As I sit, nursing a broken knee, an injury from my beloved sport of horse riding, I have been given the opportunity to reflect on the balance of my life. This is not something we tend to do very often. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did the exercise! This is something I am sure many of us can relate to.

In the busy world of business we tend to get swept along by all the action around us. In the role of the Executive Secretary/Personal Assistant we are required to be many things for many people. It is important to learn practical self-management techniques to remain effective and succeed with the workload that the role entails.

Self-management has to be firmly mastered before we can successfully lead, manage or assist others. Managing our life means managing (being in control of) all controllable aspects of our lives – physically, emotionally and spiritually.


Self-mastery, alone, sounds like a selfish term; but if you cannot help yourself, you will have limited ability to help others. Self-mastery is the ability to make the most out of your physical, mental and spiritual health. In other words, to be the best you can be.


As a result of your efforts, you will be able to help everyone around you. We must look at ourselves as works in progress. Appreciate yourself for who you are, what you are, and what you have accomplished so far.

Let the journey begin…

You will need five individual pieces of paper. They need to be big enough for you to write a word on each one. Now think of five things that are the most important to you in your life. And write each one on the separate pieces of paper you have.

Ideas could be: family, health, fitness, religion, giving back, money, friends etc. Five things that you really need in your life. It can be challenging to find five things. Take your time to put down the words on the separate pieces of paper.

Once you have your five words, look at each word in front of you, and select one word that is the least important and crumple it up. Now look at the remaining four words. Select one that is the least important and crumple it up. Look at the remaining three words. Select one that is the least important and crumple it up.

You will now be left with the two most important words in your life. Keep them safe we will come back to them. Next complete the questionnaire below:



Lifestyle analysis questionnaire

To view how balanced your lifestyle is, answer the 24 questions below by giving yourself an appropriate percentage rating. Note that 100% rating would constitute what you consider to be ideal.

Description 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
1 Have a variety of good/close friends.
2 Regularly devote time to meditation, prayer, self reflection or other personal spiritual practice.
3 Take regular vigorous physical exercise.
4 Spend adequate quality and quantity time with family.
5 I am happy with my financial income.
6 My work is a calling, not just a job.
7 Financially support charity organisations.
8 Enjoy reading non-fiction books.
9 Satisfying intimate relationship with spouse/partner.
10 Read and enquire about spiritual issues and deeper meanings of life.
11 Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals.
12 Regularly write or call members of my family.
13 Have adequate saving/retirement funds.
14 My career has much scope for advancement.
15 Am actively involved in community projects.
16 Enjoy educational films, videos and lectures.
17 Enjoy meeting new people and attending group events or social gatherings.
18 Attend religious and/or spiritual services or meetings.
19 Regularly participate in physical sport/recreation.
20 Enjoy family reunions and gatherings.
21 Have financial investments, which grow my money.
22 I am really good at the work I do.
23 Belong to association/s within my community.
24 Like to go to workshops, bookstores, libraries and speak to authorities to learn new things.

Dr Bruce Copley

To obtain a rating for each of the eight categories, total the ratings as follows:


Category Add answers for questions: Total out of 300 % (divide your total by 3)
Social 1+9+17
Spiritual 2+10+18
Physical 3+11+19
Family 4+12+20
Financial 5+13+21
Professional 6+14+22
Recreational 7+15+23
Intellectual 8+16+24


Transfer your category totals onto the LIFESTYLE WHEEL below and shade in each category. This wheel provides a useful VISUAL PICTURE of your lifestyle balance. How round is your wheel? Are you putting too much emphasis on one aspect of your life and neglecting other aspects?

Dr Bruce Copley

Now refer back to the two most important words in your life. Do those two words correspond with the areas on your graph? Are you spending more time on something else and neglecting the two most important areas in your life?

If the two most important things in your time match with the wheel, Well done! Keep working on your balance. If the wheel and your words do not match, the aim of the questionnaire was never to create guilt in ourselves. It is there to give us a picture of what we value and where we are spending our time. The key is to now change what you have been doing, to bring your wheel and your two words more in line with each other. It can be simple changes such as not bringing work home into family time, leaving the office earlier on certain days so to be home earlier, making the call to the member of your family you have not spoken to for a while, or instead of watching TV start that book you have been wanting to read.

Change is hard. What we need to ask ourselves is “do we want to keep doing things the way we have always done them and get the same results and be in the same situation, or do we want to create a situation we would prefer to be in?” Enjoy the journey.

Joanne Barnfather is the Managing Member of MindLeap, a training company in South Africa. She works in the private and public sector, focusing on skills that inspire people and organisations to want to be better.

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