In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing multiple roles in your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 64 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
Well, I hope your year has started well and you are making significant progress on your goals. This week, I have a great question about managing multiple roles in your life and I know many of you out there are not just doing a job, you are also a parent, a friend, a teacher and perhaps a church or community leader. These are roles that create specific tasks and projects that you need to be managing.
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Okay, onto this week’s question and that means it’s now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Jim. Jim asks: What are some strategies to manage a personal and professional life that is composed of many, multiple roles?
Thank you, Jim, for the wonderful question.
What Jim has done here is just a few simple words has described what most people face. That is a life with multiple roles. So the question becomes, how do I manage all those roles?
Now, the first thing I am going to assume is that most of you listening to this podcast use some form of to-do list manager. Either that is a full Digital system such as Todoist, Trello or Omnifocus or a simple notebook and pen. When you have many roles it is important to have a place where you can manage all the tasks you need to do to maintain those roles.
So the first thing I am going to suggest is you create an areas of focus area in your to-do list manager. This needs to be quite separate from your projects list. Now for most of you using a task management system, you are likely to have an area where you list out your various projects. These projects are deadline specific and you complete set of defined tasks that will lead you to a completed project by the deadline date. Once the project is complete you can archive the project.
Areas of focus are quite different because they have no deadline date, or at least no fixed deadline date. An example of this would say if you run a blog. Each week there will be tasks you need to complete to write and publish a blog post, but the blog itself has no deadline date because you are writing and publishing every week. So you have an area of focus called “blog” and inside that will be your recurring writing tasks and maybe some maintenance tasks you need to perform from time to time.
Now, the changes come when you have a specific project related to your blog. Let’s say for example you decide to redesign your blog. Now you have a project because the redesign of your blog will have a deadline—a date you want to complete the redesign by. When this happens you can create a project for the redesign in your active projects list for the redesign.
So hopefully that gives you a basic definition of what a project is an what an area of focus is.
So let’s look at Jim’s specific question. If you have multiple roles such as a parent, a community leader you are going to have regular recurring tasks related to those roles. If you don’t that’s great, but you should still create the area of focus—I’ll explain in a moment.
For those regular recurring tasks related to your roles, you can put them into your area of focus. For example, if you spend Saturday afternoon doing activities with your kids, then you may have a recurring task to talk with your kids about what they would like to do each week. Or if you are a community leader you may have to prepare an agenda for a monthly meeting. All these tasks can go into your area of focus related to your role. Weekly activities with your kids and preparing the monthly agenda recur, individually you could argue they have deadlines, but as they recur regularly I would not consider them as individual projects. That would just make your active projects list overly long and unnecessary.
Other areas of focus that you can use are for things like professional development, or side projects such as a part-time business you are building. Way back in the late 1990s I had a part-time business as a mobile Djay. Most weekends I was doing a disco somewhere and each event I did was different. Sometimes it was a wedding and in the UK it is the tradition for the bride and groom to start off the dancing with their favourite song. That meant for each wedding we did I needed to find out from the bride and groom what their first dance song was to be. If I did not have it—and in those days we used CDs, not MP3s—I had to go out and buy it. Other things I needed to find out each week was what kind of event we were doing, was it a birthday? A company event or something else. I also needed to know the age group of the people attending as that affected the kind of music I played. All these questions needed answering before the event, so I used a checklist in my Franklin Planner that contained all the questions I needed to ask our agent. I would have a recurring call every Wednesday with our agent to get the answers to these questions. Today I would be using my digital to-do list and it would be much simpler as I would create a recurring task in my Djay area of focus to call my agent each week and have the questions I needed to ask in a templated checklist for each event in Evernote.
If you have multiple professional roles such as I do, I am an English teacher and a have my productivity business. I separate these out in my areas of Focus. I have my English teaching business as an area of focus and single action tasks such as doing something for a student can be placed in there. Likewise, if I need to do something for my coaching clients, I would place that task in my productivity business’s area of focus.
When you have multiple roles, and I think most of us have if we really sat down to think about it, having a separate place for your areas of focus can help to keep you on top of everything going on in your life. Now we have to remember there are only 24 hours in each day and we can’t change that. Mondays for me, for example, I have a lot of English classes and so on Sunday when I plan my day, I know to look exclusively in my teaching areas of focus folder because that is where my focus for the day is going to be. Likewise, on Friday afternoons I do all my video recording, so on a Thursday I look at my YouTube Channel area of focus as well as my content scheduling board to see if there is anything I need to focus on when I do my recordings. When I check my calendar I know if I have a coaching call the next day and who with, so I can review my notes and client feedback and do some preparation for the call before the call itself.
Another great reason to use areas of focus is you can decide if you want to spend a month focused on a particular area of your life. The end of the year holiday season has just ended and for many of 'sus we may have eaten and drunk a little too much. So it's get back in to shape season. So, if you have an area of focus for your health and fitness you may decide that this month you will put a lot more focus on that area and do a lot more activities related to losing weight and getting fit.
One more thing and I know this is specific to you, Jim, is if you want to build a professional speaking career. This again would be an area of focus. Each new speaking engagement may become an active project, but to build the career there are going to be a number of activities you will need to do each week. You will need to be developing your expertise in your chosen area, you will need to be communicating with agencies and conference organisers etc. These will be ongoing tasks and so should be an area of focus. So if you decide to send out five to ten profiles to event organisers and agencies each week you will have a task to do that either on a specific day or spread out over a few days each week.
So, if you do have multiple roles, and I am sure you do as we all do in some form or another, I would spend some time thinking about the different roles you have and decide which ones you want to focus on. Then create an area of focus for each one. Do not worry if some have nothing in them at the moment. It could be that you decide that some of those areas you do not want to focus on right now. When you do have the list put together though make sure you review them each week when you do your weekly review. That way nothing is being forgotten and you can decide if you want to put some focus on those areas during the following week.
Remember, an area of focus does not have a deadline date, a project does. You may have projects that come from an area of focus from time to time and you can create that project in your active projects list. As soon as the project is complete you can archive it and put the management of the project in your areas of focus if it needs managing.
I hope that has answered your question, Jim and thank you for sending it in.
Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast get in touch either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by DMing me on Twitter or Facebook.
Thank you so much for listening and it just remains for me to wish you all very very productive week.