A couple of years ago, I discovered the Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life is a framework promoted by Tony Robbins that helps achieve a balance between the essential facets of your life. It serves as a tool for setting actionable goals that help "design your life" rather than merely going through the motions.
Life Domains: It's not just work/life balance
Think of a bike wheel's spokes; each spoke needs to be strong and of equal length for the wheel to rotate smoothly. This concept applies to life. Each spoke represents a life domain. Neglecting a life domain causes a spoke to become weak and shorten, disrupting the wheel's ability to turn. The goal is balance and integration.
These are the life domains I identified as being important to me (yours may vary):
- Wife & Kids
- Family & Friends
- Health & Fitness
- Physical Environment
- Business & Career
- Personal Growth & Education
- Fun & Leisure
With the Wheel of Life, you audit your life domains and rate each facet relative to one another from 0 (poor) to 10 (perfect). This process helps to highlight where you're excelling and where you're struggling. From this starting point, I developed a set of actionable goals to achieve more balance in my life.
Life Goals: Design your year ahead
Being a visual person, displaying my goals in a way that would make me want to return to look at them regularly was essential. For this, I used Trello.
First, I set up my "202X Life Goals" board with a list for each of my eight life domains. Then, within each list, I added cards to indicate an individual goal. Each card was assigned a status (achieved, on track, needs attention), an aesthetic photo, a short description and any other relevant links or information.
Tip: The colour of the heading cards for each life domain match the colour I use in Google Calendar to signify an event related to that life domain.
Assigning goals (in the form of cards) to life domains (in the form of lists) quickly highlighted the areas of my life that needed attention—for example, spending more time with friends, learning new skills, and digging up some forgotten hobbies.
I also found it valuable to create a Life Goals board for the following year (you can duplicate boards in Trello). This future board helps to house goals and park ideas that you cannot fit in this year.
However, goals without action are just dreams. To make this work, I knew I needed a system to hold myself accountable and effectively allocate time and effort to each goal. Enter the calendar.
Calendar: An accountability partner
A calendar takes these esoteric goals and converts them into time and effort. If the Wheel of Life and Life Goals are the why and what, the calendar is the when and how.
Being a Gmail user, Google Calendar was my go-to calendar solution. I started by creating individual calendars for each of my life domains. However, separate calendars quickly proved cumbersome and led to a range of issues.
For example, I wanted to be able to share my availability with my wife. Short of sharing all eight calendars individually, it proved impossible to easily allow my wife to show or hide what I was up to in her Google Calendar. The solution was to switch back to one calendar for everything I was doing and colour code based on my life domains. I was then able to share this calendar with my wife to keep our lives in sync.
I added a few more calendars for non-event related things that may or may not take up my own time. These include:
- Sleep (this one might seem odd, but it helps to frame each day to show just how much time you have. I've set this calendar's colour to grey)
- Special Dates & Holidays (things like anniversaries, school holidays, public holidays, etc.)
- Reminders (bills due, things expiring, etc.)
I also have some shared/subscribed calendars:
- My wife's calendar
- Manchester United games
- Brisbane Roar games
Next, I installed the Google Calendar app on my iPhone and synced up the events with Apple Calendar to sync to my Apple Watch. Selecting a watch face that displays the upcoming event brings it all together nicely.
Finally, I have a desktop dedicated to my emails, Life Goals Trello board, and Google Calendar on my iMac. This setup enables me to easily switch from a work desktop to a personal desktop with a control + left/right keyboard command.
With this setup in place, I run everything I plan on doing through my calendar. It holds me accountable for how I spend my time.
However, a system like this needs maintenance. So, every Sunday evening, I commit time (in my calendar) to plan out the week ahead. First, recurring events like sleep, exercise, sport, family commitments and work commitments are pre-filled in my calendar. Then, I fill the spaces between these regular events to support my life domains and life goals. Filling the spaces could be as simple as adding a block of time for deep work or a block of time for painting with the kids. Allocating time for planning is crucial to the whole process.
Tip: Use Calendly for organising meetings with people. It syncs with your calendar and makes it simple for someone to grab a time that suits you both, without the back and forth.
I genuinely look forward to Sunday night's planning session to design my week ahead!
Cadence: It can't be a set-and-forget
Developing a rhythm around key organisation and planning tasks is a fundamental part of bringing the whole system together.
- Select Life Domains
- Complete Wheel of Life
- Set up Life Goals Trello board
- Add goals to Trello board
- Review goals that need attention
- Add new goals to improve life domains
- Plan weekly events on Sunday evening
- View Life Goals Trello board and adjust the status of goals
- View calendar
- Complete the day's tasks
Aside from feeling more organised, I also feel more secure knowing that my efforts contribute to significant, decided upon goals. Each day feels like progress and growth in one way or another.
I am continuing to refine my system and see room to add one more layer above the annual life goals. This new layer would revolve around a series of life-defining pillars that frame bucket-list type goals that may take a lifetime to accomplish—things like owning my local football club, the Brisbane Roar.
If you have any suggestions or improvements, please let me know.