we do in our teacher trainings.

I’m excited to share one of my favorite exercises with you today. I’ve been meaning to blog about this one for…two years. I learned it from an awesome coach that I worked with a couple of years ago.

We kicked off our winter 200-hour yoga teacher training last weekend and one of the first exercises that we have the trainees do is a time evaluation and enjoyment breakdown. One of the major themes of our teacher training is to a) identify what you’re passionate about, b) spend more time nurturing that passion and c) spend less time doing things you hate. Sounds simple but it’s actually really difficult.

You can ask some people what they’re passionate about and you get an immediate clear response. Others stare back at you with a vacant look and murmur…”I don’t know.” This exercise can really help you start to understand how you spend your time and how you feel about how you spend your time. Once you’re clear on this, it’s easy to see how you can make shifts towards doing more of what you enjoy.

Here’s the exercise.

An exercise to understand how you spend your time on a daily basis and how to evaluate your work and life activities to create maximum enjoyment and happiness.

Step 1

Alright guys, grab a sheet of paper and make a list of everything you do in the course of a normal day. This includes personal, household, family, social and work activities and responsibilities. And get specific. Don’t just write “work” but breakdown your workday and the big buckets of tasks that it includes.

Step 2

Now, beside each activity write out the time you spend doing it as a day part percentage.

Step 3

Now, assign each activity a numerical value between 1-10 that indicates how much you enjoy said activity. 1 would be “it sucks the life out of me and I dread it” and 10 would be “it’s amazing, I love it, I want to do more of it!”

Let’s evaluate.

The idea here is to fill the majority of your day with 8-10s. No doubt you’ll have a chunk of 5-7s but what we’re really looking to minimize or eliminate the time you spend in 1-4s.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Just because something is a 5 right now doesn’t mean it can’t become an 8. Get creative on how to add enjoyment to things that might not be so enjoyable. Example: driving your kids all over town to school and extra-curriculars is a 4 for you but you can make it an 8 by making the car an “electronics-free” zone where you and your children spend time having meaningful conversation. Or let’s just say that you have a long commute or you drive a lot for work and it’s a 3 for you. Maybe you can make it an 8 by listening to podcasts or audiobooks or having phone dates with friends or family members.
  • Get clear on why something scores low for you. Is it the actual task or the way you’re doing it? Example: one of our teacher trainees scored prepping food for breakfast/lunches for her kids low. In actuality, she enjoys food prep and making the meals but she doesn’t enjoy doing it during the chaos of the morning routine while everyone is running around and asking her a million questions. She said it would score so much higher if she packed the lunches the night before when everyone is in bed. When I initially did this exercise, personal training ranked low for me. Then I discovered that I could take it from a 4-5 to a 7-8 if I just quit training clients at 5:30 a.m. and stop training so many. Now training ranks high for me.
  • Create more space for the things that rank really high for you. How can you do MORE of the 8-10s? Making time for these activities will help keep you feeling clear, present and fulfilled to show up for the lower ranking things. The 8-10s for most people are things like exercise, family time, reading, walking the dog, dates with partners and friends, hobbies, travel, etc. Unfortunately, they’re often the first things we knock off our plates when we get busy or stressed. The self-care and “filling up” piece is SO NECESSARY to avoid burnout. Example: I am writing this post and on deadline for another today with a LONG to-do list and full inbox to tackle after that. Regardless, I’m going to stop to take the dogs for a walk after I publish this post, I spent 45 minutes picking up/cleaning my house this morning and I’ll go to yoga tonight. If I DON’T make time for those things, I know I’ll feel totally ungrounded.
  • Everyone has a “shit quota.” Okay, the shit quota is just a part of real adult life and you can’t avoid it. The shit quota is low-ranking stuff that you just have to do. This can be things like paying bills, working on taxes, responding to work emails, spreadsheets, cleaning, laundry, etc. Some of this can be outsourced but ultimately most of us are going to have a small chunk of the day dedicated to these tasks. You just want to make sure it’s not more than 20% of your day max.

An exercise to understand how you spend your time on a daily basis and how to evaluate your work and life activities to create maximum enjoyment and happiness.

To Wrap It Up

This exercise has really helped me understand how I spend my time and has also helped me get un-stuck from things that just weren’t filling me up. This exercise is what helped me cut back dramatically on the amount of personal training I was doing which in turn freed me up to a) sleep more and b) spend more time working on things that rank higher for me, like writing and teaching. Eliminating all of that driving back and forth to the gym for sessions scattered throughout the week that would end up being cancelled at the last minute half the time gave me back more sanity than I can even explain. These days, I train one morning per week and build in time for my own workout while I’m there as well. It’s perfect.

The exercise also helped me come to the conclusion that it was 100% worth it for me to hire help with things like behind-the-scenes blog stuff, marketing for the studio and house cleaning/maintenance…thus freeing me up to do more of the creative stuff I love and the self-care.

One Final Note

I truly believe Danielle LaPorte when she says, “balance is a myth.” I think it’s something that is constantly changing. I encourage you to revisit these deep dives into how you’re spending your time and energy on a regular basis and when something has stopped working for you…don’t just keep powering through. My mission for 2017 is to continue to look for ways that I can streamline and add more living and less working to my life. I still want to do the work that fills me up and ignites my fire but just not so much of it. How can I be the most strategic about how I spend my time to have the most reward?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this exercise and any insights you glean from it if you complete it!

I’m also open to any topic requests when it comes to career and personal growth kind of stuff. It’s a topic that I’m super passionate about.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Lauren C January 19, 2017, 7:18 pm

    On a day that’s been long, harried, and left me feeling mentally and physically drained, this post was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for sharing and writing it! Now to find the time to do the exercise… 🙂

  • 2
    Erin January 19, 2017, 9:57 pm

    I LOVE this idea! Pretty sure my shit quota has been above the 20% mark for wayyy too long and I am definitely doing this exercise very first thing to kick off my Friday and weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  • 3
    Holly January 20, 2017, 10:36 am

    I like this idea but what about work? The reality is many people don’t love their jobs or they have off days. They still need to put in 8 hours so that’s already 1/3 of the day and more than the $#$% quota mentioned.

    • 4
      Jen DeCurtins January 20, 2017, 12:18 pm

      Hey Holly. I have a lot of thoughts about this and it’s not an uncommon question.

      1) I seriously don’t think anyone should hate their work so much that you dread going in every single day. Of course, we all have good and bad days with work but overall, work should not score a 1-3 for you every single day. If it does, I seriously believe you should consider changing jobs or professions as soon as realistically possible. Think about how many hours and years of your life that you spend working. I get that everyone isn’t going to love work every single day but I also don’t think that it should suck every ounce of your soul away.

      2) If work scores a 5-7 for you and you’re pretty neutral about it but it allows you the freedom to enjoy your 8-10s in your off time, that’s cool too. You just have to look at it from that angle and find gratitude for what it allows you outside of work.

      3) I think the more we can nurture our 8-10s outside of work, the happier we will be at work.

      4) If there are parts of your job that are low scoring, can you do something about them to change that. It can be as small as listening to music you love while doing spreadsheet work you hate to trying to spend less time in meetings to as big as possibly transferring to a different team or department or position within the company. Like, how can you “hack it” to make it work better for you?

      Does that help at all?

  • 5
    adrianna January 20, 2017, 11:33 pm

    this is SUCH a great post! i’m excited to complete this exercise, see how my days actually shape up. i’ve been feeling very meh about life lately. perhaps this will guide me 🙂

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