How many times has someone said that you need more balance in your life? I’m guessing a lot. You’ve probably even said it to yourself. Balance, however, is a unique concept. Everyone has a different—and evolving—view of what it looks like in their own lives. As life changes, you refocus your efforts and time, too. To find the best balance, you need to keep track of where your time is spent and what results you get.
In self-care science, we call that approach a personal scorecard, something modeled after a concept in organizational behavior management (OBM), a subdiscipline of behavior analysis. OBM analysts work with companies, big and small, to improve employee performance toward different goals. The bigger the company, the higher the employee count and the wider the array of products or services—which means more goals. OBM consultants help generate balanced scorecards to help clients align organizational structures and strategic goals.
Individuals work very much the same way; they have different sets of goals in disparate areas they want to improve—from areas of health such as exercise, diet, or sleep to career goals or the time they spend with loved ones. People do their best to distribute time and effort but often struggle with finding, you guessed it…the right balance. Thus, you can utilize the OBM balanced scorecard concept to better balance all the personal, professional, relationship, and other goals that matter to you. Here are five steps to consider when creating your life scorecard.
Step #1: Pinpoint what’s important
What do you spend the most time doing? What areas of your life do you hold in high regard? These questions help you identify your individual performance domains—or more simply, what areas of your life matter the most. Your performance equals the actions you take plus the results of those actions.
There are abundant self-care books and articles suggesting specific categories of measures, but creating a life scorecard means creating your own unique performance categories as they will form the foundation for your personalized scorecard. Here are a few example domains: career, finance, romantic relationships, family, health, fitness, spirituality, friends, education, travel, and so on. The goal is to improve not conform to what someone else says you need. Here are some guidelines for establishing what life categories and performances to track:
- List at least two things in your life to track. Most performance outcomes have counterbalancing consequences (Abernathy, 2011). Every action and its corresponding result can significantly impact other areas of your life, so keep track of how one part of your life affects others—that’s really one key reason you’re even creating this scorecard.
- Do not simultaneously track more than about seven life performances. Adding a seemingly unlimited number of things to track means you’ll probably end up spending most of your time collecting and collating that data instead of improving your quality of life.
Step #2: Visualize
Just like the organizational vision listed on so many corporate websites, your personal vision is a reflection of the most ideal future version of yourself. The more specific you are, the easier it is to set out a plan to accomplish it. For example, if discussing your health, you might say you aspire to look like a professional athlete and be in exceptional shape with washboard abs, a toned physique, and enough energy to run 5 miles a day. Here are a few other quick guidelines for writing your visions:
- Write each vision in the past-tense, and explain what will have been produced by your efforts.
- Write the visions you want to achieve, not ones you want to avoid or maintain. If you write about keeping things exactly the same, you’re probably being too general.
- Craft ambitious visions that pinpoint specific results to spark and sustain your motivation.
Step #3: Measure
In this step, it’s time to identify exactly how to measure what you’re doing and what you aim to achieve. Measurement is the process of assigning numbers and units to particular features of objects or events (Johnston & Pennypacker, 1993). Measurement is critical to (and really required for) creating any scorecard—if you aren’t measuring change, then no change has occurred. Measurement has many important functions for behavior change, but for brevity here, let’s focus on just one: measurement allows people to compare their previous selves to their current selves to determine whether (and when) something has changed. Without measurement, your behavior change endeavor is destined to fail. There are three basic steps to developing measures (Daniels & Bailey, 2014):
- Identify a relevant measurement category (e.g., quality, quantity, timeliness, etc.)
- Select relevant measurement category sub-divisions (e.g., quality: number of errors, etc.)
- Select measurement methods (counting or judging)
Step #4: Objectivize
The next step is to create goals/objectives. Goals tend to be broader in scope, while objectives are much more precise. Think of your goals (i.e., vision) as a long-term target and your objectives as more precise, individualized short-term targets. Here are some tips for setting challenging, yet attainable objectives:
- Start by selecting objectives you’ve already met, so you contact a reward early in the process.
- Slowly and slightly increase each objective beyond your historical averages.
- Make objectives challenging enough that achievement produces satisfaction but low enough that attainment is possible, especially at first. You don’t want to be so demoralized that you ditch your goals to go do something more rewarding instead.
Step #5: Weight your scorecard
What’s MOST important to you? Is it your health? Your wealth? Or a combination of the two along with some relationships thrown in for good measure? Deciding what’s most important to you can be very difficult. And that’s what weighting your personal scorecard is all about: deciding the importance of different things in your life. Here are a few things to remember when weighting your scorecard:
- Weights can be adjusted at any time. It’s okay if things change. In fact, your life will regularly change, forcing you to prioritize one activity over another.
- The weights of the measures should align with the priority weights of the strategic scorecard.
- Priority weights normally sum to 100%.
That’s it. Now you’re ready to create a personal scorecard for your life. Remember that this is your scorecard—decide what’s most important to you and your situation.