It is normal to have periods of time when you seem to need to be constantly running to keep up. There are also short periods when the need to manage multiple competing pressures can bring some benefits in terms of motivation, satisfaction and efficiency. However, if such periods of heightened stress continue for an extended period, it can be extremely draining and you risk damaging your health. If it feels like you’ve been running for too long already, it might be a good point to audit your life to assess what changes might help reset the right balance for you.
How to do a Life Audit
There are different possible approaches to auditing your life, depending both on personal preference and your gut-feeling about the areas that might need to be worked on and improved. The basic approach requires you to set aside some time - a few hours ideally - to think, make notes and analyse how things are going right now, and also what goals you aim to achieve in different aspects of your life. This exercise can be completed individually, in a group, or with a coach to help. The good news, though, is that you need nothing more than some time, some post-it notes and a pen in order to set about this important exercise.
Consider your Roles
One method of doing a life audit is to think about the different roles you play in everyday life - employee, sister, husband, friend, charity volunteer, godparent, son or boss - and how satisfied you are with the way you’re able to perform in these roles. Score yourself out of ten for each different role, and spend time thinking about those that stand out as scoring lower than you would like them to.
If you have been forced to admit that your ’daughter’ score is pretty low because of the difficulties in visiting your parents elsewhere in the country, think about how you can keep in better contact through Skype calls or letters. If you’re feeling guilty about not being able to uphold commitments made to a charitable organisation, then invest some time thinking about what you can realistically achieve - are there more impactful ways you can help which won’t leave you with a nagging feeling of not doing enough?
Simply taking time to think about the different - and often competing - roles you fulfil in life will certainly help you work out where you need to invest more time to balance your emotional ties, and might help you see if you’re trying to do too much, and spreading yourself too thin for true satisfaction.
Consider your Goals
An alternative approach to completing a life audit is to start with the goals you wish to achieve, listing out those you can think of and covering such areas as, work, adventure, creativity, family, emotional and spiritual well being. This should take some considerable time - don’t self-censor, or think any goals are too silly to write down.
One approach, suggested here, is to aim for a hundred post-it notes, with one goal or wish on each, to make sure you challenge yourself by hitting a high number to start with. Once you have a good sized pile of post-it notes, group them along the categories that are meaningful to you - perhaps these will be career, emotional or creative life, family, spiritual and physical health, and so on. The goals then need to be sorted into short, medium and long term, in order to create more of a structure within each category. As you work through this process, a set of tangible aims will start to emerge, against which you can evaluate your everyday activities - how many of the things you are doing today will move you closer to your goals, and is it enough for the pace you wish to achieve?
Generating Questions before Solutions
Both of these approaches generate questions - where are you in life right now, what’s going well, what is more difficult? Where are you going and what route are you taking? The solutions to these questions take time to materialise, but the value of a life audit is in finding the questions, as well as starting to find the answers. Without taking some time to step off the roundabout of life every so often, it is impossible to clearly see the path you are following, let alone the destination you’re headed for.
So if you decide to take the time to audit your life, don’t worry when you produce more questions than you do answers - this is only the start of the journey, but at least you can be more confident that you’re headed to the right destination.