It seems that a lot of the people I spend time with are trying different approaches and systems to get more control of their time. If you've visited me here very often you'll know I'm one of those people, as well. I’m feeling philosophical at the moment (and a bit verbose), and asking myself a hard question:
When you manage to free up some time, what will you do with it?
I’ve traditionally spent my ‘spare time’ on things closer to home (including lots of selfish things). I've decided to challenge myself to expand the value of where I spend that time, and have developed a sort of model to help me evaluate my choices.
I think of this in terms of concentric layers of a sphere; hence the “spheres of influence.”
Invest some of your time in your health, your skills, and do things to make your lot in life more enjoyable. This is the "pay yourself first" approach - your health and well being must be maintained, or not much else will matter.
Faith, religion, or core beliefs are important to most of us. Spend time on these things and they will help you strive for greater things. The time you spend here will also flavor what you do in the layers farther out.
Invest time with your loved ones by taking an interest in what they do, and sharing what you do with them. Be genuine and transparent, and strive to teach them with patience and understanding. Learn from each other in good times and bad. Establish traditions and create common goals.
Friends and community
Spend time with friends that share your interests. Spend more time with those that lift you up, and less time with those that bring you down. Challenge each other, support each other, and gather together to increase your influence.
Community can mean many things: your neighborhood, your company, virtual communities (such as the blogsphere), your city, your church, and more.
Spend your time on things that make a positive difference in your community. Share what you know and what you have for the greater good.
Influence your communities to engage in activities that provide value beyond themselves (into other spheres and communities).
An extended form of community, your country deserves its own category. It represents a wide array of values, priorities, challenges, and opportunities – all mingled together in an interdependent system.
Some spend their time in formal service to their countries. Others become active in politics or civil rights. We all contribute (or detract) based on how we honor (or dishonor) the norms of society within our country.
World and planet
Whether we like it or not, we’re all part of the world, and our actions, decisions, tolerance, and intolerance flavor the world community.
Our decisions about politics, consumption habits, morality, and other choices we make all have implications to the world, and the planet upon which we live. Spending time on improving the state of world relations, the environment, or other large-scale issues can have far-reaching effects.
The model above is just one way of thinking about your spheres of influence, as each of us has our own way to defining our existence in relation to others. It’s kind of abstract, so why would I bring it up at all? (It’s not because
I have been reflecting on the areas of my life from which I derive the most satisfaction, and I realize I get the most out of activities that positively address multiple spheres of influence. For example, I have mentioned in the past that I am active as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America program. This rewards me on many levels:
I become better at leadership, improve my skills in many areas, and participate in fun physical activities.
“Duty to God” is part of the Boy Scout oath, and observance of faith (multidenominational) is a part of the program.
I get to spend time with my son, and am able to help him learn. He is a Patrol Leader, and it is great to see him develop his leadership skills.
Friends and community
I have made many new friends, and we frequently engage in community service projects. I also strive to be a positive example for boys without strong male role models.
I’ve found that I learn more by teaching, and I have the opportunity to teach boys within the troop about many things. This often requires me to learn more so I can be an effective teacher.
The Scouts encourage the boys to learn about their country, and understand how to be responsible citizens.
World and planet
There is strong emphasis within the Scouting program to be a responsible shepherd of the planet, with mantras like “Leave No Trace” and teaching Scouts the Outdoor Code so they will learn respect for nature.
And, I like to think my support of Scouting is helping more boys become responsible contributors within the world.
I also believe that long term success requires us to impart a measure of balance on what we do. This is nothing new – take workaholism, for example.
· Workaholics work too much, which means they spend too much time focusing on a specific type of Community.
· Working too much means they neglect Family, and their home life and family relationships suffer.
· Working too much causes them to neglect Self, so they become sick and/or stressed out.
Live like this long enough, and they become sick enough that they can no longer spend all their time on work. Congratulations, workaholic, your body’s just done an intervention! And your family may be so hacked off at you, that you won’t get much help. Not good.
Whether or not you agree with the labels I used for my “spheres of influence” model, we all operate within something akin to this. To increase your enjoyment and sense of accomplishment in the world, think about how you use your discretionary time and try to make more choices that take you to a larger sphere of influence.
In the spirit of my mantra of “Take responsibility for your own well being,” find activities that influence you on multiple layers at once. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.