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  • Transcript: Why Pursuing the Work-Life Balance Myth is Hurting Your Productivity (TPS139)

Listen to the audio for TPS139 here.

Mike and Thanh tackle the ever-popular topic of work-life balance, and why it’s not only impossible to achieve, but also may not be something you want to achieve. They discuss how to create intentional imbalance instead, by working on the areas of your life that most need it. Also, Thanh becomes a test subject and goes through the Wheel of Life exercise, live on the podcast. Listen in if you’re keeping too many plates spinning in your life, and to find out how to create your ideal future and make it inevitable.

Episode originally published 17 Apr 2017.

Mike: [00:00:06] Welcome to The Productivity Show, the Asian Efficiency podcast dedicated to helping you make the most of your time, attention, energy, and focus. In this episode, Thanh and I talk about why pursuing the work-life balance myth is actually hurting your productivity and what you can do instead. We talk about why the whole idea of work-life balance is flawed, the mindset that can help you actually achieve balance once and for all, and we walk you through how to identify the areas that you need to focus on to restore a sense of balance to your life. If you ever feel overwhelmed with everything that you need to do or feel like you can’t keep all your plate spinning, you don’t want to miss this episode. You can find links to everything that we share in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/139. And now, on with the show.

Mike: [00:01:02] So it seems like it’s been forever since we’ve done a podcast together Thanh.

Thanh: [00:01:05] I know, Brooks has been stealing my spot and taking over. So I’m kicking him to the curb while he’s chillin in Mexico right now for a vacation. And I just got back from vacation as well so I’m excited to be back on the podcast.

Mike: [00:01:20] Yeah I know. Brooks has been stealing your thunder. And you mentioned you just got back from vacation. Do you mind if you tell people where you are at?

Thanh: [00:01:27] Yeah I was in Tokyo for about two weeks and had a fantastic time. It was my first time there. I really really enjoyed it. It was just splurging pretty much all the way there, just flying first class there, staying at really nice hotels, eating amazing food, just enjoying my time there. But I’m glad to be back home back into my own routine, sleeping in my own bed and just getting back into the swing of things and being back on the podcast as well.

Mike: [00:01:58] Yeah it did look like you were eating some delicious food. I was watching your Instagram story and you would have like 12 different courses of sushi that you were posting on there.

Thanh: [00:02:07] Yeah I have been working on my storytelling as a fun exercise so I’m glad you glad you enjoyed it.

Mike: [00:02:13] Definitely had my mouth watering. But we’re glad to have you back. And I’m excited to talk to you today about this whole idea of work-life balance. Now this is actually a follow-up on the previous episode where we had Brandon Wentland on and he talked, talked us through his incredible 12 week year 2.0 dojo module, which kind of introduced this idea of intentional imbalance and we’ll dive into that in a little bit. But before we get too far let’s first talk about the problem which is this whole idea of work-life balance. It’s a bit of an industry buzz word in the productivity space. But let’s unpack this a little bit and explain why it’s actually impossible to achieve.

Thanh: [00:02:50] Yeah I– this whole work life balance thing kind of came into the space and people started to pay attention to it. Maybe in the last I want to say seven eight years or so, 2010 ish. And I’ve never been a big believer in the whole work-life balance concept but I’m really interested to hear what your thoughts are on this.

Mike: [00:03:13] Yeah I completely agree. I believe it was Asian Efficiency where I first understood the idea that there is no work and life there is just life and it’s up to you to balance everything. If you weren’t the originator of that I’m still going to give you credit for it because I know it is when I really started diving into the Asian Efficiency posts and then some of the other materials like the primer and things that that really solidified the concept for me. But this is a really interesting idea that is probably a little bit antiquated because if you think back in the past, like the 50s in the 60s before we had all of these technological tools which allowed us to be instantly accessible by anybody at any time, there maybe was very clear distinctions between when work ended and your after-work life began. But that assumption really doesn’t apply to today’s always-on society. There aren’t very clear distinctions between work and life a lot of times. And those two things. This assumption also assumes that they are at odds. And I can tell you that from my experience working with Asian Efficiency they don’t have to be at odds. I get a lot of energy in working because I enjoy the things that I’m working on. I really do align with Asian Efficiency’s core values, I really do enjoy helping pull other people up and ultimately glowing green myself becoming the best version of myself so that I can have a bigger impact and so I don’t think that we can afford to view this as an either/or scenario any more. And when it comes to a corporate job for example and you have a boss who emails you on a Saturday for example a lot of times your workplace isn’t very clearly respecting– even if they do identify those boundaries as well. So really what we’ve got is the 168 hours that we have available to us in any given week. And ultimately what it comes down to is it is up to you as the individual to make sure that all works.

