With 2009 almost here, you may be among the many making resolutions for the new year. In that spirit, let me share some ideas I have found useful in helping me develop and maintain an ultra-productive, fully balanced life.

Here are what I consider the “slices” of my life, in order of importance:

1. Faith
2. Fitness
3. Family
4. Finances
5. Personal and social
6. “Bookspeak” – my special word for speaking, writing, and education
7. Marketing
8. Sales

I keep this list of life areas in my mind – and visible – constantly. And in making your own list, I encourage you to do the same. List and check your values in each area before moving on to list the ten most important actions for each day, and before you write anything in your daily planner.

Why am I so meticulous about this? And why does the sequence matter? For one simple reason: because I want my moral values–not the artificial urgencies of the outside world–to rule my life and govern my goals and plans.

1. Faith
I spend at least an hour a day in the realm of spiritual matters. Seven days a week, usually from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. I have an hour of prayer, meditation, and scripture reading. This is the most important hour of the day for me. Make sure you begin your day setting your moral compass – with your most important values and priorities always coming first.

2. Fitness
As important as family is, I believe fitness ranks ahead of it. If you don’t put your health first, you may not be around to serve and enjoy your family. My family knows and understands why this is such a high priority for me and that, in actuality, it puts them first. My goal is to do 20-plus miles of power-walking or running a week. I generally make or exceed it, spread over six days. Each day I also perform a 10-minute breathing exercise, along with my walk or run. This gets all the poisons out of my system when done properly.

My wife, Sally, and I have participated in more than 300 races all over the country. I have done a marathon and she has completed a triathlon. I believe this has kept us from heart disease and diabetes, so far — and both diseases are prevalent in both our families.

The number one factor in weight control and longevity is calorie control. I’ve been running or walking almost daily for the past 35 years, averaging 1,200 miles per year. Be sure you are faithful to diet and nutrition principles. Strive to stay within five pounds of your ideal weight at all times.

Ask yourself this question: if I knew I was in danger of dropping dead a year from now, what would I do now to keep that from happening? Whatever your answer, take action today. Don’t put it off anymore. Do it now, and make sure you have fun doing it!

3. Family
Passing on my faith, my values, and a spiritually influenced sense of humor to my family is my first family priority. Not a day goes by that I don’t give Sally a good half dozen hugs, and tell her things like, “I love you…you’re smart…you’re terrific…I’m proud of you.” I love to express the same kind of feelings to my children and grandchildren, every chance I get.

Celebrating everything we can and creating good memories set a good example for family members and friends. Sally and I spend at least 12 weeks a year with family or traveling in and out of the country. Make sure you program for vacation and family time at the beginning of the year, and then stick with it – don’t waver!

4. Finances
We are planning to pay cash for our new home. What a joy to be debt-free! This is definitely a big-dream goal. It’s a “pull,” not a “push,” meaning you challenge yourself to pull more from your resources rather than push away something else that is worthwhile to make room for the goal. There is a difference!

Sally and I also like to dream big in our charitable efforts. Our goal is to give at least 25% of our earnings to charities and other needy, worthy causes. All proceeds from sales of my books, and from my speaking engagements, go to charity. We hope to help build a new St. Vincent DePaul food mission here in Memphis, sorely needed in this community. This is another “big-dream” goal that calls for pulling, not pushing.

I urge you to choose at least one charity that is close to your heart and make a commitment to be a major contributor. Make sure you are giving back to your community in some way and sharing your blessings with others less fortunate.

5. Personal and social
This involves some simple strategies. You can develop supreme confidence through reviewing your daily goals and listening to motivational and educational tapes. I listen to 1,000 hours of this material each year.

I also try to make two new friends each year, and strive to put others’ needs ahead of my own. This is more difficult than it sounds!

If you reserve 15 minutes at the end of the each day to plan the next day, you’ll know exactly where you’re headed before you wake up the next morning.

Also, I encourage you, if your schedule will allow for it, to take at least 10 weeks of family and personal vacation time each year. Last year, Sally and I were out of the country for six weeks, and out of Tennessee for 12.

6. Bookspeak
Bookspeak is my own invented term for speaking, writing, and education. I try to write at least one new book, or develop one new major program, every year. Then, as I mentioned, I donate all the profits from the sale of the book or program to charity. Other members of MDRT do this as well.

I have been invited to speak at the MDRT annual convention and at other professional association meetings, and it has helped me become a nationally known speaker, trainer, and author. My commitment to “bookspeak” is a vital professional priority for me and it can be for you, too.

7. Marketing
Marketing is so important to the long-term health of any business, especially where selling is involved. I present retirement workshops across the mid-south region as my principal means of marketing. I want to continue and expand in those efforts, and develop a plan to market through churches and trade shows. And I hope to continue and add to my client appreciation events and goodwill introductions program.

8. Sales
My sales goals break out this way:
oQualify for MDRT at the Top of the Table or Court of the Table level
oWork smart, and work.differently — but not hard.
oQualify for every possible company-offered trip or travel incentive.
oLimit my selling to no more than100 days for the entire year.
oOnly go for the big ones – and the easy ones!

I hope my outline of the priorities and planning that work for me will help you as well, looking ahead to the challenges of the new year — and there are more of those challenges than usual for 2009, to be sure. By setting, knowing, and living your priorities, an ultra-productive and well balanced life is well within your reach.

Jim Piatchek is the CEO and co-founder, with his wife Sally, of Seniors Advisory Group. He is a recognized expert on financial planning for retirement and finances for seniors – a major target audience of his for more than 35 years. Jim has hired, trained, and supervised more than 1,000 professional financial advisors and spoken before more than 400 industry audiences. He is a seven-year qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table, and has attained Top of the Table once and Court of the Table twice.