I was lucky enough to take part in the very first "Reboot Your Life" weekend retreat offered by The Sabbatical Sisters. I was on the second leg of my train trip around the country, arriving in Santa Fe from Los Angeles. Eight of us converged on Cathy Allen's beautiful home for a wide variety of discussions and exercises designed to make us rethink the use of our time.
One of the most interesting exercises is to set goals once a year that are achievable, and then take a look at the end of the year to see how you have done. You can read exactly how to undertake the "goals circle exercise" in the book written by the four Sabbatical Sisters -- Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith -- titled Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break available on Amazon. com.
This exercise is in the chapter titled "Living the Lifelong Sabbatical."
Since 2009, I've taken New Year's Day to look at last year's circle and then to make adjustments when I make a new one, often because I've learned something about myself from the review. Here's how you would proceed:
Make a circle and divide it into six to eight pie slices, which you then label with aspects of your life. I use six slices, and they are labeled health, creativity, books, financial, career, and personal.
The next step is to identify five goals for the new year in each category. This can take longer than one sitting; and indeed you'll find that some of the pie slices change from year to year because of projects you might undertake. Once you've completed this portion of the exercise, then pick out the goal in each category that is most important to you. Make a new circle with only a single goal in each slice, and keep it with you to remind yourself and review progress during the year.
All of the slices are designed to have equal weight so that you have begun to balance your time more evenly across these aspects of life.
How did I do in 2011? I can see now that I have actually blended a couple of slices: somehow "publish the personal safety book" is part of the career slice as much as it is in its own books slice. Creativity got exercised in its own slice through photography, this blog and gardening. The personal and health and financial slices each show movement toward the type of balance I'm working on. Career is the one still giving me the most challenge, as I experiment with multiple roles, adding still another this spring when I teach an operational risk course at the University of Washington.
Those of you who have never made a circle and divided it evenly in a deliberate attempt to rebalance your life might want to give it a try. There's a certain lightness of spirit that comes from this exercise year after year.
Happy New Year and new circle!