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How I Help People Get Their Lives Together

The passing of a close friend inspired a new calling for Amanda O’Reilly: Teaching other people how to make the most of their time

In 2007, Amanda O’Reilly was living a relatively normal life: She was a single mom and had a good job at a telecommunications company. But when a close friend desperately needed help, she discovered a completely different calling.

“My girlfriend gave birth to her second baby,” shares O’Reilly. “When they were trying to help her nurse, they found lumps, which they originally thought to be clogged milk ducts, but it soon was discovered to be stage four breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy two days after she delivered.”

O’Reilly came to her side to do simple things, like buying pajamas for her newborn baby and getting groceries — things that, in 2007, weren’t as easy as picking up a phone or going online and getting them sent to your home. Tragically, however, the surgery came too late. “We lost her quickly,” she says, “within seven months.”

The experience opened Amanda’s eyes to the fact that, for a million different reasons, there were people and families out there in need of just everyday assistance with ordinary, seemingly simple tasks. O’Reilly soon left her job and began Balance Instyle, a personal concierge service to provide support to help people get their lives organized, giving back the one commodity you can’t get enough of: Time.

Here’s what she’s learned about how to get your life together…

Take Inventory of Your Life

“When people come to me for the first time, I give them an intake form that has a wheel broken into eight sections,” O’Reilly explains. While it’s customizable, depending upon your prioritizes, the standard categories are: Health; Home Environment; Career; Finances; Romance; Contribution; Family and Friends; and Personal Growth. “From there, I get them to score themselves from one to ten for how satisfied they are in each area of their life. So, if you love work, that may be a ten, but your romantic life is a mess, so that’s a three.”

“People already know that they’re overwhelmed,” O’Reilly explains. “This wheel exercise gives them a visual so they can really get it and see which areas of their lives are on life support. From there, I equate that wheel to the wheel of a bike — if one area is really strong, while another is suffering, how smooth is you ride going to be? You don’t want everything to be a perfect 10, but you want your life to be balanced. [This tool is] an exercise in awareness, and once you have that awareness, then it’s about putting a plan together.”

Make a Plan

When trying to figure out how to attend to those weaker areas in your life, recognize that you’ll have to sacrifice some things to bring about balance. The best way to figure this out is to look at everything you do on a regular basis and, says O’Reilly, “Put them into three categories: Do, ditch or delegate.”

The Do’s are, “The things that require your unique fingerprint or that you’re passionate about,” O’Reilly explains. “Be it at work or at home, you’re probably the best at the things that light you up and get you excited — those things that may not feel like work at all.”

Ditching, meanwhile, refers to scrubbing unnecessary stuff off your to-do list. While it can be tough to ditch stuff that feels important, if you don’t want your life to feel overrun, something’s got to give. For some, it could be as simple as easing up on the frequency of an activity — say, cleaning your house every other week instead of every few days, or mowing your lawn every month instead of every other weekend. It also could just be ditching that hour you spend procrastinating on Facebook each day.

Finally the third D: Delegate, i.e., find someone else to handle some of your shit. “Delegating is the hardest thing for most people,” says O’Reilly. “People have this need to hold onto things because they want it to all be perfect, but perhaps letting go of something will allow for your time to be freed up a little.”

In practical terms, delegating is really just about asking for help. “Have your kid mow the lawn, or ask your mom to bring your child to hockey. People are afraid to [ask for help] because many people equate this with weakness. But you’re not weak, you’re human, and humans need help. You have a community. You have friends. You have family. You have neighbors. People actually like to help one another, it’s empowering, so you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out.”

Enact Your Plan

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, O’Reilly recommends hitting the big projects first and freeing yourself from distractions. “Generally, people are most productive first thing in the morning, so schedule that big project you’re dreading first. Put your phone on airplane mode and buckle down and see that your goal gets accomplished.”

Additionally, O’Reilly recommends refraining from multitasking: “While you may be able to do something while you’re running on the treadmill or doing something that requires little mental energy, trying to accomplish more than one goal at a time often leads to neither being accomplished.”

Another tip is to not overload your day with an overly-daunting “to-do list.” “End each day with a list of three to five things you’re going to accomplish the next day and that’s it. If you have too many goals, you set yourself up to fail.”

Keeping your list light also gives you the freedom to “course correct,” letting you handle things that come your way without letting them derail your entire day.

Give Yourself Permission

O’Reilly believes that the key component of reorganizing your cluttered, stressful life is to allow yourself to let certain things go. “You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses and give yourself permission to let go of those tasks that consume your time — give yourself permission to ask for help.” Once you do that, she says, finding out what to do, ditch or delegate will be much easier, and you’ll finally be able to bring about some level of balance to all the areas of your life.

And if you don’t have time to figure all this stuff out, what the hell, just delegate it to someone else. You’ve got better things to do with your life.