I’m a huge productivity nerd, so I’ve read most of the books and blogs (and binge-watched all of the YouTubers) professing to help you lead a more productive life.
So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a totally new (to me) productivity rule that I had never heard of before.
It was so intriguing that I immediately grabbed a pen and paper and mapped out how I could use it in my daily life.
And since I’ve implemented this rule, I’ve found it SO much easier to:
- Keep on top of all my to-dos and deadlines (across all of my interests)
- Stay focused on things that are most important to me
- Avoid that overwhelmed feeling of having too much to do
So what’s the hack? Basically, you define 5 to 7 life roles that encompass the main roles you play in your life. For example, you could create roles called Self, Mom, Business Owner, or more creative titles like Learner or Artist.
Here are my 7 roles:
- Home Manager
- Leader (for an organization I’m in)
- Team Leader (for an organization I’m in)
- Business Owner
It sounds simple. But it’s actually super powerful and will help you stay more productive and purposeful in every area of life.
By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to do this. But first, why should you define life roles?
Table of Contents
- Why Define Life Roles?
- How to Define Your List of Life Roles
- How to Use Life Roles to Get Organized and Be Productive
Why Define Life Roles?
If you’re like me, you have a lot of interests in life. And you probably play a lot of different roles.
In my case, I’m a human being first, and I love to do things that keep me healthy and happy. I love to learn.
And then I’m a wife and a mom, and both of those roles require nurturing and time.
I have my own business and love to work with clients.
I like to write for my own pleasure, like this blog you’re reading right now.
And I volunteer for an organization that I’m really passionate about, too.
But when we’re following so many passions, here’s the problem that keeps coming up. Life throws so many things at us.
There are events to attend, projects to plan, to-dos to get done, names to remember, things to learn, relationships to build, places to go, goals to set (and achieve), and the list goes on and on.
And there are a million ways to organize this tsunami of information crashing on us all the time. You can create a list of projects. You can create a master to-do list. You can have color-coded notebooks or alphabetical files.
And all of that is great.
But for me, it’s still too much.
- “Okay, so I have my list of alphabetical files, but when do I reach for those files?”
- “When do I spend time on Project A and when do I spend time on Project B?”
- “Oops, I forgot to plan that project that I was supposed to do weeks ago.”
- “And hm, I really should be spending more time with my husband…” (somehow I always neglect my most important relationships when life is at its busiest—give me a shoutout in the comments if you can relate)
Enter life roles. Simply defining a list of the most important roles in your life allows you to organize all of this information into 5-7 big siloes, so you can make sure all of them get an equal amount of focus and care.
This idea comes from the book First Things First by Steven Covey (published in 1994), which I found on my dad’s bookshelf during a trip back home in June.
I’ll explain how you can leverage these roles to stay more focused, get more done, and reach your goals for every life area at the end of this article.
But first, here’s a step-by-step guide to defining your own life roles.
How to Define Your List of Life Roles
It sounds daunting to try to distill everything you’ve got going on into just 5 to 7 bullet points.
But this will have a big payoff later on.
When I originally read Steven Covey’s other bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I picked up this idea of creating life roles. The problem was, I created like 25 different roles to describe every little thing I was doing (and I wasn’t even a mom yet, so who knows what I was writing down).
But 25 roles is way too many to keep track of. In First Things First, Steven Covey cautions readers to stick to a maximum of 7 roles; otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed, and the system won’t work for you.
So here’s how to do that:
- First, write down a list of every single role you can think of. Self, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Wife, Mom, Chairman of XYZ, Business Owner, Employee, Classroom Volunteer, Pet Owner, Artist, Home Manager, and the list goes on and on.
- Whittle it down to just 7. Some roles need to stand on their own, like Self, Wife, or Business Owner. But others can be grouped together (like Artist and Learner can fit into “Self” as things you like to do for yourself). You can think of creative titles to express a group of related roles. Still others can be left out if they’re not one of the main areas of life you want to focus on.
- Give yourself some time to tweak the system. If something’s not working for you, you can drop it or change it. This is never set in stone. And if the whole system isn’t working, throw it out. You’re in charge of your productivity journey 🙂
Here are some sample roles that can spark ideas for your own list:
- Business Owner
- Teacher (etc., other careers)
- Community Member
- Home Manager
Now, for the final piece. How to use these roles to organize your life, get more done, and feel more focused and productive every day.