Thanh: [00:05:15] Yeah I think you brought up a really good point which is in the past it was very easy to make a distinction between “Ok this one work and this is where my personal life starts” and with the rise of the smartphone, having internet access everywhere we go, that has kind of ruined that balance or I guess the boundary you should say so now there is no boundary. So the whole term work-life balance kind of assumes like you said that there is some sort of boundary there, and if there is a boundary it’s a very thin boundary, because it’s not today where you can just clock out of five and say OK I’m done. And then you just go on with or with your life. That realistically just does not happen. And in our case– I want to make the argument that if you want to be even more optimized you actually want to integrate them as much as possible so it’s not really a balance. It’s like an integration of work and life. And if you enjoy your work and if you enjoy life you can combine the two. Then there is no work life balance is just you live life in a way. You know it’s like you enjoy your time you enjoy your work and that is just life. That is just how it is. There’s no like, oh work kind of sucks. I don’t like this. My life is great and I have to figure out like how to balance all of that. No that’s not how I look at it.

Mike: [00:06:42] Yeah ideally you just want to be awesome at everything. And you’re not saying I’m going to be awesome in my personal life at the expense of my my work life or vice versa. Great example of this is something that we just dealt with on the Asian Efficiency team where I asked you if I could have off on Wednesday mornings because Wednesday typically was the day where I was really working hard Monday, Tuesday. So we had a big sprint, bunch of videos like we did last sprint, and I’m cranking on those. By the time Wednesday rolls around I’m a little bit spent. So one of the things that I floated by you and you you were completely ok with it was that I would take off Wednesday mornings to spend some time with my family if we wanted to go take a field trip because we home school or go to go to the museum whatever. That’s the time to do that. And ultimately what that results in is better quality work, more work being done. And I’ve found personally that sometimes the work will bleed over into Saturday but whenever it does that it’s not me feeling like I have to do this. There is always the opportunity for me to say like I’m I’m spent I can’t do this I need this Saturday off but I’m finding what happens a lot of times is that when I’m trying to balance these things and I’m not compartmentalizing them like that. And throughout the course of my my quote unquote work week, Monday through Friday by creating a little bit of space and time in there that just helps make everything a lot easier. It’s a lot more efficient and it’s a lot more effective.

Thanh: [00:08:10] Yeah. And the other thing I sort of realized over the years is that if you look at anybody who is extremely successful and really get at what they do and they’re like on top of their game. These people don’t have work life balance. And if they do and if you see that they have work-life balance it’s because they’ve been through the process which we call intentional imbalance and it’s the whole idea of where you go through a period of life. And I think of it as a season as a part of your life where you just intensely focus on something and then come back up for air and focus again. So the best analogy that I can give is if you think of a boxer or UFC fighter, when they prepare for a big match when there’s a clear goal to work towards what do they do? They go in camp mode. They stay away from all the partying. They stay away from all the distractions that are part of their lives, they just super focus on whatever it is from them which is the one match that they have to do. So they just eat sleep train and that’s it. There’s no TV there’s no leisure time there’s nothing. None of that, and they are just super super intensely focus on that one thing that they have to do which is just training getting in shape practicing so that they’re ready for the match and then they get to go. And I see that as like a season of life. And if you want to be extremely successful at something this is something I see over and over and over again. And people who are just on top of their game like I’m not talking about people who are just happy living a great life and all that– I’m talking about people who are like on top of their game. They all had to go through your period in life where they just had to make quote unquote sacrifices where they had to go through you know making tough decisions like I’m going to I’m going to spend less time on my family I’m going to spend less time at work. I’m going to spend less time at this and that so I can be the best at this. You can even think about writers that you know that are extremely successful or entrepreneurs or you know or athletes like they all have to make these tough choices where they really hyper-focus on something, get good at it and then come up for air and then work on the other things in life. And so I look at it from his perspective. If you can is go through those kinds of seasons in your life and make a conscious decision about that you can live a quote unquote balanced life which is really not balanced because you’re making these decisions where it’s not balanced, but that is essentially how I think you can achieve the most in your life.

