Not long ago, I was having a conversation about leadership with a sales executive, in which he shared with me some of the stressors he was dealing with. As I listened, it became apparent that other than the usual challenges surrounding the communications process, which every leader faces, the major theme that occupied his thinking was how to answer the proverbial question of work-life balance.
We talked about it for a while, and after bouncing some ideas back and forth, we began to embrace a new possibility: Work-life balance could very well be one of those ideas that continues to elude those who are deeply committed to professions that demand their attention outside the boundaries of the regular 9-to-5.
I’m reminded of friends and clients I’ve had over the years who were in the real estate business. Their work schedules were never the routine most people are accustomed to; the opposite was always true. While many of us were having prepared meals at home after work or enjoying weekends with family and friends, they were catering to and serving the needs of their clients at odd hours.
So, then, how do busy professionals tackle this work-life-balance challenge?
Think Strategically And Act Tactically
When thinking strategically, I like to revert to the process of strategic planning. This reminds me of the importance of being intentional and specific about the goals and objectives important to me.
Think of that process, and adapt it to your individual situation. Start with your own vision of what you want your future to be. Dream big. Don’t set any boundaries. Make this a pleasant experience of what the future could be for you. Follow this by articulating a set of core values that may serve as the foundation for a work-life-balance philosophy. Cap your thinking by developing your own mission statement guided by the purpose for which you wish to live every single day. Your vision of the future will provide you with the strategic direction you need, and your mission will keep you engaged tactically as you achieve your purpose daily.
Set Your Weekly Rhythm
Nothing is ever going to be perfect in an imperfect world, but we can surely do our best to get the balance we seek out of what we do. It has been said that good organizations do things well because they allocate time to repeat the things they do well. They set a recurring and timely rhythm that everyone in the organization expects as the key moment to get clarity on their goals and priorities of work.
A similar approach may be employed at the individual level. Plan your week as part of your strategic thinking, but don’t fill it with lofty goals that may be out of your reach. Keep your goals realistically high and attainable. Set a reasonable routine for the week that incorporates physical and spiritual fitness, work and family time. Crown your weekly rhythm by selecting the most important things you must get done each day. Treat these important things as a personal contract with yourself, and do not end your business day until you’ve completed the contract. Once completed, plan the next day, and go home to the balance you seek.
An essential part of getting closer to the elusive balance we seek is to become productive each and every single day. To facilitate that productivity, we must begin by getting our days organized.
We’ve all heard that a cluttered workstation represents a disorganized mind. I once heard a response to this that caused me to pause and think for a minute. If a messy workstation is a representation of a disorganized mind, then is an empty workstation representative of an empty mind? Obviously not, but the meaning is well-taken. Life happens, and people get busy, but simply put, that doesn’t have to upset the balance we seek.
Here is one process that may help with getting organized and improving individual productivity:
1. Trying only to touch it once, go to your workstation and pick up a document.
2. Evaluate its contents, and decide what to do with it. If it’s something that only you can do, just do it. Don’t procrastinate or leave it for someone else.
3. On the other hand, if it’s something that can be delegated to someone else, do just that. Delegate it, and clear your workstation.
4. If it is something you’ve been holding on to for some time, maybe it’s not worth doing. So dump it.
Achieving work-life balance may elude many of us, but it doesn’t have to stop us from trying. “Try and try again” is the phrase that I instilled into my children’s minds as they grew up, to make sure they never stopped pursuing excellence. This proved to be a source of individual motivation every time they needed an inspirational boost.
Achieving the balance we seek is important for everyone whose lives we touch. So, get started, and just do it.