Forget Work/Life Balance: How to Design A Life with Intention & Purpose Instead

I don’t believe in work-life balance

We only get one life and it can’t be cleanly split into work and personal as if neither holds any relevance to the other. We spend such a significant percentage of our lives working so treating our work identity as somehow wholly separate from our true person is like stealing a part of our lives from ourselves.

We all want meaning in life, and while we like to separate our personal lives and fill it with home and family and hobbies, there’s also meaning to be gained from our work.

It’s important to me that everyone who comes to work on our team aligns with our core value "make meaningfully" and finds purpose in the work they are doing everyday. Whether or not it's in your job or otherwise—how do you create a meaningful life?

Designing a meaningful life

Prioritizing your time can be difficult with the demands we are faced with today, but ensuring you don’t pit your “work life” against your “personal life” requires purposeful decision making. The principles of design don’t just apply to products and processes, but living a purposeful life. A life of meaning requires thoughtful, intentional decision making and design.

Designing a meaningful life is similar to the way you establish strategies for a business, and regularly reflect to ask “how’s it going? Do we need to pivot? What do we need to tweak? What are we refining?”

It's the same thing from a personal standpoint.

What may have worked in your 20s may be different in your 30s, may be different in your 40s. It’s a constant evolution. The more experiences I have, the more knowledge I gain, and the more I'm learning and evolving as a human. I’m continually evaluating—how am I filling my plate with things that inspire and are joyful and creative and intellectual and challenging.

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It may seem overwhelming to dive head first into thinking about your life in this context, but here are 5 things you can do today to help you live the life you always dreamed of.

1. Take annual inventory - reflect and plan for the next year

As the adage goes, you can’t know where you're going until you know where you've been. It’s important to regularly reflect on your goals, how well you’re progressing, and what you can do differently.

Every December 31st I take inventory of my year. I look at that across the whole gamut of my life, including both business and personal things. What was awesome? What wasn’t so great? What do I need to work on? What am I going to chart for my course for the next year if I dream this big dream? Make sure to write it all down. A great “dreamstorming” session really helps clarify what the next year will be and set your priorities to make sure your dreams come true.

2. Think big

Don’t hold yourself back in your dreamstorming session. Take a full inventory of everything on your list to create your most meaningful life. Expand the realm of possibilities. Understanding what those big dreams look like can help you prioritize the things that will help you get there.

Want to take that big vacation next year? Want to start your own business? Want to get that big promotion? Want to be more active in philanthropy? Write it down, then move to #3.

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3. Develop quarterly goals (personal and work)

When you set your quarterly goals for work, include your personal objectives too. It’s important to be constantly challenging yourself to be present and conscious about where you're flowing your energy and your time and being able to pivot when you need to.

At work we use EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, to track goals. We do quarterly retreats and look at what are we prioritizing and where does it fit in the bigger picture, and that model also works great for planning the rest of your life. Ensure all your goals, both personal and business, have quarterly objectives so you actually have something achievable to work towards every day.

4. Hold yourself accountable

All the planning in the world is useless without accountability. Make sure you break your goals down into smaller, more bite sized tasks and track your progress for each. Saying you want to accomplish something is a great first step, but if you don’t have a way of knowing how much closer you’ve gotten, or how much further you have to go, you’ll be off track before you know it.

I love my Full Focus Planner for helping me stay accountable. It breaks things down from year to quarter to week to day, allowing me to see my goals visually (written down) and to track progress easily.

5. Surround yourself with people who care

Each year I plan time with life coaches and gurus and my tribe of closest friends to realize my most meaningful life. This year I hosted a Tribe Long Weekend with sessions on nutrition, spirituality, yoga, and discussions on leadership, life, and design. We work to learn more about ourselves and the evolution of self. Sharing with this group helps keeps me on track and provides a support system of those who can help guide me, share resources, and support me through failures.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of intentionality. Without mindfully designing your life, you’ll always find yourself struggling to balance the work/life dichotomy. But if you recognize that they’re actually both the same life and treat all objectives as life objectives, take regular inventory, establish clear quarterly goals, and track your progress, you’ll find a true balance and an ability to make meaningfully in all areas of your life.