Mike: [00:10:51] Yeah we’ll get into it a little bit, an exercise which you can use to kind of make sure that all the different areas of your life are quote unquote balanced. But I agree that what the solution is not necessarily a balance where you’ve got eight different plates that you’re trying to keep spinning at the same time but you’re intensely focusing on just a couple of those. I loved your analogy of the boxer or the MMA fighter, I think that makes a lot of sense. The next episode after this one which I actually recorded earlier this week with Dojo member Gary Smith, he talks a lot about this from a work and business perspective and one of the things he told me was that when he was younger he ended up working very hard to advance his career and I asked him at one point in the interview do you regret doing that if you were if you could go back and talk to your younger self would you tell them to seek more balance? And he said no because just like he said he was focused on this particular area for a season of his life and it got him to the point where now he can focus his attention and his time and his resources on other things that are more important. But that’s really the solution here is this intentional imbalance which the definition of this is choosing the areas in your life that are really not doing well so that you can bring them back up to acceptable levels. So we’ll get into the eight different areas that we define at Asian Efficiency in a little bit. But just for sake of argument let’s say that you’re feeling really fulfilled in your career but your relationships are suffering, and that’s where a lot of this work-life balance stuff comes from I think is that those two typically are inversely related but there’s a lot more areas that you have to have to take into account, physical wellness for example or your health. That could be another thing if you’re focusing really really hard on your career and you’re working long hours you’re probably not creating the time to go to the gym day. You know at least in my own personal experience I’ll use that as an example because that’s happened to me in the past. But really you have to choose to say in any one of these areas it doesn’t matter if it’s career or work doesn’t matter if it’s physical wellness as a matter of it’s relationships personal growth you have to be able to say that this level right here this is enough. I’m going to focus on something else that is more important right now.

Thanh: [00:13:11] Yeah I like the concept that you mentioned that you just can’t spin all eight plates at the same time. And that is so true because if you want to make a lot of progress you have to focus on one thing intensely for a while. Gain a lot of progress and then work on the other things that kind of are lacking. So to give an example in my personal life you know just coming back from Tokyo and this whole vacation was kind of an imbalance in my life where, for the last couple years I’ve worked really hard at Asian Efficiency to get to you know systemize the business so that the business can run by itself almost. And so that I can go on a vacation and not worry about stuff and just you know enjoy my time. But there was definitely an imbalance and there was definitely a conscious decision for a while where you know I didn’t take a lot of time off. I was just focusing on working on the business and making sure that you know all the procedures were in place all systems are in place all the documentation is there. Everybody’s trained up the right way and all that stuff so that you know, actually taking a trip was now something that I can do because like the leisure part of my life was like kind of suffering in that sense. And I say suffering in like quotes because you know it could have been much better you know on the scale of one to 10. Maybe it was like a five and now after this trip it’s like back to like a seven or eight. And so you know that was a conscious decision and it was- and I was totally OK with that. And I think if anything you should take away from this episode is that whatever you decide should be a conscious decision so that you can focus on something knowing that all the other things in your life are going to be taken care of at some other point.

Mike: [00:14:55] Yeah absolutely. David Allen said that you can do anything but you can’t do everything. You have to choose the things that you’re going to be bad at. Otherwise you might end up being better at all of them. Jack Welch, CEO of G.E. said that “there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices and you make them and they have consequences.” And it doesn’t matter what your situation doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of Asian Efficiency or you are working in a cubicle and you have a dream to start a vision or a business and you just feel like you’re caught in the rat race so to speak and you can’t find the time to create this thing. You have to answer these tough questions and saying no to certain things is always really really hard. But it is vitally important. And if you just go by what you see what you hear if you never take the time to kind of disconnect and get a different perspective. And really like think high level about your situation. You can get the wrong reading and a lot of this stuff. Dwight Eisenhower is the one who said that what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important, and he’s the one for whom the Eisenhower matrix is named. And this is probably one of my my favorite things ever. I talk about this probably way too much. Many people are sick of me mentioning it but for those who aren’t familiar with it. Essentially what it is is it’s this quadrant. We can put a link to this in the show notes, and you have on the top axis the things that are urgent and not urgent. And then on the the y axis you have the things that are important and the things that are not important so what you end up with are four different quadrants things that are important and urgent. So this could be something like We’re expecting our fifth child. So when my wife goes into labor that is both important and urgent. And then there are the things that are important but are not urgent. And that’s where a lot of this balance stuff comes in. This is things like making sure to do your weekly review or getting to the gym the things that if you miss just one of these one of these scheduled times it’s not going to make a huge impact but it can quickly become a habit. And then you’ve got things that are urgent but are not important. This is where a lot of e-mail and social media is going to come into this category as well. And then there are the things that are not urgent and are also not important. These are things that you should completely eliminate, the time-wasters. So actually social media could be in this category as well, watching TV, you know the average American I believe it was said watches 35 hours of TV a week. You know that’s something that you could cut out without a whole lot of negative negative ramifications.

Thanh: [00:17:35] I really liked that concept because the square when you look at it and if you just look at every single hour of your day and you wrote down a list of all the things you did you then put them into the boxes you can quickly tell where you’re spending your time. If you are spending your time in the top half of the square you’re doing a good job. In general if it’s mostly at the bottom half then you really have to rethink it. There’s some shuffling I need to do for elimination or reallocation of my time so I really liked that matrix.

