I believe that how you spend your time has never been as important as this year during COVID-19. Some of you are working from home. Some of you have young children going to school at home. Spending time most wisely is a challenge for everyone of you.

Many years ago I gave a presentation for associates in a medium sized firm. Prior to speaking to them, I asked them to give me 1-3 questions I could help answer for them. Several questions I received focused on work-life balance. One associate asked how to add hours to her day. I thought my reply might be helpful to you.

There is no way to add more hours to your day. Other than the weekend when daylight savings time falls back to standard time, there are only 168 hours each week. The real question is how well you use those hours to achieve your priorities.

Suppose you sleep 8 hours a night, or 56 hours a week. Suppose you bill 40 hours a week and you invest another 10 hours a week on your career development, client development and other firm activities. That leaves 62 waking hours of personal time for family, fitness, community, church, recreation, hobbies, commuting and other activities.

How you spend the 10 hours a week (or whatever number) of investment time will ultimately determine the quality of your career. How you spend the 62 hours (or whatever number) of family and personal time will ultimately determine the quality of your life and family relationships.

I have also always believed that it was more important for me to plan my personal time than work time because if I did not plan it, I could easily find a work excuse not to do the important things. For example, if I did not have a time set aside for working out, I could find any number of excuses not to go to the fitness center where I worked out.

I have never liked the concept of work-life balance. To me it is both boring and unachievable. Instead, I prefer the concept of priorities based on your roles. I learned long ago through reading books by Stephen Covey that if you plan your week around your roles and priorities, you have the best chance of having the proper focus between your work roles and your personal roles. For example it will help you focus on the most important thing you can do each week as a father/mother, husband/wife, son/daughter, brother/sister and so forth.

Your priorities are unique and they will change with your circumstances. One size does not fit all. If you are a single lawyer with no family responsibilities, your priorities may be focused almost exclusively on work, community service and having fun. If you later marry and have children, your priorities will most likely be very different. When your children are grown, your priorities may change again.

So, plan next week around your personal and work roles. Figure out the most important thing you can do in each role, estimate how much time you will spend doing it and then put it on your calendar.