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Work, Family, Fitness, Sleep, Friendships -- Pick 3

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No one gets to have it all, all the time. But Randi Zuckerberg says we get to "pick three."

The former Facebook director of market expansion (and Mark Zuckerberg's sister) once tweeted this:

The entrepreneur's dilemma: Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.

The implication is that of the five things most people consider important, busy people can have only three.

I think she's right, and I think it applies not only to entrepreneurs, but to anyone who has something in their life that's eating up a lion's share of their time -- including military Must-Have Parents.

In this interview, Zuckerberg acknowledged that something's gotta give for everyone, not just entrepreneurs.

"I think this is a human dilemma, not just an entrepreneurs dilemma," she said. "We all want to do it all but really, at the end of the day, you can't do all of them well."

This applies to someone who is cramming in extra hours to go back to school, learn a new skill or tackle a big project at work. It applies to someone who is taking care of a sick relative, or planning for and adjusting after a PCS move. And it applies to Must-Have Parents who are tackling the bulk of the parenting while the Must-Do Parents are off doing. (And it most certainly applies to Must-Do Parents!)

For Must-Have Parents, "parenting" is our "building a great company." And for MHPs who are also entrepreneurs, working their own demanding job, or going back to school, a sixth category is probably necessary. I called mine, simply, "work."

(Note: If you have six categories, you still get to pick only three to focus on at a time.)

So how do we pick?

My husband recently introduced me to a military-devised system called the CARVER Matrix. CARVER is an acronym that stands for Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability. It's used by the military to, among other things, determine which targets to attack first.

But it's also been found to be a great tool for the corporate world.

Seems appropriate here.

Here's how it works: First, decide what your overall goal is. Mine is really broad -- it's "To have a great life."

Then, draw a chart with six columns across the top labeled C A R V E R. Next, make a column down the left side with each line labeled according to your priorities. (Here's a template.) For these purposes, my categories are Friendships, Parenting, Family, Fitness, Sleep and Work.

(By the way, I consider "Parenting" and "Family" to be separate categories because "Parenting" is the part that involves me guiding and care-giving for my children. "Family" includes both relaxing and fun times with my immediate family and the time I invest in extended family members.)

Then, score each of the left column categories by the CARVER criteria, assigning a number to each one. A higher score is better.

Criticality: How important or critical is a particular factor to the overall objective of the project?

Accessibility: Do you have what you need to do this right away?

Return: Which will yield the quickest payoff?

Vulnerability: How easy or difficult will it be to achieve your goal?

Effect: How will achieving this particular goal impact the big-picture goal.

Recognizability: How easy (or complex) is the task. Easier tasks get a higher score.

Here's what the scoring process looks like:

Friendships:

1.Criticality -- How important are they? On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, I gave friendships a 6.

2.Accessibility -- How easy are they to attain? Well, we're a military family so I don't live near most of my close friends, but I can reach them online and by phone, and it's really hard to meet new people and forge new friendships. I gave this a 5.

3.Return -- How quickly will I see a payoff? Fairly quickly. If I maintain friendships, I can almost always reach someone, and talking to a friend almost always makes me feel instantly better. Score: 8.

4.Vulnerability -- How easy or difficult will it be to achieve and maintain a friendship? Friendships are hard and they take a lot of work. I give this one a 4.

5.Effect -- How will achieving this goal impact the big picture goal (having a great life)? Friendships are important, but they won't absolutely make or break my life. A solid 6.

6.Recognizability -- How easy (or hard) is it to make and keep friends for a lifetime? Hard. Very, very hard. I give it a 1.

Total score: 30

Do this for all the categories and then compare the total scores for each. The three with the highest scores should be your three top priorities.

Try it. It's a fun exercise and might help you clarify what is, or should be, consuming most of your time.

But here's the thing: While I do think you have to pick three things to focus on at a time, that doesn't mean those three can't rotate. All five (or six) can happen in moderation.

So, yeah, no one gets to have it all, all the time -- but we can have most everything, sometimes.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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