Book Summary: Life Matters

Title: Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time and Money

Author: A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill

How do you define balance? Does balance look like a scale to you, where every aspect of your life gets the same amount of time and energy? Or does balance look like a baseball field where you’re trying to run around the diamond fast enough to touch each base? These are common “myths” that we have about balance and this book introduces a new view: balancing as opposed to balanced. According to the authors, when we stop seeing balance as an event and more as a dynamic process, we will be less disappointed with ourselves and life. Roger and Rebecca Merrill are experts in the time management field and frequent collaborators with Steven Covey. Their practical advice and real-life stories made this a great read.

Basic Overview:

The book begins with “Three Gotta-Do’s”–principles that can be applied to any situation and which will facilitate balancing life. The first “Gotta-Do” is validate expectations. Often when we are feeling frustrated about something, it is because our expectations are not realistic. We need to understand what is real (such as principles, truths and experiences) and what is realistic (achievable). The second “Gotta-Do” is optimize efforts. Once you have a valid expectation or a goal, there are countless ways to go about achieving it. Optimizing your efforts means that you choose ways that are in harmony with your overall goal and which will give you, in essence, the biggest “bang for your buck.” The third “Gotta-Do” is to develop “navigational intelligence.” This refers to cultivating wisdom and inviting inspiration into your life so that you are able to recognize what is most important, even when you might be doing something else.

Parts I Liked Best: 

The rest of the book showed how to apply the Three Gotta-Do’s in the areas of work, family, time and money. Here were the things that stood out the most to me in each area:


The idea that work and family are natural enemies is really a product of our Western culture. A hundred years ago families worked together on the farm. Then as industrialization took place, the father and children began to leave the home, mothers worked alone and everyone became more isolated. As a society, we began to define worth by how much money we could make. We can counteract that mindset by working together as family, teaching our children to love work, and involving them in our work as much as possible. How we view work also has a great impact on our families. Do we see work just as a way to make money or do we see it as a way to contribute and to provide for the ones we love? As a mother, I realized that my view of “house work” can really impact my children. Is it drudgery or is it a way to make my home a beautiful, comfortable place to live?


This section had a lot of great ideas on how to optimize efforts in your family. The idea that struck me the most was to have a family mission statement. If you all have a common goal or purpose, then it’s easier to navigate difficult situations that arise or even just small, competing needs or wants. You have a “valid expectation” and you can see what will “optimize your efforts.”


If you’ve read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, then you’ve probably heard of the time matrix that was discussed in this section of the book. Basically, all our time and tasks can be placed in one of four quadrants: urgent and important, not urgent and important, urgent and not important, and not urgent, not important. Click here to see the matrix and examples of what types of things fall into each quadrant.

As a society, we’ve placed so much worth on being busy that we spend most of our time in the urgent quadrants. But what will bring us the greatest satisfaction is doing things that are important and not necessarily urgent. Developing relationships, something all mothers would probably agree is important, is not urgent, but it is important. The book encourage readers to track their time for a while the same way one tracks calories on a diet.


I thought it was interesting that the matrix used for time could also be applied to money. It’s easy to focus on urgent money matters (like paying bills) or to spend money in an urgent, non-important way (impulse spending, paying more for what you want right now). But what will bring the greatest financial security is spending significant time and money in the not urgent, important quadrant, like investing, saving and financial planning.

How This Book Made an Impact In My Life, Especially as a Mother (or why I just really liked it):

This book really shattered my view of balance (as a scale) and challenged me to see it as something more dynamic. It also really made me evaluate how I use my time. There was one question in the book that has stuck in my mind: “If there were a fly on the wall watching how I spend my time today, and his only criteria for judment is my behavior – he doesn’t know my intentions; he can’t hear the words I say – what would he say matters most in my life? (pg 148)


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