Work–life balance: a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).
I admit that I have had tunnel vision before. My universe revolved around my work priorities first and any time spent elsewhere ultimately resulted in guilt. I assumed I was being productive, maximizing every minute to complete objectives and run a successful business. My wife also throws herself into her career, even going as far as to have reported to the opposite coast of the country. We have both traveled endlessly for our careers and with a young daughter at home we thought we had the best interests of the family in sight. Work hard now so your family is set for financial freedom later.
This “rat race” of life can and will easily suck you in. Somewhere along the way, we have been conditioned to believe that running this race leads to career success, and subsequently all the good things we desire.
Not too long ago, I started questioning this belief of work until exhaustion and made question of what were really priorities to me. I knew it had been proven that exercise and meditation reduces stress, increases energy levels, improves focus & work performance and has even been suggested to result in increased intelligence. Studies have also indicated that having quality family and companion relationships (even if only one’s dog) increase lifespan and improve well-being. So, why wasn’t I using this to my advantage? After all, my happiness was in other outlets of life.
A better mood results in a more balanced life and productive/focused career.
Why aren’t we as professionals using this to our advantage? Perhaps it is because our tendency is to feel guilty for taking any personal time off that is not directly related to work objectives. Companies are realizing this pattern as more of them are requiring that vacation time be used and are padding their facilities with modern adult playgrounds, perks and every gimmick at the office to off-set work pressures. This is all nice and does in fact create a positive working environment, however, this is not what I am referring to. I am talking about the habits in our everyday lives. The extra 20 minutes. Waking up earlier to squeeze in that run or swim, staying up a little later to read with your child, having dinner with friends or walking the dog. The big vacations are great, but it’s the little consistent habits that we incorporate into our daily lives that result in a steadier and sustained well-being.
What we do as part of our routines and accepting that it is okay to take a little time for yourself, is the beginning and the end of creating balance. This way of living is what should be required by companies. Not the philosophy of being tied to our devices at every moment, fearful we are going to miss something. You may have heard, “all work and no play made Johnny a dull boy.” We are becoming that dull boy…people, cultures and society are missing out on creativity and innovation. Some of my best ideas come during my long morning runs or during a relaxed dinner setting with family and friends.
From many of the conversations I have with executives across industries and organizational size, I am hearing frequently how work life balance is becoming a priority. A few months ago, Max Schireson, Vice Chair of MongoDB, stepped down as CEO after racking up nearly 300,000 flight miles in a year and missing a number of family events. This was a father that reorganized what was most important in life to him and took a risk to achieve balance. I can relate to him as a father. I made the personal vow to myself that balancing my priorities was a priority. Although not the initial intent, it has improved work performance. I actually feel better and believe I am making stronger decisions now with a clear and relaxed mind.
I will always be dedicated to my work, I truly love what I do. We will raise our daughter to have tremendous work ethic, as it was instilled to both my wife and I growing up. The difference however, is that we make it a priority to not miss time together as a family or time for our individual hobbies and interests. Our work-life balance has now become our work-life integration and we are better for it.