Mike: [00:18:09] Yeah and this is where the whole emergency scan modality thing comes in because usually it’s not top or bottom. Usually it is people who get stuck on the left side of this quadrant. So you do the things that are urgent and some of those things are important. You know if you’re living out of the emergency scan modality you’re going to get your wife to the hospital in time to deliver that baby. But you’re also going to spend a whole lot of time in email dealing with things that you really don’t necessarily need to be doing responding to the things that other people are telling you are urgent instead of being intentional. That’s where this intentional imbalance idea comes in and selectively choosing the things that are important but are not urgent.

Thanh: [00:18:52] Yeah that’s that’s a good reminder for myself as well. Like the top left, oh no the bottom left corner is where you, I think that’s where you have the most gains to make and for I’m going to guess for most people the top right corner is where you are probably not spending enough time. That’s like if you can like flip that around. That’s a that’s that’s like a power move as I call it.

Mike: [00:19:19] Yep definitely. And so living off of the left side of this box really responding to the things that are urgent that’s the emergency scan modality that David Allan talks about– that’s, the person who is living on the left side of this box is the person who’s trying to keep all eight of those plates spinning at the same time because there are a lot of things that come in and they appear to be important but they’re really not that important but they are urgent. They’re screaming at you they’re saying you’ve got to deal with this right now. And so you’re doing you don’t even think twice about it. That is what I would call living like a firefighter where you are constantly looking for the next fire that you need to put out and a lot of times these fires pop up because we’ve neglected those things that are not urgent but are important. You know you you don’t go to the gym today because you’re too busy and then that turns into a week turns into a month turns into a year and then all of a sudden you’re dealing with health issues. That’s an emergency that you have to deal with. But it could have easily been avoided. And so the answer to this which I have branded living like a Samurai. But this is totally an idea I stole from you so maybe you want to explain what it means to kind of live like a samurai instead?

Thanh: [00:20:29] Yeah I remember writing about this in the newsletter maybe like a year and a half ago two years ago? But the basic idea is that as Samurai when they are on a mission to kill they have a very clear focus and they just go in get the job then, get the job done and then retreat. So it’s, there’s no distraction. There’s none of the oh hey I have to do this or do that before I complete my mission. No the mission is the most important. They go in focus on it get it done and then get back. And so you’re not trying to attend to any emergency that’s coming up you’re not trying to attend to anything that’s coming up at the last minute. It’s just being hyper focused and consciously saying no to all the distractions that are coming your way. Because let’s face it life is distracting. There’s always stuff going on there’s always stuff happening and it’s up to you to say no no no no. I need to focus on those one thing first and foremost.

Mike: [00:21:29] Yeah and I’ve got a personal story which kind of illustrates this because it doesn’t really matter the quantity of time that you invest in these areas. It’s like he said the intentionality the laser focus on the thing that you should be doing. The other day I take my boys to piano lessons on Mondays, and we left a little bit early and we had some time so we actually stopped at the park to play basketball and we only had like 15 or 20 minutes. But during those 15 or 20 minutes I was totally that the the term that a lot of people would throw out here would be engaged. And that gets a negative connotation sometimes. But I think it’s probably the most appropriate term. But I wasn’t thinking about any of the other things that I needed to do during those 15 or 20 minutes while we were playing basketball. And those are the things that my kids remember. It’s hey dad remember that time when we stopped at the park to play basketball on the way to piano. It’s not the fact that I just happened to be home which is what a lot of people think of when they think of like work-life balance– well I need to be home more, I need to spend more time with my family. That’s a noble goal but the quality of the time that you are spending with your family is more important than the quantity of time because those 15 or 20 minutes spent playing basketball my kids are going to provide much much more return than even being home all day on a Saturday watching college football on the couch like they don’t care that I’m in proximity. They want me to be intentional and they want to know that what I’m doing with them, like they are the most important thing to me at any given time. And that doesn’t apply just to your relationships. That applies to everything that you’re trying to quote unquote balance when it comes to your life. You have to be intentional about what you are doing and how you are spending your time is the key to achieving that balance.

Thanh: [00:23:22] Yeah. Do you want to get into the wheel of life exercise? Because I think just walking people through that, and we definitely have to make this available for download because if you’re listening to us you have to do this exercise because it’s going to open up your eyes in terms of where the gaps are in your life and where you can make conscious decisions in terms of what you should be focusing on and what you should not be focusing on.

