Seesaw Prioritization: How to Achieve Your Goals Without Burning Out


Every relationship, from the one with our family, to the one we hold with our work, to the one with our smartphones, is a system in constant pursuit of balance. Every relationship is a playground game of seesaw: you at one end, the other party at the opposite. You and your friends. You and your family. Work. Technology. The relationship depends on just how well, and how high, each end can lift the other. It’s a delicate balance of exchanging effort and value. You give, then you get. Put in more energy than your counterpart, or not enough, and the system breaks.

The more responsibilities we hold, the more boards we add to our seesaw and the bigger our struggle for balance becomes. Spend too much time at work, you’ll have less to spend with your friends and family. Spend too much time on your phone or watching Netflix, you’ll have less to spend on productive work and with your loved ones.

Our goals success relies on our ability to manage these relationships. Are we stacking the odds in our favor before we commit? How do you find the right balance? Which acts have lost their balance and have me sitting on the ground? How do you know when it’s time to abandon one game and move on to another?

The only rule you should care about.

You have a finite amount of energy. Manage it. The more boards you have to balance, the less energy you can afford each. While less energy might be enough to balance some, it won’t be enough to balance others. Perhaps, even those that are most important. Your success depends on your ability to prioritize what’s most important to you and to allocate resources accordingly. This means coming to terms with the thought that you can’t have and do everything all the time. Something’s gotta give. Spread yourself too thin, and everybody loses.

Step 1: How Many Boards Am I Balancing?

It’s hard to maintain a birds-eye view of your life when you’re in the deep, but make the time. Sometimes, we tend to over-glorify our efforts (confirmation bias) and avoid coming to terms with our failures (loss aversion), but these are defaulted biases that hide fundamental truths. Back out of them and take a look from above. How much time are you spending at work? How much time are you spending with family and friends? Resting? Exercising? Are you OK with the breakdown? If not, what can you change?

This could mean checking in with yourself once a day during workdays — I'd recommend doing this in the late afternoon, around 4pm — to make sure one side of the seesaw isn't too heavy, to taking an hour every Sunday to get a sense of how your week went and how you feel about it, to taking a few days for a personal offsite every several months to get out of your day-to-day and think ahead.

If you’ve succeeded at something, take it in stride, remain humble, and get yourself to another win. If you’ve failed, own it, improve it, and no one will be able to hold anything over you. Understand which games you’re playing, how you’re performing, and how each is affecting the system as a whole.

Step 2: Should I Balance this Board?

Every goal’s success is a direct product of effort. Is the benefit you’re getting from the pursuit of the goal worth that effort? This seems like an obvious question, and should be consistently asked exactly because it seems so. Momentum and habit push the “but this is how you’ve always done it” agenda. Things change. You change. And that’s alright. Maybe it’s time to remove an outdated board or two on your seesaw.

Much of this work — of understanding what’s most important to you — requires a level of honesty with oneself that doesn’t always come naturally. You want the win, whatever your win is, but are you willing to be broken down before you’re rebuilt? There’s no one right way to think about just how important something is to you, but as with big, consequential questions we shy away from, the best way to give yourself perspective is to shock the system with exactly that which you fear: what would I be if I didn’t have this anymore?

If that doesn’t motivate you to take a beating for your goal, you should re-prioritize your seesaw.

Step 3: Play the Balance Game.

Once you’ve identified which game you want to be a part of (and which you don’t), put in the work. Even if you’re trying to balance a heavy-set saw. If something requires a lot of time and effort, take time before you start to get a sense of how much this goal will help you get to where you want to be after it’s over. Again, this depends on what you’re after. Money, experience, friendship, love. Any or all of the above. Remember, every board is connected to the rest. Remember, your energy is finite. Try to balance every board all the time, you’ll lose. Set expectations with yourself and with others. “I may be a little too busy trying to make this work, so I may not be around as much.” Don’t leave room for surprises. Then get to work.

Related: The 3 Step Framework Behind Getting Over Fear and Getting It Done

Prioritize well and, as always, be more than you ever thought possible. For an extra dose of inspiration, see our canvas prints and quoted apparel.

With love,
Pasha & the Bemore Team


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