Ask the Expert: Life coach Dr. Susan Biali

Welcome to part one of our new Ask the Expert series. To help you simplify your life, we’re asking top experts to answer your questions about eating well, staying healthy and reaching your goals. First up: Dr. Susan Biali answers reader-submitted questions about achieving life balance

Ask the Expert: Life coach Dr. Susan Biali

Source: Web exclusive, March 2011

For many of us, life balance is an elusive goal’which is not surprising, given the number of things we may juggle in one day. To help you get on track, we invited Dr. Susan Biali, a medical doctor, life coach and author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, to answer questions about life balance submitted by our readers via Twitter and Facebook.

Q: Twitter user @HealthyIZ says her kids make her late every morning. How can she and other parents make sure their family stays on track?

A: Start by writing a detailed list of the tasks that need to be done to get the kids (and yourself) ready and out the door. Next, ask yourself:
1) Are there any things that could be done the night before?
Anything that doesn’t need to be done "live" in the morning should be delegated to the evening before to minimize chaos and save time (e.g., lay out the kids’ clothes, prepare lunches, put dishes and cereal boxes on the table, etc.).

2) Is there any particular step (or steps) in the series that throws the schedule off every morning?
Analyze how you could you make more space for this task or organize it better. For example, if the hardest and most time-consuming thing is getting one particular child out of bed and dressed, perhaps his or her scheduled wake-up time could be moved earlier to allow for this frustrating but predictable stumbling block. 

3) How might the kids be part of the solution?
Have your kids go over the morning routine with you ‘ they might even enjoy helping you come up with the master list. Ask them for ideas for doing things more efficiently, and invite them to suggest ways that they might personally contribute to the family goal of finally being on time.

Q: Like many moms, Facebook friend Kyasarin Shin feels that between her busy job, her household chores and raising her kids, she has lost her sense of self over the years. What steps can she take to get it back?

A: I see this all the time’in my work as a life coach, I spend much of my time helping women return to themselves after a lifetime spent focusing on others. Kyasarin has already taken the critical first step: recognizing that she wants to get herself back. This is a beautiful moment in a woman’s journey, because of the deep joy that surely follows when she commits to rediscovering herself and reclaiming her life. Here are her next steps:

1) Watch for clues.
If you haven’t thought about yourself for years, it can be difficult’and you may even feel pressured ‘ to figure out what you really want. Start by experiencing the awareness of wanting to return to yourself. Notice what you like and what you don’t like. Watch your world as you go through your days’you’ll observe things that trigger memories or stimulate interesting new ideas. Catch your "I’d love to try that" thoughts and moments and make note of them.

2) Start a journal.
Writing down my thoughts, emotions, longings and dreams was central to coming home to myself after years lost in a career and life that didn’t suit me. Write in a special book daily if you can, no holds barred. Everything you feel is worthy of noting, and the wildest of dreams are worth documenting. You’ll find that your best ideas start walking off the pages and coming to life in the days ahead.

3) Start small.
Identify what you’d love to enjoy more of and arrange your schedule so you have time for small doses. Get a book about interior design and read bits during short tea breaks. Sign up for a short writing workshop. Call a friend who inspires you and reminds you of your favourite things about yourself.

Q: Facebook friend Laura Dugal Crozier wants to better manage her time. She’d like to know which is more beneficial: devoting small chunks of time to many things each day, or focusing on fewer tasks and spending more time on each? What strategies can you suggest for the challenge of "scheduling life"?

A: Determine what kind of person you are and how you work best. I do best juggling a variety of tasks across my day. The more I move from one thing to another, the more momentum I get and the more I get done. I can’t work at any one thing for more than an hour, so I break longer tasks into smaller portions. I also take regular breaks as I can’t sit still for long. If you’re more methodical and like to see something completed before you can move on, structure your tasks separately and in a logical order, leaving enough time for each. Above all, be careful about trying to fit someone else’s mould for what productivity or scheduling should look like’unless they’re like you, it probably won’t work!

Next, find your most important focus. Identify the things that you absolutely must get done, the tasks that are most important to your success and peace of mind. Make these a priority when you plan, and be determined not to get distracted by less important items that pop up throughout your day.

Finally, Know when your most productive hours are. I’m useless before 9 a.m., so I rarely schedule anything before then. If I have to do some serious writing, I’ll do that on a weekend or an evening, when I know I won’t be interrupted by business-related phone calls and dozens of distracting emails. When planning your day, think about the things you need to get done and the kind of mental and physical space’and brainpower’you’ll need to do them.

Have you got a question you’d like answered by one of our experts? Post it on our Facebook page, tweet us @besthealthmag or post it in the comments below. Check back next month when an expert dietitian answers your questions about eating well.