Two weeks ago I visited by brother and his family in Chicago and on Thursday of this past week, my son, daughter-in-law, and the two grandchildren arrived to spend a few days with us. My brother is 55 and my son and his wife are 37. All work for Fortune 500 organizations. In preparing this newsletter I asked them to tell me how they balance work and life. My brother said a work/life balance is a choice defined by the individual when they pursue a career. It will be different for each person dependent on their life situation and where they are in their career (entry, emerging, established, “the mentor”). My son’s wife laughed and said, “What balance?”. It’s more like negotiations or compromising when you have two small children, another due in a few weeks and the responsibilities associated with your career. My son smiled and simply said, “Remember Dad, I work from home. I don’t have to go to the office everyday, so I have greater flexibility than most.” What really constitutes a work/life balance? For that matter, are we looking for balance or are we trying to find something else?
Kevin Kruse, a contributor to Forbes and author of Work-Life Balance: Tips From 24 Entrepreneurs Boiled Down to 1 , reviews the results of a series of interviews conducted with CEO’s and Entrepreneurs by a virtual assistant staffing company, Zirtual. When asked why they should care about work-life balance, the responses were interesting. Kruse shares that there seemed to be two main themes:
1. While counterintuitive, working less actually improves productivity and prevents burnout. According to one CEO, “We don’t realize that the more we work, the higher the chances of us running out of creative ideas and burning out.”
2. Many believed that the priorities of life must be clearly identified. What constitutes life outside of work? Do we understand the work-life separation? Is time allocated to pursue it, whether it be family, a hobby, relaxation, etc.?
A second question asked of the respondents was, “What is your #1 actionable tip for creating a work/life balance?” The responses revealed many thoughts but mentioned most often was something very simple, “Schedule everything!” Time for your family, time for your health, time to rejuvenate. How? Balance will look different for everyone, but it was suggested that we reflect on our core values or what is important to us personally and make it a point to schedule it into our day or week. Think about it, we all have calendars and we use them to schedule everything from meetings, tasks, and a host of other work-related events. Why not use that same calendar to schedule the important life activities that may serve to renew us and return us to work content and filled with energy.? The choice is yours!
Two other articles considered the work-life balance question from a slightly different perspective, that of work – life harmony. Kent Julian, writing in Entrepreneur, tells us this balance can be found by bending the rules of productivity. He provides us with 3 Contrarian Hacks for Achieving Work-Life Balance
1. When you hear the term work-life balance, run! “Work-life balance strives for even distribution between work and life……. Work-life harmony, on the other hand, aims to achieve a pleasing progression between life and work. At times, work will need to sing louder than your personal life. During other moments, personal life will take the lead and work will sing backup.” The key is you must take the lead in creating the harmony.
2. Bend the definition of Productivity: Instead of measuring how much gets done, measure first what gets done! Julian suggests that we look at productivity from a new lens. Rather than considering the speed with which things get done, consider getting what’s more important done first. Become strategic at carving out time to work on what is truly important. The same goes for your life.
3. Become infatuated with simplicity: Simply put, considering priority management over time management and keeping things simple will help to accomplish goals and tasks.
Amber Lilyestrom also considers the idea of harmony in her Working Mother Post, I Don’t Have Work-Life Balance. I Have Harmony and It’s More Important. At one point in her life Lilyestrom was a Division I college athletics marketer, sports marketing professor, and student mentor. She had it all from a career and success perspective, but shares that everything changed when she had a child, put the career behind, and started her own business. I found her comments thought provoking, especially for the entrepreneur:
• “I’ve consciously chosen to trade work-life balance for harmony because harmony makes space for all the moving parts within me to find their place.”
• “The reality is that finding a concrete balance point is a myth.”
• “I gave myself the gift of slowing down and being more intentional in everything I do..”
As I shared previously, I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Had I still been working, I probably would have only taken Friday afternoon off to spend “extended” time with them. I realize now what a loss that would have been. Likewise my son and I reflected on “good times” spent together or doing something as a family. Memories that are now cherished. Many of those instances reflected my decision to prioritize family over work.
The work-life balance/harmony is unique to each of us. Call it “Balance” or “Harmony” or what ever you want, but make time for the really important things that bring happiness and contentment to your life. Remember, we only go around once. Maybe Harry Chapin said it all in his song, The Cat’s in the Cradle
Embrace the Challenge!