By Robert Pagliarini

The greatest insights -- those that can have the most profound effect on creating a richer life -- are often the most obvious.

There are a handful of such truths that can radically transform your perception and be the first steps toward living your best life. The following truth, if recognized and internalized, can lead to a whole new way of looking at the world that will allow you to get the most from it: You have a limited amount of time and energy to invest. Duh, right? Not so fast. There's a real danger you will gloss over this because this "insight" is so obvious.

Let me rephrase. You can't do everything you want. If you start this hobby, it means you will have less time for that hobby. If you go out with your friends tonight, it means less time with your family. If you start a business in the other eight hours, it will mean less time for TV.

Since you have a limited amount of time and energy, how can you best invest these resources to have the strongest impact?

Last week I made the case that a "balanced" life is for losers. That is not to say you are a loser if you have a balanced life, but the act of spreading your resources across several areas means that there isn't one area of your life that is benefiting from extra time and attention.

For example, what if famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma decided to balance his time and training across the cello, guitar, drums and bagpipes? My guess is that he would have been great at each of these, but not exceptional at any of them. Yo-Yo Ma would be Yo-Yo who?

But what about you? Follow these four steps to determine where you should invest your time and energy:

1. Identify key life areas.

Jot down the most important areas in your life. I like to combine all of my areas into just four -- Health, Financial, Growth and Family/Friends -- but you can create your own.

2. Assign a current rating.

Rate each area of your life between 1 (miserable) and 100 (perfection) to see where you currently stand.

3. Prioritize your top area.

In which area do you want to focus more intensely over the next quarter or year?

4. Allocate time / energy.

Once you've identified your priority area, should you disregard the other areas of your life? My recommendation is to work on getting to 75 or 85 in as many areas of your life as possible, but overweight your priority area. It might be making more money, advancing your career or receiving professional recognition, but then again, it might not. Maybe for you it's being the best damn dad you can be. You might "settle" for 75 in health, career, friends and reaching your personal goals, but you'll strive to hit 100 in family.

And that's the beauty of this process. There is no right or wrong answer. What you do with your time is up to you. Whereas most people unwittingly spend their time in areas that aren't even important to them, if you internalize this simple truth, you'll shift from spending time to investing it. The clarity you gain from knowing what's most important in your life, and realizing the relationship between time invested and results, will allow you to quickly make decisions. A friend wants you to join the board of a local non-profit? Sure, unless time invested here impedes progress in a more important area of your life.

Time is money, unless for you time is better health, closer friendships or connection with family. Get good across the key areas of your life, and then get great in one.


Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six-Day Financial Makeove"


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