Mike: [00:23:46] Yeah definitely. And so the resources we’ll provide the PDF link in the show notes. But before you even start with that PDF, I would first challenge you to think about where you want to be in the future. And this is something that sounds, I don’t know you probably heard this a lot. You need to have your vision, you need to have your purpose, but it’s really easy to dismiss the importance of this. A lot of people myself included you can think like oh well I want to have a want to accomplish this goal. But if you never take the time to really walk through and put details on it and flesh this thing out, just doing that can make this really stick. So I would say start with where you want to be in the future, whether that’s five years 10 years 20 years from now and then think through all the details of future you, what does that look or feel like, what does a day to future you look like? What do you do on a typical day or what kind of house do you live and what kind of car do you drive? What kind of relationship do you have with your spouse or your kids? And then from there you can identify the things that you need to do that are going to help you create that ideal future. That’s the that’s the key is this intentionality that ideal future. It’s not only achievable it’s actually inevitable if you just do the right things every day but the problem is, for everybody. Like I said myself included. The tendency is to react to the things that are urgent and when you react to the things that are urgent it’s really easy to get off course.

Thanh: [00:25:17] One thing I would love to add here is when I say that this exercise where I wrote down my vision, it’s really easy– and I, man I’ve done this exercise so many times and and the reason I say so many times is because I’ve done it in my head so many times I’ve never done it on paper before until maybe like two years ago, and that made a huge huge difference because it’s easy to say OK let’s imagine your ideal situation in your life. You know you just like start to fantasize a little bit in your head and start to think oh you know this is what it looks like like this. This is how it is and then before you know it like you just forget about that. But if you write it down and you have it on paper somewhere and you just consciously think about it and you are really really detailed about it. I’m talking about like the color of your car. I’m talking about. Like if you have grass in your yard if you have like a lawnmower or something that you love to drive. If you have like you know a certain type of house what color is it’s like was smell like as soon as you walk in. Like the more detailed you are the more you can imagine it. And when you write that down you get super super super specific about these things then it’s really easy to only remember your vision but also to get excited about it. And then all the things coming after this exercise will be relatively easy because you’ll start to see like we’re all the missing gaps in your life, so don’t be like me of a couple of years ago where you just try to do it in your head because trust me you’re going to do it like 50 times and you’re just going to think 50 times about the same thing whereas if you just wrote it down and just remember that and just look at it every now and you only have to do it once. So don’t make that same mistake I did.

Mike: [00:27:08] Yeah it is crazy how much more ownership you take of this dream or vision when you write it down. And this is not just for a dream or vision this is for basic goal setting as well. We mentioned in the rituals course the percentage of people who succeed in accomplishing their goal triples when they write it down. And it’s the same thing for especially for something important like your ultimate dream or the future that you want. Why would you not take the time to write that down. We’re not just blowing smoke. You really need to do this because when you do this it’s going to I can’t even describe it but just like you said it’s going to solidify so many more things is going to tie up so many loose ends in your head and you’re going to really get excited about it. You’re going to feel like yeah this is this is totally going to happen because I can see this now.

Thanh: [00:27:53] Yeah, the thing that made me realize how powerful this was is when your vision is really clear and you can see it you can imagine and you can almost like smell it touch it and you face current reality. You’ll start to see where all the gaps are, and you can know where all the gaps are in your life if you don’t know what the ideal future looks like if that makes sense. So you really just have to sit down do this exercise it and get really clear on it. And even your personal life also your business. It’s the same idea. Like to clear your vision. If you’re listening to this and you’ve had moments we had a super clear vision on something you just know that once you had it everything else became so much easier. Every decision you made became easier. Everything you wanted to do became more fun. But if you have no clarity it’s very difficult to move ahead very fast. Like I kind of compare it to driving in the foggy weather like if you drive a car and it’s foggy outside it’s dark. You know you turn on the lights and you can’t really look far ahead. You just drive really slow. That’s what it’s like when you have like like a really bad vision. You just can’t go far ahead. But if you have really good vision for yourself and it’s very specific and you know exactly what it’s like then it’s always like driving when it’s sunny outside. It’s super clear it’s like blue skies. You can see far ahead. You can drive really fast because you know where you’re going you have a GPS right there telling you how to get there and it’s like night and day difference. And it’s the same thing here. So I just– OK we stressed enough how important it is to have a good vision so let’s just move on.

Mike: [00:29:42] Sure. And it’s important to do this because this is going to provide the measuring stick for how close you are to your ideal future for the next eight different areas which we are going to run through here one by one. Then the exercise that you’re going to do here is going to rate yourself from one to 10 in all of these different areas and if you’re close to your ideal future and any one of these areas and your rating is going to be higher and if you’re really far away from that detailed vision that you created in any of these areas then you’re going to rate that lower. But the first area in the wheel of life is the physical environment.

