As an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and, most important, father, I often find it difficult to achieve the perfect work-life balance. I work hard to be home for dinner and homework and also at the office to celebrate my team's successes. Inevitably, things get in the way and life gets off kilter. Work life balance is hard!

I had the pleasure of talking to Stew Friedman about his new book, Leading the Life You: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Since 1984, Stew Friedman has been at Wharton, where he is the Practice Professor of Management. In 1991 he founded both the Wharton Leadership Program. Stew shared these 4 surprising secrets about achieving a work life balance:

Surprise 1:

You don't have to sacrifice, trade off, or balance to have a sane, productive, and meaningful work life and home life. Stew profiled six highly successful exemplars including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Bridgespan co-founder Tom Tierney, Soccer champion Julie Foudy, rock icon Bruce Springsteen, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Mission Continues founder Eric Greitens, all of whom prove you don't actually need to sacrifice.

Surprise 2:

Focusing on others, not on yourself, is the key to success. If you ask for time off to be with your kids or to go to the gym, that's just for you. But if you frame the request as an experiment that benefits your superiors, colleagues, and clients because it makes you more productive, less stressed, more energized, more committed to the team and the mission (that it's a win for everyone), then it's more likely that you'll get what's good for you, and for others.

Surprise 3:

Change is easier than you think. Having worked with thousands of students and clients (from the C suite, the assembly line, middle management, sales, and everywhere else), Stew found that people always assume it's impossibly daunting. But in decades, Stew told me, "I have yet to come across anyone who was not able to achieve greater productivity at work and greater satisfaction in the rest of their lives by experimenting with small changes that are under their own control, designed to produce "four-way wins"--improved performance at work, at home, in the community, and for yourself."

Surprise 4:

We have a lot more control than we think we have. Yes, it's true that employers may demand a certain amount of face time and clock-punching. But turnover and absenteeism are costly. So are disgruntled workers. Companies now vie to be on Working Mothers' list of top places to work. If you want to come in later so that you can see your children off or hit the gym, if you want to take time in mid-day to tend to an ailing parent, if you want to leave early for childcare pick-up or to join your sports team, if you frame the issue as one that also benefits your boss, your colleagues, your clients, your customers, and if you frame it as a temporary experiment that you can all evaluate and discard, reverting to the status quo, or adjust, you'll be surprised how open people are to making small, manageable adjustments.

What secrets do you have to your own work life balance? How do you maintain a work life balance that keeps you happy? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Published on: Oct 8, 2014