Your career is just one part – albeit an important one – of your whole life. Consequently, when you are planning your career it’s helpful to approach it in the context of your whole life. As Amy Poehler wrote in her book Yes Please, “Your career won’t take care of you.” So when considering your next career leap, it’s timely to undertake a career and life stocktake. This is your opportunity to take time out to reflect on where things stand in your life, and what you may need to change.
Get ready to reflect
Find somewhere peaceful and outside of the office to do this exercise. When you are in a different space your mind shifts and you are able to think differently — both more creatively and more reflectively. Buy a journal for this exercise as it won’t be a once-off activity. It can be incredibly powerful and insightful to look back over the years at how you assess the elements of your life, at various stages.
Consider the seven elements
In doing this review, you want to look at the 7 core areas of your life:
- Career — work and activities associated with your job and developing your career
- Connections — caring for others, socialising, spending time with the people who matter to you such as friends, family and colleagues
- Finance — organising and managing your financial goals
- Learning — reading, learning and practising new ideas and skills, and participating in courses
- Lifestyle — leisure pursuits and things you do in your ‘down time’
- Self-care — sleep, exercise, meditation, spiritual/religious activities and other activities that contribute to your health and wellbeing
- Service — giving back to others through such activities as community service and volunteering.
Every week has 168 hours. Looking at 7 elements and determine what percentage of time each week you devote to each element.
Get honest with yourself
Now ask yourself honestly (without judgement or self-justification) whether the time allocated to each element makes you feel:
Look at what you spend a lot of your time on and derive satisfaction from, as well as where you are dissatisfied with the amount of time you are spending. Then note where you would like to spend more or less time.
Plan your change
Once you’ve identified the areas where you are out of balance, it becomes easier to determine what you can do about it. Ask yourself: What does this exercise tell me about how I currently prioritise my time and what may I need or want to change in my career? For example, if you are currently spending a disproportionate time each week working, leaving little or no time for your family, perhaps you need to seek a career option that offers more flexibility. If the time you are currently devoting to learning is very limited, perhaps you want to pursue a career path where you will be able to spend more time learning. If you are dissatisfied with the time you have to spend in service to the community, perhaps you should seek a new career direction that will provide that opportunity. As the legendary actress Mae West said: “You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough!”
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert, author and founder of Change Meridian. Visit michellegibbings.com.