Assessing your work-life balance is a worthwhile exercise
by Robert G. Terwall
The critical question we each seem to be asking is: How do I make my business succeed and prosper while still having a life – to be a parent, be a spouse, be a friend and pursue my passions?
One thing I’ve noticed — no matter where my travels may take me and whom I find myself spending time with — is that the challenges of balancing the ever-increasing demands of our work with all the other important things in our lives seems universal. (In our industry, EDS week seems to be so consuming as to set aside all other priorities.) The critical question we each seem to be asking is: How do I make my business succeed and prosper while still having a life — to be a parent, be a spouse, be a friend and pursue my passions?
Recently I was with a group of CEOs addressing just this issue with the help of a capable facilitator. There are a number of programs and curricula that address this universal challenge, and I don’t mean to turn this into an advertisement for any one of them. In my brief research, they all seem to offer at least a couple of common threads. The process I was exposed to started with a listing of the major components that sum up a full life experience. The list included:
Career and Business
Money and Finances
Joy and Delight
Health and Wellness
Happiness and Content
Effectiveness and Efficiency
Personal Development / Evolution
Family and Relationships
Hobbies / Interests
Home and Space
Certainly there are alternate versions of this list, but many follow a similar format. Then, two exercises follow. First, for each of the elements, grade yourself 1 to 10, with 10 the best, as to how satisfied you are with yourself in this area of your life. Second, for each element, assign an importance, ranging from 1 to 3, with one being most important.
You may find you assess yourself with a lower grade on the matters you rank as important. I know I did, and it became quite clear to me what areas I need to focus on to derive greater balance and satisfaction.
We were asked to identify a manageable few areas (three or four) that we deemed important yet low scoring. We were advised against trying to fix everything at once, but rather to choose only a few areas and preferably those with some very achievable activities that can be accomplished in the near term.
With that in place, the next step is to schedule your time so that some is available to focus on the things you’ve identified as important and needing work. You can develop your own time blocks. One example might be four blocks in a weekday, i.e., four-hour blocks in each morning and afternoon, plus two two-hour blocks in the evening. Weekends can also be “scheduled” with blocks of your choice. Personally, I’ve resisted scheduling on evenings and weekends, but I now confess to not do so is to forego an opportunity to create real work-life balance.
For example, maybe tending to your home and property is a source of real joy and accomplishment for you, but it always gets delayed to the point it seems a chore. So schedule two hours on Saturday mornings for that kind of work; protect the time block, and make it part of your calendar. Similarly, a family dinner or “date night” with your spouse can be booked into the weekly plan just like that important conference call.
One point of resistance for many may be that your schedule seems largely controlled by others, and to some degree that is a fact. But, think of the flexibility that you accept (necessarily) in your work life. For instance, that important Monday meeting happens only about half the time, or that weekly key initiatives review often gets moved. That’s okay, and it will be okay to allow similar flexibility into the scheduling of other facets of your life. Accept that fluidity is required, but take pleasure in making at least half of your children’s games, concerts or plays if that is an improvement from having missed most of them.
It’s been two months since the CEO group first heard of this approach, and we’ve taken to updating each other on our progress. I’m pleased to report that most are seeing some meaningful improvement in their level of satisfaction in achieving a work-life balance as a direct result of deploying these tactics.
I’m certain that the demands of our professional lives will not diminish, especially since all the drivers and technology enablers that make this a 24/7 business aren’t going away. So, let’s deal with it by deciding what’s important in the overall scheme of things and dedicating some time to those things that matter. It really is up to each of us to decide how and where we spend our most precious resource – time.