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Monica Parker: A Fun Exercise to Improve Work Life Balance

Feeling like your whole life is out of whack?

Wheel of LifeWho do you know who doesn't have a jam-packed schedule these days?  Between work, errands, and family, you may feel as if you're missing out on the rest of your life.  It's easy to assume that you need to make a major overhaul, when, in fact, some minor shifts can make a major difference in the quality of your life.   

Here's a fun exercise from lawyer career coach Monica Parker for assessing and improving your work/life balance that she learned while training at The Coaches Training Institute. Please note: you'll need a friend or colleague to do the exercise with you, so you can coach each other through the process.

1. Create a Wheel of Life. Draw a large circle on a page. Divide the circle into 8 triangular wedges (like slicing a pizza). Each wedge represents a different area of your life. 8 sample areas are:  money, career, physical environment (your home and/or office), personal growth, friends & family, significant other, health, fun & creativity. Of course, you can create your own categories if you prefer.  See the sample Wheel of Life illustration above for guidance.

2. Rank your level of satisfaction in each area. With the center of the circle being "0" and the outer edge as "10," rank your level of satisfaction with each life area by drawing a line to create a new outer edge. "0" is complete dissatisfaction and "10" is complete satisfaction.  After drawing a new outer edge for each life area, color in the area between the new outer edge and the center of the ciricle. This will visually demonstrate your level of satisfaction with each life area. See the illustration above for an example of a completed wheel.  Remember, the new outer edge you create can (and often will) be different for each life area.  The new perimeter represents your life right now. 

3.  Take a look at your new wheel. I'm betting it looks a little bumpy. :) That's natural. The purpose of the exercise isn't to create a smooth ride, i.e., all "10's." The purpose is simply to note which areas of your life need some attention.  When we're out of balance, it's easy to overgeneralize and say that that everything is out of whack.  The Wheel of Life is a simple tool that quickly points you to the areas that need work . . . (click below for rest of article)

4.  Get coached. Have your friend/colleague ask you the following questions:

  • What area do you want to work on?
  • What is the best possible outcome?
  • What is important about this to you?
  • What qualities do you need to bring out of yourself in order to accomplish this?
  • What is the first step?

Let me give you an example.  I coached Clara,* and here are her responses:

"I want to work on fun & creativity.  That's a big, fat '0.'  I'm not sure I even know what 'fun & creativity' are anymore. All I do every day is work, come home and eat dinner, maybe watch a little TV--oh and if I'm up for it, I'll work out. Occasionally I'll meet friends for a drink but I haven't participated in an extracurricular activity since college.

The best possible outcome is if I could have a hobby. Something that I schedule to do a couple of times a week. Something to look forward to. It's not even something I have to be good at. It would just be nice to do something that doesn't have any purpose, except for being fun.

It matters because it's embarrassing actually not having anything other than work in my life. You know how when you meet people, they ask, "So what do you do in your spare time?"  I'd love to have an answer for once. Plus, I just feel like I'm missing out--there's more to life than work.

I think I just need to have a little discipline about it.  Schedule it.  I schedule work, work-outs, time with friends. If I put it on my calendar and take it seriously, I'd probably do it.

First step.  Well, there is this crochet class that this art store around the corner from my house is offering.  I used to crochet with my grandmother and really enjoyed it.  She's gone now but it'd be a way of reconnecting with her and I think it would be relaxing too. 

So, OK, the class starts next week.  I'll sign up.  Today.  I'll put the class schedule and at least one crocheting time per week on my calendar. And I'll send you an email to let you know I've done it."

That's a key part of the exercise. In addition to asking each other "What will you do," you and your friend/colleague need to ask each other, "By when will you do it?" and "How will I know?"  It's all about accountability.

5. Check your progress sporadically. You can come back to the Wheel of Life anytime and reassess. Let's say Clara starts her crochet class and loves it. Her level of satisfaction in the Fun & Creativity area jumps to 5. She could take another step in that area to keep raising her level of satisfaction or shift her focus to another area that needs improvement.

*Clara is a mythical law firm associate but her work/life balance and thoughts are a composite of lawyers I've coached.

Monica Parker, J.D., helps lawyers struggling to find career satisfaction and work life balance, and is the author of "Getting Hit By A Bus Isn't The Answer:  A Road Map For Finding Meaningful Work Outside Of The Law." Visit Monica's web site at https://www.LeavingTheLaw.com/?JDB to learn more.

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It seems as if lawyers are always searching for a balance between the demands of a law practice and the need to have a healthy life outside of work. Appellate attorneys are no exception to this constant struggle. I recently [Read More]

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