The Recipe for Work-Life Balance during the Holidays


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In theory, the holidays are a time for relaxation, spending time with family and friends, and preparing for a new year. In reality, they're often quite stressful. Between finishing up end-of-year work projects and getting all of our holiday errands accomplished, we're often more stressed than ever at this time of year. Enter Tom Drews, CEO of time management consulting company, MakingMinutes! In this paper, Drews outlines tips and tactics for freeing up time at any time to make time for the things you want to do. His tips are applicable at any time of year, but probably top of mind now as we approach the holiday season. Dive in now so you can enjoy an enjoyable and relaxing holiday season.

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The Recipe for Work-Life Balance during the Holidays

  1. 1. The Recipe forWork-Life Balanceduring the Holidays   By Tom Drews CEO of Making Minutes!™                      
  2. 2. IntroductionThe holidays can be a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with family and friends, enjoysocial gatherings and catch up on long-overdue relaxation. At the same time, betweentraveling and wrapping up end-of-the-year projects, the holidays can be incredibly stressfuland challenging. On top of our typical year-end projects and business activities, we nowhave to deal with travel, packing, shopping, wrapping, cooking, traffic, parties and cleaning.Add to that all the extra eating we do, and then we also need to find time for the gym.Before the holidays even get here, most of us are already overstressed, overworked andoverwhelmed. We dream of simply freeing one hour each day to dedicate to something wedon’t currently do because we “don’t have time.”I’ve spent the last 10 years helping people find time. My Making Minutes program is allabout making the most of our time; it’s systematic in helping you free up time and makingthe most of your minutes.In this paper, I share a few strategies to help you free up some extra minutes during yourday so you can truly enjoy your holidays and your life without all the stress. It’s the recipefor a great holiday.
  3. 3. The Bucket TheoryMaking the most of our minutes starts with knowing what we want in every aspect of our lives — not just work. Afterspending several years attempting to find balance in my own life, I developed a concept called the Bucket Theory.The idea is that we all have a giant life bucket that’s filled with several smaller buckets, including health, family, leisure,relationships, spirituality, career, service and personal growth. Most people spend the majority of their time working.Whether we have our own business or work for someone else, our work bucket seems to get most of our attention. Howfull our buckets are is based on satisfaction. How satisfied are you with your bucket levels right now?Since we only have so much time, if we want to spend more time doing something, we have to shift that time fromsomewhere else.Where do you spend most of your time?Using the visual below and a colored pen, fill the buckets according to your current level of satisfaction in that area of yourlife. The more satisfied you are, the more your bucket is filled.Then, using a different colored pen, fill your buckets to where you’d actually like them to be.This exercise provides you with a visual representation of where your changes need to take place. Identify your top threebuckets that you’d like to fill.
  4. 4. A typical response about this exercise that I get from my Making Minutes participants is, “I don’t have the time to fill oneextra bucket, let alone fifteen.” I get that. I’ve been there. But if we want to fill some of our other buckets, our only solutionis to free up minutes we spend doing other things.Having a very clear vision for what you want your life to look like will serve as a guide to keep you on track. By startingwith the end in mind, then we can determine exactly what we need to do to get from where we are now to where we wantto go. By choosing to focus on the buckets that are most important to us, we can much more easily choose which bucketsto let go.
  5. 5. The holidays are a time when your buckets may shift quite a bit. You may decide that somebuckets are less important than others. Because new chores and responsibilities pop upduring the holidays, you may have to shift focus from some of your other buckets. You mayfind that playing games on your phone for two hours a day is less important than spendingtime with your kids. You might even decide that visiting your family in person will be moresatisfying than seeing pictures of them on their Facebook page. The goal is not to work longer or harder, it’s to free up some minutes so you can do something you would consider to be more important. One of my favorite mindfulness tips is to stop and ask, “Is what I’m about to do in line with my values, vision and goals?” If we just take 10 seconds every so often to ask this question, we might find that we’ll end up doingsomething entirely different than we would otherwise. We are happier and less stressedwhen we let the less important things give way to our most important priorities. And that isthe first step to achieving a better balance in work and life.Once you’ve filled your buckets, I recommend choosing the two or three that you wouldmost like to change. I’ve found from past participants that the two most often neglectedbuckets are health and family. Now that you know what’s most important to you, you canset some clear goals to go about filling them.Eliminate minute stealersNow that we have a clearer idea of what’s most important to us, we need to free up someminutes so we can fill our buckets. To do that, we have to eliminate our time wasters. Thereis an endless list of personal time wasters and they’re different for everyone, but the listincludes: commuting, spending too much time in meetings, using (or abusing) social media,watching television and crafting long emails. Of course, you get to choose what’s a gooduse of your minutes and what isn’t.A useful strategy to free up some minutes is to start by listing out every possible way youcan think of that you waste your time, either at home, at work or both, depending on whereyou are trying to free up time. You can even attach a number of minutes to each time-wasting activity, and then identify your top five time-wasters. Most people can free up at
