Codifying Balance in Life

Life can get busy.

Each of us have multiple competing priorities in our lives that demand varying degrees of time and effort. In some circumstances, our time can be unevenly spread amongst our obligations, resulting in an incongruity. If transient, the imbalance may not impact us too much. However, if a persistent disharmony exists in our lives, negative ramifications in the long run are inevitable.

Balance Permeates

This isn’t rocket science, but the punch line here is that balance in life is of paramount importance. In fact, it’s a common theme that can be found in most other subject areas, industries, and design elements, in addition to one’s personal life. For example, overtraining biceps and chest whilst neglecting the upper back and glutes leads to serious postural musculoskeletal deficiencies. When playing the market, diversification of an investment portfolio is always recommended so that in the event that one sector tanks, others can compensate for the loss. Even our wardrobes require a certain level of balance to ensure we have proper attire for any given occasion.

Posture, investments and wardrobes aside, today’s workforce wants work-life balance; having an equitable allocation of time for work and personal life. A fair ask, especially considering an imbalance between work and life can have deleterious implications on our productivity, happiness, and ambition. In the past, this was a tough request and would often stifle an individual’s growth in a company. However, times have changed and companies are becoming more cognizant of the benefits of work-life balance which is why things like Amazon’s 30-hour work-week, Vidyard’s unlimited vacation time, and WealthSimple’s fitness stipend are becoming increasingly prominent perks in the workplace. While these are stellar initiatives by companies to ensure their employees don’t burn out, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual to ensure their life stays in balance.

Heads Up Display

I recently read a book that brilliantly codified life balance into discrete elements. The book is titled Designing Your Life and is written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, the pair of whom are design thinking professors at Stanford University. The tool they provide is a dashboard—akin to the type you’d see in your car—that can give you a quick insight into your life’s level of balance.

Being a fairly methodical individual, I appreciate how they clump aspects of our lives into buckets to help give a holistic view of our current state. It’s even more effective because it’s a visual tool that you can actually write on. The four buckets are: health, work, play, and love. As mentioned, the objective of this tool is to take stock of your current situation, thus, giving insights on where improvement is needed. For copyright reasons, I’m not including the actual dashboard, but you can see what it looks like here.

For health, consideration should be given to physical, emotional, and spiritual; granted the weighted importance of each is individually dependent. Work relates to ongoing human adventures which can be in the form of a career, entrepreneurship, or volunteer work. This section relates to what I’d call the “professional” elements of life. Play is situated in fun. Acts in your life that are done for the sheer joy and pleasure derived from them. For some, it may be competitive sport, for others it might be finger painting. The key idea here is that these are things done due to the bliss they provide. Finally, love. Everyone has a different definition of this, but love is a critical element of life found amongst our families, friends, and even our pets!

Just to give you a sense of the dashboard, I’ve included my findings below with some commentary 🙂

Work: 100%

I have a sweet full time job working with the University of Waterloo in marketing and recruitment. But, that alone wouldn’t be sufficient in maxing out my work gauge. Voluntary service to my community is a critical facet of my life. Currently, I’m serving as a Member of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board, with my role focused on Post Secondary strategy in Ontario. The work gauge is looking good.

Love: 50%

The two hefty items listed above have led to sacrifices in my relationship. While my girlfriend is totally understanding, supportive, and never raises this as a concern, personally I feel a lack of effort on my end. In addition, I’m having a harder time maintaining a social life with my friends due to the never ending list in my planner. Of course, love also ties into family which is an odd one for me. I’ve never been the most family oriented individual, but, as I’m maturing, I’m realizing the importance they play in my life. All three areas of love could use a little bit of a boost.

Play: 75%

I always try to make time for the things that make me happy. Whether it’s blogging, reading, watching soccer, or eating. I also have a lot of fun talking to strangers at coffee shops or at stores, which is an opportunity I’m relishing by the courtesy of my job.

Health: 25%

This needs improvement. Going to the gym is an ingrained necessity of my being, and so, it’s no surprise that I’m an individual who enjoys routine. When my gym routine is discombobulated, my health suffers significantly. Due to the nature of my job, I’m on the road quite a bit and usually find bed and board in a hotel. While I do make the attempt to use hotel fitness centres—calling them fitness centres was absolutely intentional because they are, in my opinion, a shambolic excuse for a gym—they lack a lot of important equipment, and so the quality of my workouts has been quite poor. The combination of poor workouts and lack of routine has stifled my appetite, drastically resulting in weight loss. Due to the loss of gains, my mood has dipped—as my girlfriend will attest to—and I’ve become more self conscious of the way I look. Like I said, this area needs improvement

Next Steps

Okay, so now that we know what our current state looks like, we can go about building an action plan to improve the look of our dashboard. For me, these are the actions I’ll be taking to improve certain areas:

  1. Message at least one family member each day to see how they’re doing. (Love)
  2. Message my girlfriend first each morning. (Love)
  3. Sign up for a gym membership. (Health)
  4. Buy a box of protein bars for my car. (Health)
  5. Start tracking calories to ensure I consume a minimum of 3000 calories daily. (Health)
Key Takeaway: Finding balance in life is key. Tools like the dashboard can give insights on your current state from which actionable items can be developed to improve the overall look of your life balance.

2 thoughts on “Codifying Balance in Life

  1. I’m also reading this book and finding it insightful… I’m currently kind of stuck at the brain storming section, have you reached it yet?


    1. Isn’t it a great read!? I do remember that section but I’d need to revisit it to jog my memory on that section. The dashboard, was hands down, my greatest takeaway from that book.


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