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Do you ever feel like you have way too much on your plate? Like you just can’t figure out how to balance all of the things in your life? Are you absolutely drained by the end of the week – and to make it even worse, completely unfulfilled?
If these questions resonate with you, I feel your pain. I think it’s safe to say we all feel this way at one time or another. And maybe even way more often than we’d like!
A common solution to this is obtaining work-life balance. We all know the importance of this, and work-life balance has become a popular buzz word. If our work life is taking away from our personal life, we need to address it.
But what if we have our work-life balance down pat? Yet, we still feel overwhelmed? When you find yourself in this boat, it usually means that it’s time to take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your days. A great way of doing this is by conducting a life audit.
Life audit is a pretty broad term. If you googled it, you’d find that there are many different ways to perform one and they all have slightly different purposes.
The life audit method that I’m explaining in this post is meant to help you figure out how to lead a more fulfilling life on the daily while still meeting obligations and moving towards your long-term goals. This life audit will teach you how to balance life. And not just balance work with your personal life, but balance each piece of your life as a whole.
What is a Life Audit?
A life audit, sometimes called a self-audit, is taking time to pause and evaluate what you’re doing everyday with your time. It answers questions like:
- What do I currently have on my plate?
- Why am I engaged in these activities and commitments?
- Do they make me happy?
- What is their purpose?
- Do I need to remove anything?
- Do I want to add anything?
The whole purpose behind a life audit is to figure out how to fit more of what you love and what makes you happy into your life.
There are many different ways you can go about conducting a life audit. We’ll get into my preferred method in just a bit.
Why Conduct a Life Audit?
Why might you need to conduct a life audit? If you find yourself burnt out, unhappy, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or feeling rushed then odds are you need to look into how you’re using your time and for what.
There’s a good chance that you’re taking on too much and/or you’re participating in activities that don’t add value to your life. That means it’s time to minimize, prioritize and simplify.
A life audit is designed to help you do just that.
Life is demanding. We have jobs, bills, family obligations, kids, homes to care of, car oil to change, friends to catch up with, and the inevitable curve balls that life likes to throw our way.
If we don’t take time to slow down and examine everything on our plate, our life goes out of balance. We end up putting out fires instead of being intentional with how we’re living our lives.
How to Conduct a Life Audit and Balance Life
I’ve read a few great posts recently that provide unique ways of conducting a life audit. Each method serves a different purpose. One purpose is to figure out what your goals, dreams, and priorities are and then schedule them into your life. Another purpose is to look at your schedule and remove anything that doesn’t support your life goals or make you happy.
I decided to base my life audit method around both of these objectives. They really go hand in hand. It’s tough to figure out how to fit in more of what you love if you don’t remove anything from your plate. I know we’re all busy.
And it’s also tough to figure out what to remove from your schedule if you haven’t figured out what makes you happy and what your life goals are.
Below are the steps I’ve created for my version of a life audit. I find it to be incredibly helpful with keeping focused and on track with my goals as well as living an overall happier life.
Heads Up: If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you probably know I’m a HUGE fan of putting to pen to paper vs. digital. It slows our minds down and helps us to be more thoughtful and intentional. This is key when doing any type of personal development work.
That being said, you’ll need a pen, paper, post-its, some sort of daily planner, and probably an inexpensive poster board for this 🙂
1. Reflect on your priorities, goals, and dreams.
A secret to living a fulfilled life is envisioning what you want your life to look like in 5-10 years and creating goals around that vision.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll clearly see what is important to you. It will make the next few steps a whole lot easier!
With this clear vision now in mind, it’s time to see how your current life measures up to it. This will help you figure out where you need to focus more of your time.
The Wheel of Life is a personal development tool that is used to teach people how to balance life. The Wheel of Life will give someone a high-level view of their life in the areas of health, career, love, spirituality, family, money, fun, and friends.
You rate each life area on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being least satisfying and 10 being most. Ideally, each area is a 10 so that your wheel is balanced and can “roll” easily. But this is real life, so the odds of every area being a 10 at one point in life are very small.
However, the closer to 10 you can get each area, the happier you’ll be.
There’s a good FREE tool I found that will help you go through the Wheel of Life exercise. It only takes a minute to complete. Below are my results. As you can see, I have my work cut out for me 😉
There’s an entire separate exercise that is done with the Wheel of Life. I’ll cover that in a different post. For the purposes of your Life Audit, just keep your Wheel of Life results in mind.
2. Think about what you have going on in your life currently.
Grab some post-its and a pen. On each post-it, write down an activity or commitment that you are currently engaged in and/or will be engaged in for the next 3 months. Write down everything. If you have a planner or a calendar, flip through them to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.
These activities can include anything from food shopping to volunteer work to your day job.
On the bottom of the post-it, write down the day or date along with the time that it takes place, if applicable. Then in parenthesis, write the total amount of time you spend on it per week. Include commuting time in this.
If it’s a recurring activity, use some sort of symbol to indicate that. I used a circular arrow.
Here are some of the post-its I wrote out for my life audit. At the top, I wrote the activity. On the bottom, I wrote the days that it takes place, a circular arrow to indicate that it’s recurring (when applicable), the hours that I’m doing it, and the total amount of hours I spend per week on this activity.
