Rebalance Your Life Portfolio. Life Portfolio audit.
Artists and writers have portfolios of their best work. Investors maintain diversified portfolios of financial investments. But we all have what I call a life portfolio—where and how we spend our time, energy, and resources.
Sometimes, we need to rebalance that life portfolio. The idea is to consciously consider the risks, rewards, and time of life, and rebalance by investing in future-proofing your career and factoring in life-long success.
Recognizing this need to rebalance changed the way I spent my time. When my kids were born, I always said the family was the most important thing—the top of my pyramid. Even so, I worked eighty-hour weeks and spent most of my spare time thinking about work. That lifestyle had worked a little better when I was young, had no partner, no kids, and no personal life, but it wasn’t a great long-term option.
What would life look like if we spent more time on what mattered most?
Asking myself that question was my starting point and revealed a huge imbalance.
How to Rebalance
Generally, the word “audit” doesn’t strike joy into many hearts.
But one of the most rewarding methods for starting to rebuild and rebalance a life portfolio is by completing a life audit. Like a financial audit, this process shows you what you’re accomplishing against what you think you’re doing. It’s simultaneously simple and illuminating.
It is helpful to separate the life audit into three distinct components:
- Time audit
- Trust audit
- Financial audit
If you look at your calendar and compare it against your values, life goals, and focus, does it add up?
Take an hour to flip back through the last six or twelve months in your calendar and write down some of the chunky bits and what they do to help you align your life with what you would like to do. Does it feed your growth? And does it prioritize your health? Does it enhance learning in the area you’ve identified as a good pivot? Are you sure it contributes to developing the values and virtues you want to project?
A Category Called “Other”
Have a category called “other” and write down all those activities you do that don’t enhance your life. Does it take up 20 per cent of your life? Two per cent? Who are you spending your time with, what projects do you spend time on, and how does that timeline up with your priorities?
Review your calendar quarterly and ask, “What did I do this quarter, and did it work? Was it important to me? Did it line up with my priorities? What can I do daily, weekly, or monthly that makes next quarter look better?” I know there are productivity nuts (I wish I was one of them) who schedule their days to the minute. If you are one of them, this is likely too basic for you, but even great schedulers can lose sight of the bigger picture.
If there are areas you want to invest time in, schedule something discreet, like taking a course or taking on a project around a skill you want to learn or master. Scheduling exercise is also important to the people I interviewed: a resilient body, resilient mind.
I structured my day by ensuring my most important priorities, including health, were accomplished by lunch. In the early iterations of my time audits, I knew I wanted to get up early, write for thirty minutes, exercise, and spend time with my family. After that, I’d spend three hours crafting my work and then go spend time in face-to-face meetings later in the day. Knowing my personal priorities would be tended to first was very important and helped streamline different aspects of my life.
The trust audit is key for resilience and your network. Who do you trust deeply? Who can you call for support at 3 a.m.? Have you focused on creating intimacy and love in your life to support yourself?
Having a lot of friends who are a pleasure to hang out with is absolutely fantastic and often leads to new and interesting opportunities to collaborate and network. You don’t need to be transparent and tell them everything about your life. You need a select few whom you can reach out to any time, confide in, and be vulnerable.
Some people tell me, “Diana, you need to get back on the corporate track. I can’t understand why you’re ruining your life like this.”
Other people think my life is a complete joy and I have it made, barely working but still managing to launch projects, travelling the world teaching and consulting, and having time for family. The ones I spend the most time with are those who say, “If that’s what you want to do, that’s great. How can I help?”
If I fail, those are the people who will encourage me to move past the obstacle and on to greater things, or they’ll tell me I’m full of it and point out the risks so that I can better prepare. Having that trust circle and those relationships are important; it’s something we don’t always teach the next generation, and we should.
A friend of mine who is writing a book about financial planning feels that money is the central issue. He maintains that only by taking money out of the equation can you make decisions on values and purpose. Perhaps he is right but a famous study from economist Alan B. Krueger and psychologist Daniel Kahneman show that higher-income rarely correlates with time spent on meaningful activities or increased happiness.
It’s important to know how much money you need to live your Minimum Viable Lifestyle—the minimum you need to be happy and satisfied. What does it look like now and what does it look like over the long run? Do you need to move to a different city? Does that work for your long-term plans (e.g. a house in Colorado fully paid off you can live in) or is it a short-term experiment (can I really live on the beach full time?). Can you forgo buying new clothes for a year, a decade? Will you send your kids to state-funded schools instead of private so you can pursue your art more? Are you ready for them to miss out on prestige for the opportunity to show them about making choices in life?
Audit Your Spendings
Go through the entire household budget and long-term plans to see what you can strip out. You may be amazed by what you are spending money on that isn’t strictly required. The advertising world does an excellent job connecting people’s material wish list to their deepest Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but the result isn’t always truly fulfilling.
Your Dreams and Goals
Now consider the dreams and goals that have come up in your explorations. Write down as many as you can. Some of them will require money but many just require time. Understand the tradeoffs and get creative about putting the puzzle pieces together.
Do you want to take a month off to go to art school or trek in Peru? Start to consider the non-material values you want to pursue and how to “buy” them by reducing in other areas or getting creative about your collaborations and projects.
When lawyer Jennifer Van Dale moved into thought leadership work, I asked her about other things she might do. She said, “I am very passionate about photography, but I don’t want to monetize my passions. I want to set up my work so that I have time and resources to pursue them without money being an issue.” That is often a great way to improve the way you show up to your other work.
Finally, look at how much income you need to sustain your minimum needs; explore what is enough work or enough money for you. Rather than defaulting to a forty (or eighty) hour workweek, could you work two days a week? Work hard now and save art school for a sabbatical or redundancy?
Start adding in the items from your dream list. Do you need to consider building up passive income via real estate, investments, or even a side hustle to create a side income to weather storms and create an alternate opportunity for experimentation?
With the right tools and, more importantly, the right mindset, this can be a very pleasurable journey.
Adapted from Future Proof.
If you feel that you need some help with your Life Portfolio Audit, you can join my online-course>>.
 Eric Quiñones, “Link Between Income and Happiness is Mainly an Illusion,” Princeton University, June 29, 2006, accessed October 11, 2018,https://www.princeton.edu/news/2006/06/29/link-between-income-and-happiness-mainly-illusion.
 Jennifer Van Dale, 2018.