“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
– Albert Einstein
You probably won’t believe me when I tell you this, but I will anyway.
The number one factor that I attribute to my success is this: not taking success so seriously.
Let me explain.
When I started building my business decades ago, I was a workaholic. 80-hour weeks, week in and week out, for years. Then my daughter was born, so I made a big change…
…to 60-hour weeks.
The truth is, I could have worked 30-hour weeks and I still would have been a workaholic. Why?
Because whenever I wasn’t working—whenever I should have been focusing on things like my family—I was thinking about work.
To make matters worse, when I was working, I was wracked with guilt for not focusing more on my life, which in turn got in the way of what I was working so hard for in the first place. Success!
I thought success came from how badly you wanted it and how hard you were willing to work for it.
Then something happened that gave me the strength to accept the changes I needed to make. My family told me, “We don’t need your success. We need YOU.”
The crazy part? Once I figured out that taking success so seriously was actually hurting my chances of success, not only was I able to achieve balance in my life, but success, too!
Here are FOUR simple rules I followed that kept my inner workaholic in check, brought me genuine and sustainable balance in my life, and led me to more professional success than I ever imagined.
Know Your Roles
None of us are any ONE thing. I’m not just a husband, or a father, a boss, or an entrepreneur: I play all of those roles.
The more roles we play—and the more time we spend switching back and forth between the different roles—the higher our stress levels and the lower our productivity.
Some of these roles we carry with us for a lifetime and help define who we are.
Others we step in and out of, depending on the needs of the moment, and can usually be shifted to other, more qualified people in our lives (if we’re willing to give up control over them).
Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests the first step toward balance and harmony is to make a list of your roles. You should only have 5-8 roles.
These are the roles that really matter to you—which means these are the areas in which you want to invest time, focus, and energy.
What you’ll notice is not all roles require the same amount of time. In fact, the most important roles—our relationships—often require less time.
But (and this is a big BUT)—time is not the same thing as ENERGY and FOCUS.
Learn to Say ‘No’ to Emergencies
When we don’t fill up our time with things to do, our time gets filled up for us.
For example, for the longest time I had an awful habit of responding to every call, listening to every voicemail, and reading every email—the moment I received them!
So what happens? OUR needs get pushed aside. Covey calls that letting the Urgent matter more than the Important.
Guess what? It doesn’t.
According to the American Psychological Association more than four out of five adults in the U.S. check their phones constantly for new emails, txt messages, and social media notifications. We do it because we are worried we’ll miss something important—when in reality, the more often we check our messages, the more stressed out we become.
Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach and a great mentor of mine, put it this way: “People who spend most of their time putting out fires are usually also the arsonists.”
If you’re feeling the constant tug to check your inbox, the problem isn’t your email. It’s you.
Don’t give in to the trap of urgency. Learn to say ‘No’, and focus on what is important.
Spend 15 Minutes Planning Your Week
I love the map on my phone, and not simply because I have a horrible sense of direction. I love the map when it lets me know to avoid traffic ahead.
Traffic jams aren’t avoided when you run into them. They’re best avoided before you leave the house.
We can have all the good intentions in the world—exercising, date nights, business planning. But, if we don’t anticipate the sort of traffic jams that are going to arise, we’ll be forced to react.
And that leads to failure; putting things on the back burner, to getting caught at the office, or stuck in a meeting.
Now that you’re clear on your roles, and are ready to say ‘No’ to urgency, find a good time each week—for me it’s usually Fridays as I end my work week or Sunday nights before the new week begins—and spend 15 minutes with your list of roles to figure out what you want to accomplish in each of those roles…
…and when you plan to do it.
Then check the traffic. Tony Robbins urges: “stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
If one plan doesn’t work, try another. And another, and another. Until you get to where you want to go.
Make a Written List and Add It to Your Calendar
Make yourself a list of things you want to accomplish for the week. Then block time in your calendar to get those things done.
This might seem like an obvious step, but it is also the most critical; this is the moment your plans and intentions enter the real world.
I suggest writing with pen and paper at first. Why?
Your brain is an incredibly powerful tool. A study by Indiana University found that writing by hand increases neural activity in several sections of the brain, similar to meditation. The act of writing on paper taps into your brain’s subconscious in a way that’s kind of like programming a computer.
With this one simple step, you’ve just multiplied your chances of success by infinity.
But…if you put your tasks in your calendar, and you don’t check it ever again…
Nothing will happen.
Here’s the deal. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t check your calendar, there’s a simple solution to that.
Let your calendar check on you! That’s what we call Reminders!
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t do that well at first. It may take several weeks to create the habit, but I know you can do it because I did!
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
– Albert Schweitzer
When I started following these steps, not only did I increase my harmony and balance, but also the energy and optimism all around me.
My friends and loved ones noticed the increased attention they were getting from me.
A balanced person can be more “in the moment” without feeling they need to be spending time doing something else. And you know what?
People will notice.
Your life can go from chaos to order. Profits can soar. Goals can be reached. Amazing things can happen.
CLICK HERE to become an Insider! Join my Email Insider Group to receive weekly tips and tricks on finance, education, home buying, insurance, Social Security and everything in between. Byron W. Ellis, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CRPC®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Managing Director United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC, a Financial Life Management firm. The information contained in this article is intended for information only is not a recommendation, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial advisor with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.
© Byron Ellis