How many times have you sworn you were going to get your life together?
It’s an appealing proposition, but also an overwhelming one. How does one advance a career while being a good parent, loving spouse, and devoted friend? Is it possible to lose ten pounds while doing so? How does one balance these things with community involvement and plain old simple fun? And what about the bills? Term papers? Is there time in between these things to travel, or even just to read an insightful book?
There are so many competing aspects of our lives to balance. Trying to care for one priority often leaves us neglecting another. We can spend our whole lives just trying to catch up, always running two steps behind our most important goals.
Luckily, Jenny Blake, a former Google career coach and job strategist, has developed a simple – and enjoyable – tool that can help.
Blake suggests using a Mind Map to design your ideal life in a visual way.
A Mind Map can help you to organize, prioritize, and, most importantly, to identify your goals with clarity. It is somewhat revolutionary in that it combines all aspects of your life in equal measure. It is rare to see professional and personal goals blended in a planning tool, and much more so to see them alongside financial, romantic, travel, and fitness aspirations.
But isn’t this how our lives work in reality?
Here’s how to create a mind map for yourself:
1. Write the year at the center of your paper.
This should be an annual exercise, designed to keep you on track for long-term success.
2. Draw spokes from the year to each aspect of your life that you find meaningful.
These may include work, family, friendships, intellectual stimulation, physical fitness, spirituality, community service, romantic pursuits, financial goals, travel, creativity, skill development, education, or even a unique hobby. If it’s important to you, it goes on the map.
3. For each category, ask yourself what a successful year would look like in that area.
Would you like to save ten percent of your income? Connect with a dear friend on a weekly basis? Earn a promotion to a managerial position? Engage in bi-monthly date nights? Experiment with a new skill – such as planting a garden or learning a musical instrument?
4. Define SMART goals
– specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based – that would help you to feel accomplished and fulfilled in each area. Record these on additional spokes coming out of each category. For example, if one of your identified priorities is “physical fitness”, your spokes may include adhering to a healthy meal plan six days each week, committing to eight hours of sleep every night, and exercising on Wednesdays and Fridays.
5. Step back and view your mind map as a whole.
Does this reflect your ideal life? Do you see your best self on this map? Are you excited about the idea of achieving these things? If not, remember you have the power to change it at any time. After all, it’s your map!
“With mind mapping you are taking pen to paper, going old-school,” said Blake of her method. “The goal is to break out of linear thinking. Go broad. Go big. Go sideways, and then experiment to see which of your ideas is most likely to lead to a resonant next step.”