Success means a lot to a lot of people. We need to give 100% at work and give 100% at home too. That is too demanding just with 100% of your time, focus and energy. The real question is: can we give all to our job and be successful and at the same time still lead a rich and fulfilling life. The answer is Yes. We can. I have met people who are both successful and fulfilled with their career and life. What I have observed is that they take their life lightly and work seriously. In the lighter side of life, they relax, rejoice and spend quality time with family and friends; and on the work front, they are focused, agile and highly result oriented.
How do they do that? Here is how:
- Stop the balancing act
Work and life cannot be balanced. They can only be integrated. Because in the act of balancing both, either life or work will definitely weigh you down. Even for an expert juggler with work-life balance, they seem to be drained of energy at the end of the day. The truth of the matter is that both work and life are integral part of each other. In life, work is meant to cross the path just as personal life does with work. They are not the polar opposites that have to be prioritized with ‘either’ ‘or’ answer. They are both two sides of a coin that must be embraced with ‘and’ answer.
- Clarify your values
Our values determine our life philosophy, choices and priorities. On the philosophy of life, our definition for success will vary from each other. For some it may be professional success that comes first and for others it might be personal fulfillment. But in reality, it’s not about the dilemma of what come first: work or life; it’s about riding both horses in alignment to take your life and everyone around you forward.
Value clarification is important. It helps you see life priorities in hierarchical order. When you can see clearly what you seek, dream or trying to achieve; you are identifying your core values. Our values may not change completely but over time its hierarchical positions will. At various junctures of life, we tend to give more thrusts to either work or life. So the better question to ask ourselves is: at this juncture of life what should I be prioritizing and for how long I should be doing this?
- Managing time
Some people make excellent justification saying that they have to spend less time with family, because they have to work a bit harder to make the life of their family more comfortable. On the other hand people make smart excuses at work, blaming their personal time consumption for dealing with life’s inevitable issues.
What is important about time management is not just spending hours of time but spending quality time both at work and life. Quality time in life means creating better moments and events for you and the people connected with you. Quality time at work means delivering results rather than just doing a bunch of action lists.
Busy executives who get back home for dinner with family do a great integration of life and work. Again, prioritizing the majors both at work and life is the real key here. Bottom-line, when you prioritize something, you will always find time.
Some people get too exhausted at work and by the time they return home from work they look like burnt up candles. The work- life integration demands energy both at work and in life. Leading a healthy life style with proper diet, good sleep and exercise can generate ample physical energy. On the other hand the mental energy is determined by our thoughts and if we focus too much on unwanted and anxious thoughts, we are sure to experience mental exhaustion and stress. The quality of thoughts determines our mental state. If we can focus on what is going great with life, we can not only energize ourselves but also rub on the same infectious energy to others as well.
Mindfulness is the present moment awareness. It is the process of actively noticing new things and when you do that it puts you in the present. For example, when you notice your spouse’s new hairstyle or dress, you are being mindful of the changes. Mindfulness requires a ‘mental disconnect’ from the previous atmosphere. When you are at home and thinking more about work problems, you are not being mindful. When you are at work and you tend to think about your personal issues, you are not mindful at work. You need to intellectually and emotionally disconnected from other distractions in order to give your 100% both at work and life.
- Manage gadgets well
Technology gadgets like smart phones and personal laptops can both be an invader or a liberator both at work and life. Some people take a hard step on not taking business calls and emails at home, while some will pick up calls as an escape mechanism to avoid personal confrontations at home. Technology can be an interruption, but there are ‘acceptable interruptions’ when something urgent has to be communicated. The best thing to do is to avoid smart phones at the dinner table. Technology is meant to help people to connect better and to be accessible at all times. Accessibility need not be a challenge here; instead it can be used to solve major issues both at work and life. The right approach is to use the technology as an obedient servant rather than a bad master that will distract you from focusing on the majors of life.
- Delegate the minor tasks
We can’t do everything in life. We can lead a rewarding life if we can focus again on the majors of life. The minor tasks can be delegated. To do this effectively, you need a support system both in life and at work. Sharing of responsibility and distribution of tasks can help you gain surplus time to focus on what is important at work and life. Moreover some big tasks can be chunked down and delegated to different people in your support system as well. Instead of getting weighed down by too many tasks, decide to build a support system that will handle your time consuming insignificant tasks. Some executives will have ‘stay at home’ partners, while others might have to make trade offs with their partners to make life and work integrate better for both parties.
- Outcome orientation
We are all caught up in the activity of everyday business running errands, just like a hamster on a wheel. Eventually we are all busy and have no time for anything else. Here, this is what we need to do first. Stop focusing on tasks and activities that do not produce any results. It’s easy to get on an autopilot and lazy away hours of life without getting much done. Focusing on activities without a clear outcome in mind can be wasteful. The purpose of life is to be happy. The purpose of work is to provide greater value everyday to the customer you serve. The thump rule is: focus on the outcome.
- Joint decisions
A traveling executive has a bigger challenge to keep pace with his or her life routines. Very often ‘relocation at work’ can affect everyone in a family. This is a big decision of integrating life and work and the decision you take can’t be just arbitrary if there are the lives of others involved in the repercussions of your decision. What you could do instead, is to make a joint decision with family members, considering the possibilities of the upside and the downside of the relocation.
- Make new habits
It’s habits that eventually run both life and work. Some habits are not empowering. Often, developing new healthy habits can improve your quality of life. In this case, the best reflection should be on taking an inventory of your habits and to replace the ones that do not support your work-life integration with new empowering habits.