Is your New Year resolution to strike a better balance between work, family and various other commitments? If so, a good starting point is to be clearer about your key roles. Each of us has multiple roles - for example at different times, I am husband, father, son, brother, relative, friend, employee, worker, supervisor, volunteer. A role tells us our place in each community that we belong to - it indicates the type of relationships we have, our responsibilities and areas of contribution. A clear set of roles helps us to organise our lives. When a person feels that his life is not balanced, it is often because he senses that he may be succeeding in one role at the expense of another, which is also important to him. For instance, he may be doing well in his career in his role of entrepreneur or professional, but feeling guilty because he has been neglecting his wife and children in his roles as spouse and parent.

To live a balanced life is to align the things we do to the important roles. We can do this by planning on a weekly basis and identifying specific goals for each of these key roles, for when these goals have been identified the activities or events to follow are often clear. Many people already plan and set job-related goals for themselves each week. Applying this idea further, have you ever asked yourself, what is your goal as a spouse this week? As a parent? The goals need not be ambitious. For instance, one goal could be to take your spouse out on a date, for dinner or a movie. As a parent, the goal could be to take a child to buy a pair of shoes or to see the dentist, or to attend a school function.

One may object that it is already a struggle to achieve job-related goals - why stress oneself further by adding in family-related goals? Imagine that suddenly you had 50 hours in a day. Would this solve your prpblem of trying to find time for your family? Initially it might. But eventually, you would try to fit more things into your daily schedule. Before long, you would be as busy as you are now.

By identifying our goals and scheduling the events that go with these goals into our programme for the week, we can be confident that we are organising and devoting our time to the important things that are consistent with or aligned to our mission, vision, key roles and goals. Around these first things, we can fit in all the other activities. And we should not really be bothered even if there is no time left for such other activities, for we have already catered to our first things.

Some goals, it is true, may be difficult to schedule, for instance, having a talk with your adolescent on a particular matter. It is nonetheless useful to set this as your goal and to indicate this as a priority for the week. This way, you are looking for the right occasion, and if it surfaces spontaneously, you are ready to take advantage of the opportunity. If it hasn't happened and you're almost at the end of the week, you know you may have to create the occasion.

by John Ooi
the family LifeLine - Bulletin of the Family Life Society, Archdiocese of Singapore

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