Do you think you can have work-life balance because of success?
Or can you have success because of work-life balance?
Many have a clear boundary that separates work and personal life because they don't want the two to overlap. Perhaps work is too stressful and leaves them feeling anxious, tired and angry. Or it’s just such a complicated industry that it’s not worth discussing at the dinner table if they can even get there on time with no distractions. Too much pressure from customers, clients, patients or our leaders leave us feeling, perhaps, a little lost inside or worried. This is the age that we live in. We are always connected, and the expectations of always being available weigh on us, especially as an entrepreneur. After all, we have this insatiable need to be running our business 24/7 (or give an appearance that we are.)
When I was running my agency, in the evenings I was simultaneously answering to client emails, while editing eBooks, cooking dinner, prepping lunches and trying to be present with my kids - oh, and husband. This meant that everything was completed at a mediocre level at best. I was always rushing to get it done, as opposed to getting it right. In the long run, this added more time to my workload, exponentially made tasks more impossible to complete and left my family with pretty crappy meals (sorry guys!)
Where work stops and family life begins is a very blurred line these days. I’ll sometimes catch my clients craving a late afternoon martini on a Monday to help calm their mind before switching to parent-mode. The morning rush is hyper-caffeinated, while the evening hours are less than sober. So what’s the deal?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In an article posted on the Harvard Business Review, Author Stew Friedman said that leaders find “ways to integrate the different parts of their lives to reinforce and enhance each other.” Be real, be whole, be innovative. As Friedman explains, being real means to act with authenticity by uncovering and acting on what’s important to you. Being whole is to act with integrity by realizing how all facets of your life co-exist and affect each other. To be innovative is the ultimate outcome in realizing your ideal life (I have a section on this in the Couples Quarterly Retreat Playbook) and in experimenting with how to modulate a life that helps fulfill your purpose and aligns with your values.
You see, the “balance” in work-life balance is a myth. It is difficult to create a 50/50 split across all the important facets of your life.”It assumes that we must spend a certain portion of each week devoted in some equal measure to every item important in our life.” explains Ivan Misner an article in Entrepreneur. While there are some weeks that this is possible, it’s never guaranteed. As an entrepreneur, we are often diluted with business challenges or growing pains that take up both our mental and physical energy. It may take us away from our family life longer than we’d like.
So what can we do about this? It’s about integrating the three main facets of your life; health, relationships and wealth, in a way that feels more harmonious and integrated then leaning to one side. It’s about setting boundaries around each facet to make sure that the integration is fully understood by your family. For example, yesterday my husband took an unscheduled phone call during our Sunday family time without asking all our permission. He quickly jumped on the call with enthusiasm to talk to his friend about some business ideas that just popped into his head. Ideas that were destined to help his buddy grow his business. Sure this call could have been scheduled during the week, but he felt like he had to make it then. I told him afterward that I was disappointed with how he managed his energy and he apologized. I told him how this could have been conducted better explaining “All you had to do was ask us if it was ok that you make this call by letting us know how long you’ll be and the context of the conversation.” Some call it permission, I call it integration. It doesn’t matter that the call was made during a scheduled disconnected time. It matters that we didn’t set parameters around how and why we could break our own rules. An integrated life gives entrepreneurs permission to conduct meaningful conversations when the time is right or necessary so long as we set the boundaries around their use.
While life can’t be fully in balance all the time, it is possible to create a life that is well integrated to include the vision for yourself, your business, and your family. Sounds about right, hunh? Well if you need a few more tips to create an integrated life, here are some techniques below:
1 - Be. Here. Now.
Wherever you are, be there. Now.
Practice gratitude for your given circumstance all day, every day and learn to appreciate all the little quirks that life has to offer.
On our recent 2-month trip to San Diego, our vacation rental company canceled our place one day before we were to leave Canada. This left us in a huge bind. But before fretting, they offered us another place (much smaller, much further away from where we wanted, and with fewer amenities than we requested.) Normally I would have said no! And why? Because of a. I had spent upwards of 30 hours trying to find a decent place close to my kid's daycare, and the thought of all that work going out the window angered me, b. Now our commute time was going to be 2-hours as opposed to 30-minutes, and c. The new place was much smaller. The moment my husband told me the news, I could feel the rage begin to surface. Instead, I looked at the brighter said; we GET to go to San Diego for the winter. We GET to enroll our boys in a cool daycare. We GET to travel freely whenever we want. And I GET to listen to my favorite podcasts during my now 2-hour commute. I was staying in the present, suppressing all negative emotions and beginning to be thankful for our minor hiccup.
One of my favorite quotes we once had posted on our chalkboard read “Be responsible for the energy that you bring into this room.” Jill Bolte Taylor.