Mike: [00:30:15] So this is the environment where you live and you work so some of the questions that you might answer here would be- Are you happy with your environment? For example do you wish your house was a little bigger, maybe you work from home and you like your environment but you wish you had a private home office that you could retreat to whenever you need to do focused work like me. But identify the things in your physical environment that could be improved to make it even better. And then the second one is career and work. This is kind of where we started this conversation with the work-life balance, but how fulfilling is your work or your career right now? Because if it’s fulfilling you’re not going to have to make that decision of this versus that. Are you happy with the type of work that you do. Does it bring meaning and fulfillment to you? And if not what would a fulfilling career actually mean to you? Would you say that right now you’re on a positive career path? You want to at this point identify the type of work that you really want to do so that you can make adjustments if it’s necessary. So the next one here is family and friends. Do you have a circle of friends that energize and encourage you? What about your family or are they supportive of your goals and your dreams? How content are you with your close relationships right now? Ask yourself what would make these relationships even better? The next area is romance and love. For some this category may refer to a boyfriend or girlfriend. For others this is a spouse, and are you satisfied with the happiness and the meaningfulness of your relationship with your significant other and then once again what could make it even better? Next is fun and recreation and many people who are very productive, myself included, tend to neglect this category but it’s very important because this is what helps you recharge. So what are the things that you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies, do you play any sports? What do you enjoy doing that maybe you don’t do enough of? Next area is health and fitness so taking care of your body you’ve mentioned a little bit earlier this is really important. If you don’t you’re not going to have enough energy for the things that you really enjoy doing or the people that you like to be around. So what kind of shape are you in overall? If any health problems are present are you receiving the appropriate care for those things? What do you currently do with regard to exercise? Once again what could you do even better? Seventh area is money and finances and while money isn’t everything it is necessary to achieve a certain level of living that maybe you desire to have. Remember your ideal future. Do you feel financially free or financially secure? How satisfied are you with your current level of income? What impact would financial independence have on your life? And then lastly is personal growth. So Jim Rohn once said that your level of success is rarely going to exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become. Can’t neglect this one. Be honest with yourself. Are you living the life that you want it or is it one that someone else wants for you? Do you feel fulfilled spiritually? Do you feel like you are growing? Do you have enough “me” time? And then these different, eight different areas make up what we call the Wheel of Life. And like I said you can actually download this in the show notes for this episode and what you want to do next is you want to rate yourself from one to 10 and all these different areas, 1 being this area needs a ton of attention. 10 meaning that I’m doing really really well. And then from there what you want to do is identify the areas that need the most help and you want to focus on those areas you want to bring those areas back up to acceptable levels.

Thanh: [00:33:55] So here’s a crazy idea Mike. As you know at Asian Efficiency we have this thing called a brand promise, right, which is actionable content that you can use right away and implement. And I was thinking what if we do like a live session of this exercise maybe on me so that we can walk through it and people can see and listen how it actually works. And you can kind of like coach me through it and see how the whole process works so that they can implement it themselves. What do you think of that?

Mike: [00:34:28] Yeah that would be awesome. If you want to go under the microscope.

Thanh: [00:34:32] OK I’ll just have to be brutally honest here and you’ll just have to coach me and guide me a little bit through this exercise. But I think it’s going to be really valuable to the listener and so that they can see how they can implement it themselves.

Mike: [00:34:43] Definitely.

Thanh: [00:34:44] OK so what’s the first thing?

Mike: [00:34:47] First thing is the physical environment. So how happy are you with your physical environment Thanh?

Thanh: [00:34:53] So, if I think about the city that I live in, which is currently Austin Texas, I used to really really love it. And now I kind of love it, because I’ve been here for a couple of years now and I kind of feel like I want to move to a bigger city. So it used to be pretty high but I would say maybe like a seven like a there’s definitely room for growth there for sure, when it comes to my working environment and in the city to live– like personally living at home. I love my home like I have a great set up. I think it could be a little bit bigger now not have been here for a while. But yeah I’m pretty content with it overall so I would say physical environment, 7.

Mike: [00:35:40] All right. Next one is career and work so, how satisfied are you with Asian Efficiency?

Thanh: [00:35:49] Let’s see. So over the last year or so I’ve been pretty good at delegating stuff and now I do a lot of the things that I’m good at and that I enjoy doing. There’s still a few things that I do that I would love to delegate and have somebody else do who is much better than I am. So overall I’m pretty content with this I would say like probably and 8, like pretty happy with it overall.

Mike: [00:36:16] OK next one then is family and friends.

Thanh: [00:36:21] Family and friends. OK so let’s see. So I see my family probably every six weeks or so. Like I try to fly to L.A., California every six weeks see them there. You know I’ve good relationships with my parents, with my brothers. There’s no drama in our lives. That’s great. I have friends all over the world so it’s kind of hard to see all of them frequently. I have a couple of friends here in Austin but I wouldn’t call them like super super close friends so I definitely think there’s room for growth there. So maybe like six or seven, something like that. If if I could see my family more often than six weeks be a little bit too much I think because I like to live my own life as well. But I think the friends department could maybe use some work for sure. Yeah.

