After years of talking about how important it was for me to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, I finally decided to make figuring it out a priority in 2017 and now into 2018. There had just been too many ridiculous work-life balance days that had stressed my brain to the point of near failure resulting in me calling my two-year old son by the dog's name and inadvertently addressing a business client by my wife's name.
Fortunately, my two-year old son found it amusing to be called by the dog's name, and the client knew I had a two-year old, a new baby, and a teenager. She had either given me the benefit of the doubt or had felt slightly sorry for me. As long as I didn't lose her as a client, I was comfortable with either reason.
In my year-long work-life balance journey, I've gained valuable insight that has been critical in helping me get closer to sustainable work-life balance. Some insights have come from research about what others have done. Some have come from hard thinking about things I needed to do differently at home and at work.
Some have come from trial and error, and surprisingly some work-life balance strategies I have put into place have been inspired by the actual work I did with my business clients.
Business Visioning, Aligned Supporting Infrastructure, And Work-Life Balance. Is There A Link?
I work a lot with companies and leadership teams who are in transforming industries. They are often trying to figure out how to transform their companies so that they can be successful in ever-changing industry landscapes. To do that, they need to formally create a clear new company vision so they can steer in that direction.
I realized that the same was true for work-life balance. One of the most important things I've implemented for my own work-life balance is a formally defined vision for what I want my work-life balance to be. Without knowing my work-life balance "North Star", I can't possibly steer towards it.
As critical as a work-life balance vision is, though, that alone won't get you there. A vision by itself doesn't work for businesses either. That's why even companies with great visions aren't always successful.
After creating their new vision, clients often call me months later frustrated with how slowly they are making progress towards it.
As their business consultant and "outside eyes", I can often see what is going on since I'm not mired in their day to day business operations. What I often find is that the business processes, infrastructure, and behaviors of the employees in the company are more aligned with the old ways than the new vision. It's not because anyone is blatantly rowing against the vision. It is simply because those things were never formally changed.
This misalignment causes the company to stagnate or hit a ceiling well below the vision. In many ways, those misaligned things actually work directly against them and keep them stuck in the old way.
The only way out of it is to do the hard work of making big changes to all of those things so that they align with the vision and support it. Successful companies do this really well.
Making Big Changes To Daily Personal Habits To Enable Your Work-Life Balance Vision
The same realities apply to work-life balance. Through some trial and error, I unfortunately had to learn this the hard way in my personal journey towards work-life balance. After I had worked hard to create it, I had felt great about my work-life balance vision. It had represented a pretty big shift from what I had been doing, and I was looking forward to living it. Then something unexpected happened when I tried to put it into action.
It didn't work.
It took me a little while to figure out why until I thought about the problems many of my business clients had. Many were trying to transform to a new business vision but hadn't aligned everything else about how their business operated.
I was trying to transform to a new work-life balance vision but hadn't changed anything else about how I was living my work-life balance life every day.
I had daily habits around work and life that had made me a successful person but might have been the same things that were getting in the way of my new work-life balance vision.
For me, those behaviors ranged from not clearly defining boundaries for myself to trying to do everything instead of prioritizing to falsely classifying everything work and life threw at me at the same high urgency level. I needed to change those behaviors to line up better with my new work-life vision if I wanted any chance of actually achieving it.
So I worked just as hard on my day to day behaviors as I did to figure out my work-life balance vision. Then it started to work.
If you've worked hard to create a new work-life balance vision for yourself in 2018, don't forget the next important step of taking a hard look at your daily habits and behaviors to make sure you aren't working against yourself. I was until I made some changes.