2 - Make Business Personal
And by this, I mean, integrate your team into your family life.
A couple of years ago, while my husband was running his then startup Clarity.fm and I was running my then agency Onboardly, we agreed on a communal company retreat. We rented a 10-bedroom lodge in the country and got our teams together to plan some fun team building activities and work sessions. A couple of days before our adventure, our babysitter canceled on us, so our only solution was to bring our son Max (then 9-months old) along with us. So we did, and everyone enjoyed his company. Surely it was a bit more work, but with ten adults in one place, there was ample babysitting help.
Last winter, my husband invited 40 of his private clients into our home for a Chefs dinner. Typically I would have said no. Two young kids, our house, and 40+ people?! Who will clean up? Of course, he had that all covered, so I opened myself up to the idea of inviting people I didn’t know into my world. What an intimate gathering it ended up being. Because it was our home, people were more respectful and took the time to come up and have a conversation with me. Had this been done at a restaurant it wouldn’t have been so personal, and strangers wouldn’t have been so open to making sure they say hi. I had the privilege of meeting 40 incredible entrepreneurs I wouldn't have had we not integrated our work and family life.
3 - Create Life Margins
I define this as honoring time and space to occupy with things that make us laugh, think, and play. It's life's profits. It's life's abundance. You should be living out your margins every day.
Build in personal time, family time, 1-1 time, and time with your partner throughout the day. My husband and I go to CrossFit together at lunch 2-3 times a week. It’s our partner-health margin. We then eat lunch together (because we both work from home). Because of this, we feel less of a need to have date nights given our days are often packed with mini-dates.
Just like how you create margins for your business (yay for profit margins!), you need to do so in your personal and family life as well. What can you create now to build up those margins? Is there something you can outsource, delegate or give up altogether? I believe there are more life margins in a day than most people think or even know exist, they just don’t see them, yet.
4 - Establish Your Own Airport Bar
When I was running my agency, as we went through the new hire vetting process and came down to the last few couple qualified candidates, I always asked myself and my team “would you be ok spending 6-hours stuck at an airport bar with this person?”. Meaning, if your flight was delayed and this was the only person you could chat with while waiting for your flight to depart, would this person energize you or deplete you? Would they be fun or boring? Would they be constructive or nagging? Would they be resourceful or incapable? Would they complain or live in the moment? The same can be said for those you let into your personal and family life. Who are you inviting to your airport bar?
5 - Make a Masterful Morning Routine
I make reference to this in detail in my new guide Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs: A handbook for entrepreneur families on how to be present, and will emphasize it again here: create a morning routine and stick to it. Your morning routine and resulting mood/attitude you have from it will set the tone for the entire day. Hal Elrod even wrote an entire book about it called The Morning Miracle. Don’t let kids, or animals or partners get in the way of your structure. Set it and forget it. Let it become so normal it’s almost robotic (but not mundane).
I recently started playing the Star Wars theme song in the morning to get me going. I feel victorious even before my cup of coffee. How could you not? From there I have my coffee and slowly sink into my routine, and it’s wonderful.
6 - Cut the Cord
Maybe not really, but at least shut down your electronics more then you should. This means giving up blue screens at least 1-2 hours before bed (no phones in the bedroom....get an alarm clock if you need to check the time or set a wakeup call.) Less screen time has been proven to contribute to more happiness, especially with teens.
“Psychological well-being was lower in years when adolescents spent more time on screens and higher in years when they spent more time on non-screen activities, with changes in activities preceding declines in well-being.” explains this study by the American Psychological Association. And the importance of ‘offline’ playtime keeps adding up, especially for really young kids. It’s no surprise that the same effect, although less severe, affects adults too.
Eliminating stagnant activities alone increases overall well being, so even if you turn off the TV and sit down to a 3-hour master puzzle at your kitchen table, while it is more recommended than playing on your iPad, it is still not an optimal activity. PLUS, a huge plus, couples who sweat together, stay together.
7 - Love Wholeheartedly
This means to love without doubt or expectation and includes loving yourself, your partner, your family, neighbors and even strangers on the street. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and sometimes a smile from a passing stranger is enough to get us through a terrible day. To love wholeheartedly also means to be empathetic and compassionate. It’s to see from someone else’s perspective and to provide comfort and support when needed, unconditionally. When you live an integrated life, you can love wholeheartedly because you, at this point, will have given yourself more space to invite real love into your world.
If there is anything you can take away from this post it's this: Work/life balance is a lie. No matter how hard you try to achieve balance (which means, both sides have to weigh the same), you won't be able to do it consistently as an entrepreneur. But you can have integration, which is way more applicable to our fast paced entrepreneurial lives.
Photo: William Iven