  6. 6. least an hour a day just by eliminating time wasters. If you’re having trouble identifying time wasters, compare the activity against the buckets you are trying to fill. If it doesn’t help you fill those buckets, it’s not helping you. Eliminate it from your life and take back that time. It will feel good.Where can you free During one of my Making Minutes! workshops, one of my participants came to the painfulup some minutes? realization that he was spending two hours a day playing fantasy football, while his health, family and service buckets were running on empty. That fantasy football might not be a good use of his time only became clear to him when he weighed it against the buckets in his life that were more important. This prompted him to dramatically cut down on his fantasy football time, and he has since replaced it with coaching his kids’ basketball team for free, where he gets some exercise while coaching. The same practice can be helpful to free up time for the holidays. You might decide that spending more time with family and friends is a top priority for this time of year. It might mean that you adjust your time spent doing something else — maybe even something that you consider important at all other times of the year — to do something different at the holidays. We only have so much time, so adjusting is our only solution. Recently I was talking with one of my colleagues who is a new father with twins, and I asked him what was most important to him leading into the holidays. He replied that he’d like to spend some quality time with his wife and little ones. He knew what bucket he wanted to fill; he just didn’t know where to get the time to fill it. So we had him list out every potential time waster he could think of and then decide what he could let go of. His list of time wasters included spending time with anyone that wasn’t family, watching sports on TV and using all forms of social media. In less than 20 minutes, he was able eliminate six different activities that equaled at least one full hour a day. Similarly, a close friend of mine recently told me that his biggest time waster during the holidays is having to go to the office every day. The commute time alone swallowed up one-and-a-half hours each day. I asked why he needed to be at the office, and he said, “Meetings. I have to be there for meetings.”
  7. 7. Soon after, I introduced him to web conferencing, which can be an incredibly effective means of delivering and attending meetings. The most robust web conferencing platforms combine audio and video conferencing with screen sharing, so you can see and hear your colleagues while presenting from your screen or watching a presentation from their screen. My friend has since brought this into his company, and he’s able to conduct and attend meetings from his home office or on the road. “GoToMeeting with HDFaces provides better Between making meeting time efficient and eliminating much of his commute time, he work-life balance for our claims he’s freed up at least six hours a week. The lesson here is to let technology help employees. It has raised you. There are so many technologies out there that can help you stay productive while productivity, profitability traveling, working from anywhere or even working from home. Find and use the ones that can help you use your time more effectively. and morale – what better combination could you When it comes to eliminating time wasters, it’s absolutely essential that we focus on what have?” we have control over and forget the rest. Focusing our time and energy on what we can’t change may be the biggest minute stealer of all.   Eugene Alfaro Director, IT professional services Cornerstone Technologies   GoToMeeting is now available on your tablet and smartphone, so you can attend your meetings from anywhere.
  8. 8. Making the most of our minutesNow that we know what we want our holidays to look like, and we’ve freed up some time to fill some of our more importantbuckets, we can think about ways to find even more minutes. Below are a few strategies that might help you be evenmore productive, efficient and effective than you already are.Hyper prioritizingKnowing what buckets you want to fill means very little if you don’t have a system for priortizing the action items in eachbucket. Organization is key to making effective use of your time, so don’t say “I don’t have time for organization.” It’s whatwill ultimately help you find more time, so get organized.I’ve found the most effective strategy for prioritizing actions is to list out every action item I can think of on a spreadsheet.Typing into a spreadsheet is fast, and it also allows me to easily click and drag items from one place to another. Myultimate goal is to prioritize my action items in order from most important to least important. I’ve helped a lot of peoplemake better use of their time, and one thing I find all the time is people attacking their action items randomly andhaphazardly. Most of us have just enough time to get our first and second priorities accomplished each day, so it wouldmake little sense to spend time on our fourth-tier priorities. It sounds simple, but I bet you’ve spent some portion of yourwork day dedicated to something non-essential. If you want to be productive, focus on your highest priorities.
  9. 9. If you’re working with a team on a project, you may need a more elaborate system for sharing and communicating action items. Again, this is where technology comes into play. Using a cloud-based project management platform can help you keep track of project statuses and updates and keep everyone accountable. Email Email is a time suck. Many of my clients feel paralyzed by an out-of-control inbox. Here are some simple strategies to help you get through your email more efficiently. 1. Schedule blocks of time to answer emails. I see so many people checking their@   emails literally every three or four minutes. Don’t let email disrupt your workflow like that. You’ll be more productive if you dedicate specific time to work and specific time to email. 2. Send fewer emails. The more emails you send, the more emails you’ll get back. 3. Use one of my mindfulness tips and ask yourself, “Is this the best way for me to communicate this?” You might find that picking up the phone or hopping in a web conference is a better way to discuss your topic. You might also consider moving some of your correspondence outside of email to a social work platform where quick updates can go out to a group of people. 4. Use social work platforms to share information to a group, rather than cc’ing everyone and creating a seemingly endless string of emails that are not relevant to most of the people on the chain. 5. Have a folder system that works. If it takes you longer than 10 seconds to figure out what to do with an email, it’s too long. You really have three options: Act on it right then, file it away for later action or delete it.