Let’s dive in.
How to Use Life Roles to Get Organized and Be Productive
There are 2 main components you need to make this whole system work:
- First, you need to organize all the stuff that’s swirling around in your life so you can use it when you need it
- And second, you need to organize your time so you can give proper attention to everything you want to focus on
So here’s how to do that.
#1 – Organizing Stuff with Life Roles
When I say stuff, I’m talking about all those to-dos on your list. All those flyers your kids bring home from school. All the dates and reminders you need to keep track of. All the notes you’ve written down or projects you’re working on.
Usually, they’re jumbled up together in a big heap. Your to-do list is one big block of tasks. Your calendar is full of different dates with no real organization. Flyers, mail, and papers are thrown into a pile. And overwhelm sets in.
But now that you’ve defined your life roles, you can have a more organized system. Anything that pertains to your personal needs gets organized under “Self.” Anything for the house or finances goes under “Home Manager.” Anything related to your kids goes under “Mom.”
It’s easy to organize. And you can find things when you need them.
Here’s how I’ve used life roles to organize my stuff:
- I’ve created different calendars inside of Google Calendar for each role (color-coded of course 😉 )
- I’ve split up my to-do lists into each role
- I’ve made a list of prayer requests for each role
- I’ve started tagging my digital notes for each role
- I try to set one major goal each week for each role that will move the needle forward
Full transparency, my folder system is still alphabetical and in one list because I find that easier. But for everything else, I like to divide it up by role.
Okay, great, so you’ve divided things up into nice folders with pretty colors. But that doesn’t mean you’re actually going to use them, right?
That’s why you need the second part of this equation, which is organizing your time.
#2 – Organizing Your Time With Life Roles
This is by far the most important part of the whole system. Even if you do nothing else, this one step will give you so much more focus in your life and will help you get more done.
You’re going to map your life roles to your calendar. A specific time of the day or week is going to be blocked off for that role. During that time, you get to focus on the role, plan ahead, look through your to-dos, finish those tasks, or whatever you most need to do for that role right now.
I like to do this by simply assigning a role to each day of the week. Here’s what it looks like right now:
- Monday – Leader
- Tuesday – Team Leader
- Wednesday – Home Manager
- Thursday – Business Owner
- Friday – Mom
- Saturday – Wife
- Sunday – Self
You might like to divide up each day into time blocks based on your role, whichever makes more sense to you.
And it really doesn’t matter which day gets which role, but I’ve organized it this way because it makes sense for my lifestyle and my family’s schedule.
Here are some practical ways I use this time-blocking system:
- Getting Little Tasks Done. Each day, I go through the to-do list for that role and try to get some little things done.
- Deep Thinking. I spend some time thinking strategically about the role: something I can do to move projects forward, plan things for the future, or nurture a relationship.
- Routine Tasks. I have certain routine tasks I need to do for each role, so I schedule most of them for the assigned day. That way I don’t forget things like meal planning and grocery shopping or planning for meetings.
- Prayers. I pray for things related to the role of the day. Since I have lots of things I want to pray for, this makes me feel less overwhelmed and I enjoy praying more.
- Being Intentional. On Mom Day, I try to give my kids extra attention or think of ways to delight them. On Wife Day, I try to be intentional in spending time with my husband (and my kids too, because that’s a family day for us). On Self Day, I take time to relax and recharge so I feel refreshed.
Do you see the power of this system? Not only do I have all the important info in my life organized where I can find it, but I also now have a specific time where I’m going to focus on each role and get things done.
The great thing about this is you don’t need any special tools to do it. All you need is your brain, a pen and paper, and a little bit of time to think and plan how you’ll implement it for your own life.
If you’re looking to get all the discombobulated parts of your life under control, if you’re looking to be more intentional in your relationships, and if you want to achieve more of the goals you have for yourself, I wholeheartedly recommend using this Life Roles system.
Here are the steps again:
- Define your most important 5-7 life roles.
- Start to organize your stuff under each role to make it easier to access later.
- Create time blocks in your week or day so each role gets a chunk of time every week.
- Use those time blocks to get things done, plan, focus, be intentional, or whatever else you find important for that role on that day.
- Feel more focused and get more done!
Was this idea new to you or had you heard of it before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
(This article contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a kickback if you decide to purchase something at no extra cost to you. If you don’t want to use an affiliate link, you can search for the item on Google instead.)