Mike: [00:37:13] All right. So which one you want to pick, six or seven?

Thanh: [00:37:17] Let’s go with six. Yeah.

Mike: [00:37:19] And then without going into too much detail. Romance and love is the next section.

Thanh: [00:37:26] So I’m single, very content very very conscious decision regarding that. So the struggle I have here is that’s because I travel so much and have a weird schedule in a lot of ways. It’s very difficult to maintain relationships with with women. So there has always been this sticky thing but that has been a very conscious decision because Asian Efficiency is more important to me than romance or love. Right now at least right now, at this stage of my life. So that could definitely use some work but I’m pretty happy with my life in that sense. And I could go on and date like anytime I wanted to. So it’s not like I’m missing options there or anything like that and. I would say you know probably a 7. If I had a girlfriend who would be super super awesome, then yeah that would definitely increase that to you like a 9 or something but that person doesn’t exist yet apparently. So I’m going to go with a 7.

Mike: [00:38:29] Nice. All right fun and recreation.

Thanh: [00:38:31] Fun and recreation. So I just came back from Tokyo so I’m a little bit skewed here. I’m going to say like a 9. But on the weekends like I do a lot of stuff outside. I have a lot of hobbies that I do like playing board games with you over over the internets, doing hip hop dancing, doing a lot of reading, exploring cities, traveling. So I’m pretty happy with that. I would say like a 9 probably.

Mike: [00:39:03] All right, next section then is health and fitness.

Thanh: [00:39:06] So I work out pretty consistently three times a week. I’m kind of like in maintenance mode so I’m not like trying to get in shape or anything. I’m also not trying to like bulk up or anything. I’m just like I’m working out just to maintain. So I’m not you know, in fitness shape or anything like that. I’m just like working out to stay healthy to say energized and stuff like that, so there’s definitely room for growth there. So I’d probably say it’s like a 6.

Mike: [00:39:35] Now this is really interesting because these are back to back. Didn’t really plan this. But you mentioned hip hop dancing for fun and recreation. And that could also help bolster the health and fitness area so that synergy between the activities that you choose to do can actually bolster more than one of these areas. Just thought that was worth calling out.

Thanh: [00:39:57] Yeah. That’s true. Like I didn’t think of hip hop classes as fitness even though you know I sweat when I’m there. I think of it really just like taking my mind off and learning a new skill. So it’s like more of a mastery project for me rather than like a fitness thing. But I see what you mean yeah.

Mike: [00:40:15] All right then the next one is money and finances.

Thanh: [00:40:19] Money and finances, I always want to make more money. So just to be you know, it’s kind of hard to say because it’s very relative I guess like I’m already probably like a top bracket earner in that sense. So I’m always striving to make more money and who doesn’t. You know obviously so I’m pretty happy with the money situation now. But I’m always striving for more. So I don’t know how. Like how would I score myself there?

Mike: [00:40:48] Well I guess maybe this question out of the ones that I had given earlier is is most applicable to your situation. How satisfied are you with your current level of income?

Thanh: [00:40:57] I would probably say like a seven or eight. Like satisfied with it. But I’m definitely wanting wanting more kind of thing. To keep myself hungry I’m going to say 7.

Mike: [00:41:09] All right. And then the last area is personal growth.

Thanh: [00:41:13] Personal growth. Let’s see. So I read pretty consistently. So that’s good. I feel like 2016. I haven’t challenge for myself as much. So I didn’t go to a lot of seminars. I didn’t go to a lot of conferences or masterminds which is kind of changing this year because I’ve been to a bunch of masterminds and conferences already. And that was a conscious decision as well because I knew I was lacking in that area. So I would say it was probably like a four or five last year. Right now it’s probably like a six or seven. So let’s rate it a little bit lower. Probably say a 6. Definitely think there’s a lot more room there.