  10. 10. Work remotelyAs I suggested earlier, having the flexibility to work from home or from anywhere else in the world can be a huge minutemaker. Web conferencing provides us with the ability to meet and present from anywhere in the world as long as we havean Internet connection and a phone line.I’ll use myself as an example here. Last year I decided that visiting my mom for the holidays was a top priority. I decidedto schedule my travel a few days early so I could miss the holiday traffic and confusion. This meant that I had to conductmy business from her home nestled deep in the mountains of Colorado. Fortunately, I was able to deliver and attend mymeetings virtually from the comfort of my mom’s den. I even attended some meetings from my iPad and iPhone.Another tool I found to be incredibly useful during that time was remote access to my work computer. These days remoteaccess is available not just from one computer to another but also from smartphones and tablets to your main computer.Being able to access the programs and files on my main computer from anywhere is a great tool to have when workingfrom home or anywhere else. GoToMyPC lets you remotely access your work computer from anywhere. Here, Helaine M., Senior Manager of Marketing Operations at Citrix, connects to her computer from an iPad on a boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
  11. 11. Delegate Of course, part of the reason we’re overwhelmed during the holidays is that our to-do list seems to get longer as we attempt to spend more time relaxing. Sometimes we have to make the realization that we won’t be able to get everything done on our own. We can make the most of our minutes if we delegate and outsource some of those to-dos. To make this happen, you have to first determine which items could be done by someone other than you. Delegate the things like cleaning your house, cooking, shopping, picking up dry cleaning and delivering packages to the post office. You don’t personally have to do those things, and there are plenty of people looking to earn a bit of cash, especially around the holidays. When you need to find the person to help you, turn to the Internet. From craigslist to Task Rabbit, you can find someone to help you out. I recently hired someone from Task Rabbit to host my BBQ, which allowed me to actually enjoy spending time with my guests without having to stress about filling the ice buckets or removing the trash. Last year, a friend of mine hired someone from a similar concierge service to takecare of her Christmas shopping. She simply handed off a list of items she wanted to purchase, and her short-termpersonal assistant not only made the purchases, but wrapped the gifts as well.You might also have teenagers in your neighborhood who would be happy to help you wrap gifts or watch your kids whileyou enjoy an evening out with your partner. I recently hired an intern from Stanford University to help me further developmy “Happiness” module for Making Minutes! There are people out there to help you, so find and use them!
  12. 12. ConclusionMake it a priority this holiday season to determine which of life’s buckets are mostimportant for you. Identify and eliminate your time wasters so you can fill those buckets.And make even more minutes by leveraging some of the strategies mentioned here. Therecipe for an enjoyable and relaxing holiday season is equal parts organization, technologyand help, and it’s one you can use all year long and for many holiday seasons to come.
  13. 13. About Tom Drews Tom  Drews  is  the  Founder  and  CEO  of  Making  Minutes!,  where  he  helps  people  and  organizations   significantly  increase  their  productivity,  efficiency  and  effectiveness,  while  at  the  same  time  achieving  a   healthy  work-­‐life  balance.  Making  Minutes!  also  delivers  Effective  Virtual  Presentation  Skills  Training  for   companies  using  web  conferencing  technology.  Tom’s  clients  include  Genentech,  Google,  CLIF  Bar,   Wikipedia,  Williams-­‐Sonoma,  Navy  and  Citrix.       Tom  was  previously  Vice  President  of  Sales  for  two  fast  growing  technology  companies  in  San  Francisco.     He  was  also  an  actor  in  Hollywood,  where  he  had  small  parts  on  soap  operas,  performed  improvisation,   and  acted  in  commercials.         He  can  be  reached  at    You  can  learn  more  about  Making  Minutes!  at    About GoToMeetingOnline Meetings Made Easy.GoToMeeting  is  the  extremely  simple,  extraordinarily  powerful  web  conferencing  service  from  Citrix.  It  integrates  HD  video  conferencing,  screen  sharing  and  audio  conferencing,  allowing  you  to  collaborate  effectively  online  in  a  face-­‐to-­‐face  environment.  Hold  unlimited  meetings  for  one  low  flat  fee  and  attend  meetings  from  a  Mac,  PC  and  mobile  devices.  GoToMeeting  will  change  the  way  you  work  –  and  perhaps  a  whole  lot  more.  To  learn  more,  visit