There are some things that won’t have a specific date or time. For instance, I wrote on one post-it “Cleaning/House Tasks”. For me, this encompasses everything I do to keep the house in semi-order. That’s tidying, cleaning, laundry, making kids lunches for daycare, etc.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Do this with the understanding that life is unpredictable, and not every week is the same. Your goal with this step is to capture how you’re generally spending your time each week.
3. Organize and minimize your activities.
On top of a piece of paper or poster board (depending upon how many post-its you have!), write “Should I Continue Doing This?”.
Then make three columns labeled Yes, No, Maybe. The Yes column is for activities that you are going to keep in your life. The No column is for activities that you will remove from your life. The Maybe column is for activities that you’re not sure you want to keep or not.
Next, take each post-it and ask yourself these questions:
- Am I doing this to meet a basic necessity?
- Do I enjoy doing this?
- Is this really something I want to be doing?
- Does it serve one of my priorities, goals, or dreams? (Also, think of your Wheel of Life results)
- Is someone depending on me to do this? If so, who and why?
- If I absolutely had to give something up, could this be it?
- Is there someone else who could do this for me (and maybe even better than how I do it!)?
For some things, you’ll immediately know which column to put the post-it in. For others, you will have to think a bit more. If you’re really unsure about whether it’s an engagement to keep or kiss goodbye, stick it in the Maybe column and come back to it later.
4. Review Your Maybe Column.
Now it’s time to review the Maybe column. As a reminder, these are the things that you either enjoy doing, but that don’t serve your priorities, goals, or dreams OR it’s something that you don’t enjoy doing but does serve your priorities, goals, or dreams.
Go through each post-it and really think about whether you want to keep it in your life. And remember, life isn’t all business all the time! I have a Farewell Happy Hour for someone that I work with in a few weeks. Will it be fun? Yes. Will it get me closer to my dreams of financial freedom? No. But I put it in the Yes column. I have the time to do it and I deserve some fun. So do you!
On the flip side, I had meal planning in the Maybe column – I obviously hate doing it and it’s not like anyone really depends on me to do it. But it does make my week a whole lot easier. Soooo that goes in the Yes column, folks. 😉
5. Evaluate the amount of time you spend on each thing.
Review each post-it and the total number of hours you spend on that engagement per week. At the same time, think about the results from your Wheel of Life. Can you move time around so that you increasing the satisfaction in the areas that need it?
Maybe you’re realizing how much time you spend working every week. Is there a way you can cut back on the amount of hours that you work? Can you have a conversation with your boss about your workload, or get better at delegating?
If you’re able to reduce the amount of time you work each week, you can take that extra time and it put it towards another activity in an area of your life that needs improvement.
Another example could be that you drive your son to baseball practice on Saturdays and your daughter to swim lessons on Sundays. Your weekend mornings are completely tied up. Can your kids carpool with other kids on some days? Can your spouse take one day and you take the other?
We have a tendency to feel like we need to handle everything ourselves, and if we don’t, then we’re failing. That is a LIE. Delegate. Please, for your sanity.
6. Decide What’s Missing.
Now that you have a better handle on how you spend your time and on what, take some time to reflect on your life vision. Think about what an ideal day looks like for you. Jot down some of those ideas.
In a perfect world, you’d live your ideal day everyday. Alas, the world is not perfect. But that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze some joy into most, if not all, of our days.
What are some of the activities or things that are missing currently in your life, but that are in your ideal day or future vision? Maybe your ideal day involves reading a favorite book. Or maybe your future vision includes running your own business.
From the previous steps, you have a better idea of what your schedule looks like and maybe even created some extra room by removing some stuff that doesn’t add value. Pencil some of these enjoyable activities into your newly freed up schedule.
For example, maybe you have young kids. Life is nuts All. The. Time. You and your husband rarely have time to connect anymore. Get a weekly date night on your calendar.
Or maybe you feel like you don’t get enough time to focus on your business plan. Try going to bed earlier so that you can get up earlier and work on it.
Just because you haven’t been doing it, doesn’t mean you can’t start.
When to Conduct a Life Audit
So how do you know when you need to conduct a life audit? And how often should you do it?
Well, that is really up to you! But I do have some guidance to offer.
Should you do one every week? No, definitely not. This is a very thoughtful and intentional activity. You need dedicated quiet time to focus on it. And I know it’s tough to find that on a weekly basis!
Besides, not much changes in a week. Hopefully, you’re not taking on tons of new things every week 🙂
Ideally, you’ll want to conduct a life audit every 3 months. This is because with every new season comes new obligations. Also, as time goes on you’re making progress, whether big or small, towards your long-term vision. As a result, your weeks are going to look different.
My recommendation is to conduct your life audit a month prior to the new season. For simplification, the seasons are Winter (January through March), Spring (April through June), Summer (July through September), and Holiday (October through December).
So, perform a life audit in early December, early March, early June, and early September.
Keep in mind that there is no wrong or right time to conduct a life audit. I just conducted one this week and it’s February.
If you feel like you are having difficulty managing your time, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, feeling unfulfilled, feeling stressed – take some time to conduct a life audit. Feeling this way could mean that you need to readjust your priorities.
A Few Last Words
I know you’re probably thinking that you have too much going on to sit down and do this life audit. I totally understand if you feel that way. But I’m going to give you some tough love and tell you to find the time!
It took me all of 30 minutes to do a life audit this week. It will take you around the same amount of time. It’s completely worth dedicating a half hour of your time – it will pay you back ten fold!
Have you done a life audit before? Comment below to let me know how it went!