My clients are frazzled trying to achieve the ever evasive goal of work-life balance. I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as work-life balance. The problem is most of us don’t recognize this truth and spiral into guilt because we aren’t spending equal time in all aspects of life. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to shift from a paradigm of work-life balance to work-life counterbalance?
Grasping the concept of counterbalance was a journey for me. Being an entrepreneur is my way of life. Given this it is difficult to strike hard boundaries between the professional and personal. Over time it occurred to me to stop trying to create hard boundaries period. They do not exist in my world. I am a President/CEO, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend and colleague all at once. It is impossible to give equal time in each of these roles. I now plan my days based on the concept of work-life counterbalance. My understanding of this dynamic was enhanced by reading The One Thing a powerful leadership book written by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan. Keller challenges us to consider what happens when leaders identify the most important thing they want to achieve, and make achieving it the “one thing” focused on daily. The book provides an array of strategies to assist leaders in organizing life to achieve their “one thing.” (Learn more at www.1thing.com)
One strategy is learning to work from a position of counterbalance. Counterbalance has to do with leaders intentionally deciding to place attention on priorities as needed. The road to success is not a straight line. Truth: there are times leaders must be extreme about addressing priorities to get things accomplished. Keller describes this as, “understanding when to be in the middle and when to go to the extremes.” He suggests there are two types of counterbalance we must master. Counterbalance between work and life. Counterbalance within work and within life separately. If you desire to reduce stress about work-life balance, shift to the concept of work-life counterbalance. Here are tips I share with clients desiring to work and live from this perspective.
Change your thinking about work-life balance. Many leaders spend hours beating themselves up because time is not equally distributed between work and home. Let it go! This is not the reality for most leaders. Organize the work week to swing strategically between priorities at work and home. Talk to family about this dynamic. Ask for understanding when being extreme about work. Counterbalance again by being extreme about spending time with family when work is complete. Remember most times leaders work in the “middle.” So being extreme about work becomes an intentional choice with specific time parameters. Identify your “one thing” the major priority you want to achieve in any given time frame. Develop schedules to pay attention to this priority. Keller suggests creating Success Lists. The Success List has on it things that can only be completed by the leader. These items are directly connected to achieving the “one thing.” Other items are placed on a “To Do List.” These are lower priority items that are delegated or held to a later date. Finally, as leaders counterbalance they must sustain energy to engage in this intense daily activity. Keller emphasizes attending to family, mental/physical health and spiritual life as part of this leadership practice.
The One Thing is required reading for my executive coaching clients. I have clients read this book so they become focused on major priorities. Additionally, my goal is to help them be gentle with themselves about all leading requires of them in terms of time spent at work. The shift from pressure to achieve work-life balance to embracing the skill of counterbalance is a gift leaders can give themselves as they focus on the “one thing” they must do to feel confident, competent, courageous and calm in all aspects of life.