A Little Secret About Leading a Balanced Life

Leading a balanced life is often considered the light at the end of the tunnel. We want to be productive and make enough money to spend more time with our loved ones and to pursue our personal hobbies and interests.

But I’ve discovered a little secret about having a balanced life, based on personal experience and Dr Neil Fiore’s highly recommended book: The Now Habit.

The secret might seem absurd to some, but on closer examination, and by putting this little secret into practice, you will realize how true it is.

The Little Secret

Being productive won’t lead to a balanced life, but a balanced life will boost your productivity!

Sounds strange?

Then let me explain, with an example from my own life, which I am sure you have experienced before.

The Balanced Life and Me

I am usually involved in several projects at any one time. Some projects I find more interesting than others, but I always feel obliged to do the less interesting projects, either due to work commitments or because they are urgent. Therefore, I end up putting my interesting projects on hold until I can get the not-so-interesting projects out of the way.

What about family time? I tend to minimize that time as I get too busy doing professional work, and I usually promise my wife that when I’m done with all my professional commitments I will be able to spend more time with her and the kids.

But the problem is that when I commit the entire day to professional work I’m not usually very productive. In fact, the entire day can slip by without me accomplishing anything!

I end up wondering where the time went and how come I didn’t make the most use of it. And the reasons are very simple.

Reasons Why an Unbalanced Life is Less Productive

Recreational time and pursuing our hobbies isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. We need some time off from intensive work so that we can recharge our energies, regain our focus and revive our passions.

When we put everything we enjoy on hold, life will seem bleak and we will resist the work we “need” to get done as we lament over not having the chance to do the activities we want to do. This is one of the reasons why we check our emails, surf the ‘Net, alternate between different tasks and many other procrastination techniques: we try to experience some form of relaxation while doing our work, but we end up feeling more stressed because we aren’t doing our work and feel guilty about everything else we do!

Besides, is checking emails every 3 minutes as interesting and energizing as going for a swim, or having a family picnic, or meeting up with friends?

By dedicating all our living hours to work, we won’t have the focus necessary to get the results we want. We need to make time for all other areas of our life so that life becomes enjoyable and we aren’t depriving ourselves of an essential part of our lives.

Dr Fiore’s Un-Schedule

One of the tips given by Dr Fiore in The Now Habit is using an Un-Schedule. An Un-Schedule is a schedule that isn’t filled by all your work commitments but, instead, by all the recreational activities you want to do! Instead of trying to make time for recreational activities around work commitments (which you will find hard to do), the Un-Schedule forces you to place your fun activities as a commitment on your schedule and to do your work around your fun commitments.

This way, you have a more realistic vision of the actual time you have to get your work done and it forces you to be focused while doing your work, without allowing your work hours to stretch beyond their necessary limits.

Having a balanced life is a great way to be productive, and you need to keep reminding yourself of this little secret.

For more information on the psychology behind procrastination and great tips on how to lead a balanced and productive life, check out The Now Habit!


Structured Spontaneity

Many people find joy in breaking their daily routines and doing things that are completely spontaneous. Routines are seen as restrictions and spontaneity is seen as liberation.

However, routines can serve an important role in our lives and bring about advantages that we would not enjoy without them. So rather than seeking to escape from routines we should look for a way to combine the benefits of both structure and spontaneity in a single schedule.

This is where Structured Spontaneity can come to the rescue!


Sticking to a single routine that we repeat day in and day out can be boring and numbing to the mind and body. There is nothing new, and everything we face during our days is to be expected, since we’ve experienced it for a number of days already.

But there are several benefits to routines that we need to admit. A couple of benefits:

  • No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel: Our daily schedule consists of many choices that can be overwhelming if we try to calculate a decision every day. Routines are decisions that we have made in the past and are re-using because the result is what we want.
  • Some Things Need to Be Repeated: We can’t be satisfied with an exercise routine we did 5 years ago. Exercise needs to be done on a regular basis. Routines help us fit in the activities that we should be doing regularly.


Acting spontaneously brings excitement to our day and new experiences that have our minds buzzing with new ideas. We feel active, engaged and enjoying a new decision that we have made, which makes as feel like human beings with free-will, as opposed to the feeling of being a cog in a massive system.

Spontaneity can help us consider new opportunities, experiment with new activities and break out of our comfort zones without feeling anxious or fearful.

The Best of Both Worlds: Structured Spontaneity

Just as routines can offer advantages in some areas, spontaneity would be a poor option in these areas. We cannot base our exercise routine on when we feel like exercising, since exercise, by its nature, requires a level of consistency.

Structured spontaneity is when you use a structure to manage your commitments but varying the content of this structure, or rearranging the times you carry out your activities.

What does that mean in practical terms?

1- You begin by looking at the things that you would like to do on a regular basis (exercise, going out with the family, seeing friends, etc) and deciding how regularly you wish to do them.

This will be a list that’s separate from your calendar because you want to keep a reminder for yourself of what these activities are (and there’s a likelihood you forget them once the week or the month passes by)

2- For the time slot that you have allocated for each activity, you can either decide to do something new in that time (e.g. take your family to a place you’ve never been to before) or change the time of that time slot (e.g. rather than make the family outing on Saturday, move it to the evening on Tuesday)

This way, the activities that are meant to be repeated on a regular basis are done on a regular basis but not too rigidly in order to make room for variation without compromising the essence of each activity.


Personal State of Emergency

In politics, a State of Emergency is a government declaration that extends the authority of government to a scope beyond its normal bounds. In effect, a democratic country can enforce dictatorial policies to respond to a threat.

This is something we’re hearing more about in recent years because of the threat of terrorism.

What distinguishes a democratic country in a state of emergency and a dictatorship is that a dictatorship is in a constant state of emergency, whereas democratic countries can only go into a state of emergency for a limited period of time.

So what has this got to do with personal growth?

“State of emergency” and “dictatorship” are useful terms to use when trying to understand how we can achieve balance. Our lives involve a number of areas, such as professional work, family time, etc (I will reveal the Seven Life Areas when I launch the Personal Growth Map E-book :D).

When we struggle to achieve balance, we are essentially giving one area of our lives more time and attention than it deserves, because it is taking our time and attention away from all other areas. This is how one area of our lives can act as a dictatorship. It prevents us from having balance, from giving our loved ones the attention they deserve, from pursuing our interests, etc.

However, it is sometimes unrealistic to expect to have balance when facing an emergency. To strive for balance would mean that you are not giving the emergency the attention it deserves, because it now deserves more attention than all other life areas. This isn’t to say that the other life areas should be completely ignored when faced with an emergency, but that they would not receive as much attention as you would like to give them.

When you are starting a business, for example, there are many, many things you will need to manage in order to set up a stable business. You cannot prolong the time you take to address these issues, because you might be in desperate need of cash. Therefore, you need to enter a Personal State of Emergency in order to effectively manage this life area.

This means that you knowingly go into a state of imbalance, grant a single life area more attention, while reducing your commitment to all other life areas. But this state of imbalance can only be done temporarily, until you manage the emergency, and can return to normal life.

What’s important about distinguishing between a personal state of emergency and a personal dictatorship is that you do not feel guilty for being in a state of imbalance when the circumstances you are in demand that you give more attention to a single life area. If this imbalance happens to be a chronic situation, then you are living in a personal dictatorhip, which isn’t a pleasant way to live.

Make sure you limit your states of imbalance to definite time periods so that you can manage your emergencies and get back to normal life.