Wisdom//

Let’s Get Lopsided!

“There is no such thing as a work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” — Alain de Botton

Hero Images/Getty Images
Hero Images/Getty Images

The first time I actually said “Pick Three” out loud was in a moment of frustration. It was approximately the one hundredth time I was part of a conference panel where I’d been asked by the moderator, “Randi, you’re a mom AND you have a career. How do you balance it all?” Of course, nobody would ever ask the men on the panel that question. Like it’s some ancient secret that the exact same skill set that makes someone a great mom (orga- nization, prioritization, long-term planning, patience, creativity) also makes someone just as great an employee or entrepreneur (shocker!).

Most of the time when I’d get that same inquiry (that is, every time I’m on a panel), I’d grit my teeth, force a smile, and say something trite about how I try to balance it all. Except for one day when I just couldn’t muster up the strength to BS through it anymore. After the unsuspecting mediator asked how I balance it all, I shook my head and said, “I don’t.

“In order to set myself up for success, I know I can only realistically do three things well every day. So, every day when I wake up, I think to myself: Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick Three. I can pick a different three tomorrow, and a different three the following day. But today, I can only pick three. As long as I wind up picking everything over the long run, then I’m balancing my imbalance. It’s solving the great entrepreneur’s dilemma.”

And almost immediately I was quoted in business publications around the world. Pick Three had gone viral.

I later realized that the dilemma doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs—it applies to EVERYONE. No matter what you do for a living, where you live, or what your responsibilities are, nobody can have it all without a little bit of sacrifice, focus, and energy. Over time I stopped talking about “the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma” and focused on Pick Three. Not only is it more inclusive, it’s instructional.

The five main categories in your life might be slightly different than mine, but for the purposes of this book—and the forthcoming exercises—let’s assume that my five categories work for you as well:

WORK, SLEEP, FAMILY, FITNESS, FRIENDS: THE BREAKDOWN

Work
Projects where you contribute time and, in return, derive value, which could be in the form of money, passion, meaning, a sense of contribution to something greater, or a stepping-stone to a long-term goal. Value could result from a traditional job, a passion project, a class or coursework at school, an internship, a charitable initiative, etc. You are creating output for some sort of input.

Sleep
That pesky thing that eats up 30 percent of your day (if you’re lucky!).

Family
This could be the family you were born into, the family you create, the family you choose. This doesn’t have to mean your biological family, either. Maybe your church is your family. Maybe you have a “modern” family, or a nontraditional family. However you define family in your life, this is the category for prioritizing it.

Friends
This is my personal catch-all for things that are fun. When you think about friends, you typically think about the closest people in your life. But this is where I also think about side hobbies and outside interests—the people and activities that bring pleasure outside of work and family.

Fitness
While the term fitness conjures up images of dumbbells and sweat, to me, this category reflects a broader goal of self-care and health: physical fitness, mental fitness, emotional well-being, mindfulness, stress management, and healthy eating.

Now that we have our five categories down, it’s time for the fun part.

PICK THREE

Now is the time for ruthless prioritization. So, sorry, you don’t get to pick all five. Not today. Not any day. If you want to be great at what you do, Pick Three and only three. And don’t waste one minute feeling guilty or bad about the two you didn’t pick. Because you’ll get another chance to pick them tomorrow. Or the day after. Or next month—it will happen.

Because every single day you get to pick a new three of these categories to focus on, you can pick the same three as the day before, or switch gears and pick a different three. It’s YOUR CHOICE. Maybe you have a weekday Pick Three and a weekend Pick Three. Maybe you have a summer Pick Three and a winter Pick Three. Maybe it changes every day. Regardless, Pick Three enables you to have the best in terms of short-term focus and long-term balance.

I can hear you now: “Randi, I can totally pick all five! I can exercise with my friends and call my mom on the way to work! Fitness, Friends, and Family, done! Two to go!”

While I have no doubt that every once in a while, for a day or two, you can manage to hit all five of these, it’s really not sustainable in the long run. If you try to accomplish all five things WELL (keyword: well), you’re headed for complete and utter burnout. You’re not going to grand-slam all five at a high- functioning level. Sure, it’s humanly possible to touch upon your family, your friends, your work, your sleep, and your fitness every day. But doing all five things—even just for a day—means you’re probably not doing any of them with any real depth.

We’ve been taught that imbalance is a dirty word, but I think it’s actually the key to success and happiness. The Pick Three lifestyle can help you nail life (and keep your sanity) by being well lopsided. When you focus solely on the trio you choose each day, prioritizing becomes totally manageable and you give yourself the permission to do those three things with the kind of excellence that will propel you further than weeks of half-assed focus. Over time, as you pick a different three every day, it evens out into—abracadabra!—BALANCE!! Okay, so it’s not magic, but how great would it be to reach the end of the day and know that you not only accomplished all three things you set out to do, but you did a fantastic job at each of them, too?!

Norwegians have known this for years. According to the World Happiness Report (yes, that thing again), Norway has jumped from fourth place in 2016 to first place in 2017, followed by Denmark and Iceland.

Why Nordic countries, you ask? Isn’t it freezing there? Heck, yeah, it is, but weather plays little into happiness. What those three countries have in common are high values in six key variables: income (work), high life expectancy (fitness), family values (yup), freedom (sleep), trust (friends), and generosity (all of the above). Are we learning something? Keep going!

      THE PICK THREE METHOD

THERE ARE A FEW BASIC RULES TO REMEMBER WHEN FOLLOWING THE PICK THREE ME 

1.YOU ONLY GET THREE. While it’s incredibly tempting to try for more (we’re an increasingly multitasking culture, after all), remember that we’re going for quality over quantity here. Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick Three.

2. BUT HAVE NO FEAR, YOU CAN PICK A DIFFERENT THREE TOMORROW! No need for buyer’s remorse. The beauty of Pick Three is that when you wake up, it’s a brand-new day and a brand-new opportunity for you to pick a different three categories to focus on.

3. NO GUILT! Keep reminding yourself that you can’t do everything well all the time. Give yourself permission to be great at the three things you’ve picked and try not to waste one precious second feeling guilty about the things you didn’t pick. If that’s not possible, blame me. After all, I’m the one who told you that you could only pick three things!

4. BE GREAT! There’s no point to Pick Three if you’re not going to kick total button the three things you’ve picked to focus on. So pick your three and do as amazing a job at those things as you possibly can.

5. TRACK YOUR CHOICES. Like any system that holds you accountable, Pick Three works best if you jot down your choices each day and refer back to make sure you are roughly picking all five categories the same amount over the course of time. Whether you want to track it on paper, on your phone, or in our Pick Three app, logging your three daily choices will give you a sense of the broader overall picture of your life—and where you may need to shift a bit more effort.

From PICK THREE by Randi Zuckerberg Copyright © 2018 by Zuckerberg Media Inc. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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