Today’s post focuses on how you can do a better job of achieving work-life balance. It’s an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (get your copy here).
Achieving personal balance is as important as achieving work balance and it is especially hard for people who love their work. If you love what you are working on, it is hard to step away from it. You must achieve a state where your energy is balanced between work and life. If you restrict your hours at the office by working at a furious pace that saps all your energy, you will have no energy left to live your life away from the office. That approach defeats the purpose of trying to achieve balance.
I know a fellow entrepreneur who struggled with the “life” part of work-life balance. He dedicated every last ounce of energy he had to building his business. He could not stop talking about all the fantastic things going on in his business but when I asked how things were at home his tone became more reserved. He explained how tired he was when he got home at night and how his son regularly said he missed him. The entrepreneur had not been sleeping well and he had put on about fifteen pounds because his physical fitness regimen had lapsed.
I asked if he had experienced similar challenges when he was a “corporate guy” and he said no. He had no problem making time for his family in the evenings. He would get in a solid workout every morning. He slept better and was generally happier despite not particularly enjoying his corporate job. I asked him what had changed since he went out on his own. He said he was much happier with the work he was doing but the variability in his schedule made it unpredictable and he found it difficult to establish a routine. He also felt a great deal of pressure to work on everything in front of him because he was solely responsible for the success of his business. He believed that if he did not drive hard and tackle every project, his business might fail.
“Why don’t you try shutting the computer at 7:00 PM every night for the next few weeks then let’s grab coffee and find out how things are going. You have to promise to hold yourself to that standard. Also, start your workouts again and don’t open your computer until after you have finished working out.”
Initially he looked at me like I was crazy when I offered him this guidance. But he reluctantly agreed to try the new approach. After several weeks we reconnected.
“I’m getting to spend time with my family now at least. I feel better too because I’m working out again. I even lost a few pounds in the past few weeks. At first I panicked at the thought of not getting all that former ‘evening’ work done but it’s been weird. All those things I used to do at night don’t seem to get done the next day. The odd part is it isn’t a big deal if they don’t get done.”
We discussed how the approach of walking away from the work at 7:00 PM was forcing him to prioritize. In the past he had no time constraints therefore he did not have to make a choice about what work got done. His choice was instead one of what time he would finish. His limiting factor was the work, not the time. By being rigorous about holding time as fixed he naturally began working on the most important things first to ensure he completed them by his self-imposed 7:00 PM deadline. Lower priority work automatically fell to the bottom of the list. His time with his family and his new workout regimen reduced his stress and helped him sleep better. The extra sleep made him more productive during the day and a virtuous circle ensued.
How do you keep yourself in balance? What reminder will you use to tell yourself it’s time to go home?
- If you want to create your own set of guiding principles to help you achieve a better work-life balance, grab a copy of my book One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership or download the audiobook version at Audible.com. It will help you define what’s important to you and achieve a better sense of balance.