Mike: [00:41:52] OK. So just to recap, physical environment: 7, career/work: 8, family and friends: 6, romance and love: 7, fun and recreation: 9, health and fitness: 6, money and finances: 7, personal growth: 6. And if you download the PDF that goes along with this wheel of life what will happen is you start from the center and you color in the sections as they radiate outwards from the middle. So what you have as you go through these eight different areas is a very visual indicator of which areas need to be focused on. Now what’s interesting about this and why you’re maybe not a great test subject Thanh, is that you mentioned like personal growth last year was a four or five. So you’ve already started course correcting in that particular area. But for somebody who this is the first time that they’ve done this exercise, what you would do is you would focus on the areas that have the lowest numbers, so for example your family and your friends have a six, your health and fitness was a six. Personal Growth you said it was a 6. So if I were looking at these results what I would say is over the next, going back to a 12 week year planning method. Let’s just say over the next 12 weeks, your next 12 week year plan, what you want to do is you want to first of all identify the outcomes that you want in these specific areas. These are the ones that I would focus on, and then from there what you want to do is over that 12 week period you want to kind of identify like the major milestones that you have to accomplish, and then you want to break that down even further into the daily habits or rituals that you need to create so that success in any one of these given areas is inevitable. And you’re kind of a little bit of an edge case because like I said you’re already kind of implementing this already even if you weren’t really familiar with this whole exercise and the way that I framed it in the first place like you know this stuff you do this through Asian Efficiency so you’ve already kind of fixed things behind the scenes. But what most people will see when they do this this exercise is that there’s usually a couple of these areas that are really really high and a couple of areas that are really really low. And those are the ones that are that are the ones that you want to focus on, those are the things that you want to intentionally choose. These are the things that are important but maybe not necessarily are not urgent. If they were urgent you wouldn’t have neglected them consistently for the last several months or even years. And then you want to figure out what is the small actions that I can do every single day that are going to make significant progress in this particular area where massive action on this goal is is pretty much guaranteed as long as I follow through on these specific things.

Thanh: [00:44:31] Yeah when you were mentioning all the scores I kind of realized yeah kind of a good baseline of everything. Everything is either a 6 or higher which is kind of good in that sense. But I guess this is another a way of saying I’m a badass I guess.

Mike: [00:44:49] You are hashtag Asian Efficient, a productivity ninja.

Thanh: [00:44:53] But I like I like what you said. It’s important that the next step after that is, ok if you make it a 12 week year project, you break it down into smaller steps so you focus on one thing. So maybe like if one of my areas was a 2, I would then pick that particular area and focus on a particular outcome in that particular area. So for example let’s say personal growth was a 2 or 3, you would say to me OK Thanh. You want to focus on personal growth, what are some of the things you could do there. What’s the ultimate outcome? And I would say oh you know I would love to maybe learn a new skill or I would learn more about the particular area of business or whatever and then I would like figure out a way to break that down to milestones. So for example attending a seminar on this or talking to somebody who is an expert at this or reading a book about this and yada yada yada. Is that how you see it?

Mike: [00:45:47] Exactly. Yeah. And what’s really cool about this exercise is that it doesn’t matter if you are not anywhere close to where you want to be and this is the first time you’ve done it in all of your scores are low, or maybe you’ve been implementing this stuff for a while and have a very strong Why, you’re connected to your vision and you’re living out your dream. There’s still going to be room for improvement. So the process is the same for each one of those people. It really does not matter what stage of life or what your situation is if you start implementing this stuff you will get those compound results. The trick is to not try to do everything at once. And that’s where the whole– you know we started with the whole idea of work-life balance, and the implication there is that we’re going to keep all of these plates spinning at the same time whether we realize that it’s two plates or four plates or six plates or eight plates. And the approach with this Wheel of Life exercise and intentional imbalance is that you want to focus on the areas that need the– that have the greatest need and then just by doing that consistently and re-evaluating every three months if you’re implementing the 12 week year. But I mean really you could use it over whatever time period you want, but a process is the same if you consistently focus on the things that are important and you’re intentional about how you invest your time your attention your energy and your focus. Then you will achieve that future that you want. So speaking of the 12 Week Year, I mentioned at the beginning this episode is actually inspired by the awesome video module that Brandon created on the 12 week year in the dojo. And there’s a lot more to this topic which Brandon and I discussed in the last episode but the module that he produced for the dojo not only includes a detailed walkthrough about how to implement the 12 week year, but also a bunch of software tools that Brandon created and resources that are top notch. So if you really want to dive deep on this topic you definitely want to check out the dojo. And as a listener of the podcast we’ve got a special offer just for you. The dojo is currently closed to the public but if you go to theproductivityshow.com/dojo, you can not only get access to the private training library, which includes that 12 week year module and all the resources and supplemental materials. But you also get access to the forums, where dojo members share what’s working for them. They hold each other accountable to the 12 week year goals, and you also get access to the private Slack team. So on the Slack team you get direct access to the Asian Efficiency team. Best part about all this is that you get it all for just a dollar for your first month and after that it’s just $29 a month. You can cancel at any time. With membership to the dojo you also get exclusive software discounts on some of our favorite productivity apps like BusyCal, Hazel, and even TextExpander. So if you want to join a community that can help you achieve your goals. Check out the dojo today by going to theproductivityshow.com/dojo. Again that URL is the productivity show dot com slash dojo. You can also find links to everything that we discussed today including the Wheel of Life exercise in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/139. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next productive Monday.

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  1. Appreciate these transcripts. I listen to every podcast and sometimes reading through the transcripts again is a quick way to refresh my memory and also take in the discussion through visual means on top of the audio input.

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