It’s your life. Your life’s work defines and takes your time. It’s what you do. Your mission and goals can define how you spend almost every waking minute of every day of your life. You could continue to be accountable in your roles as an excellent student, parent, an employee, professional, a teacher, a boss, or a community leader. You could be rich or famous, with excellent health and fitness. You could be all of these things and successfully juggle many responsibilities over your entire lifetime.
We all have the same amount of time—a measly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The average American (regardless of gender or employment) spends an average of 9.33 hours doing personal-care activities, including sleeping; 1.13 hours eating and drinking; and 0.28 hours engaging in exercise or other sports-related recreation each day. We know that 0.28 hours (less than seventeen minutes per day) of physical activity is woefully insufficient and should be at least 1 hour per day (including all walking). This means that on average, with adequate time for exercise, we should be spending close to 12 hours a day engaging in personal self-care. Alternatively, it means we have only 12 hours a day to complete all our occupational and professional obligations (including commuting) and social obligations (that don’t involve our loved ones).
Activities to align your time with your purpose
- Activities 18.1 – 18.4 Life’s Purpose Game
- Activities 18.1 – 18.3 The Life’s Purpose Game Spreadsheet (Excel)
Most of us struggle to manage our time well. Some prioritize roles that provide greater financial short-term benefits or that lead to academic accomplishments. Others prioritize (whether they realize it or not) their short-term desires. Most of us struggle to fulfill both our needs and our wants. Yet there are many “under the radar” responsibilities that frequently lead to a major crisis if we don’t proactively attend to them (e.g., when the toilet overflows, a check bounces, a child flunks a test, or a relative gets cancer). No matter what your priorities are, to be effective, you have to manage your time well.
Generic Rules for the Life’s Purpose Game
You win the Life’s Purpose if you can accomplish all your goals (relating to self-care / personal spiritual well-being, socioemotional issues [relationships] and purpose [occupation]) in an average twenty-four hours a day (providing twelve hours a day for self-care, sleep, and exercise). Of course, you won’t really accomplish this by just playing the game; you’ll need to successfully define your goals and accomplish them. Like any game, every time you play will be different; life continues to evolve and throw us unexpected curve balls. The results of this game, are expected to be different a year from now, as your priorities and situation will have changed. However, the generic rules of this game do not change.
- You won’t win if you’re not honest. Not being 100 percent truthful with yourself and your loved ones just leads to frustration and wasted time.
- You must consider your partner or partners. If you are married or made a commitment to live with others, unless expressly communicated otherwise, you are expected to complete your life in harmony with your partner or partners. This means you are not playing the game of Life’s Purpose alone; you cannot determine your goals without consideration of your key loved ones. Be open-minded enough to consider change and to accept that there may be a better way. Ideally, couples should complete this game first independently, consider their own life’s purpose in tandem, and then work together to build on each other’s strengths and synergize for optimal outcomes.
- It’s not a competition. You are not competing with or comparing yourself to anyone else. No one else can determine your goals, your tradeoffs, and what it takes for you to “win” the game.
- Roles with legal obligations have high priority. Parents, managers, and some occupational roles come with legal obligations that require you to meet the “letter of the law” (e.g., getting your child to school), but it is in your best interest to do them well. These roles, as professional codes of ethics, must be prioritized.
- Goal planning must be integrated in order to be successful. Part 3, “The Journey,” focuses on integrated goal setting; don’t try to fix things yet!
- “Full-time” is considered spending at least forty hours a week at an occupation.
- Most of us are expected to juggle multiple roles at any one time. A “juggler” is defined as anyone who has more than fifty hours of occupational work per week (an average of 7.14 hours a day; or 8 hours per day on weekdays and 10 hours a day on weekends). This does not consider commute time, which is labeled as a separate category.
- For the purpose of this exercise, “financial security” is defined as “having enough cash to adequately live for six months without having to work.”
What to expect
The first activity considers a wide range of unpaid responsibilities that fall under the generic heading of “home care.” The second activity builds upon the first by clarifying your key roles and the average time per week it truly takes to do each role well. Both of these activities take about ten minutes to complete. They’ll provide you with a ballpark understanding of how much time you spend on professional, home, and social responsibilities, which can then be used to determine how much time you have left to spend on other activities that are important to your personal well-being and other goals. A calculator will help with sums and averages. The third activity is an excellent investment in time but may take you and a loved one an hour to complete. It is easiest to complete using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which is available at www.wellnesscompass.LifePurposeTimeManagement.xls. I encourage you to do the activities in pencil, as you may need to change your answer once you do the sums. If you need another copy of any part of this game, you can always download it from the Wellness Compass Travel Guide website.
If you decide to play the game of Life’s Purpose along with your partner or partners, you may find that each of you defines certain categories slightly differently. That’s okay, as long as each person is honest and consistent, and the totals add to 24 hours a day and 168 hours a week. How you classify things differently—particularly within the home-care responsibilities, exercise, and the things you multitask on—may lead to eye-opening discoveries. If you do a lot of multitasking, you’ll have to clarify and consistently apply your strategy so you don’t double- or triple-count times. If, like me, you frequently cook, eat, and clean up while watching the news and doing laundry, you may count the entire time as food preparation (not relaxation and not self-care for eating) or break the time up.
 “American Time Use Survey—2014 Results,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/atus.pdf. Statistics reported were taken from table 2 (totals for the civilian population).
 Expect that you may not be able to account for everything you do correctly the first time! That’s actually one of key benefits of this activity. You’ll approximate what you are currently doing it, be surprised or frustrated, with something and then want to adjust the numbers so that you can get the sleep you need or make time to exercise, or otherwise accomplish your goals and life purpose.
 For the purpose of this activity, multi-tasking is defined as accomplishing two or more key activities at the same time.