I'm not a writer.
My job is to write, to research--to do the things a journalist should do. However, if I define myself as a writer, I fall into a trap. Am I a writer in the evening when I'm watching TV with the kids? Am I a writer on Sunday? Am I a writer on vacation? What if I decide to do a different job? Does what I do in my job always have to define who I am and therefore dictate my relationships, my outlook, and even my mood?
Not really. I've heard about this idea of having work-life integration instead of work-life balance, and the concept scares me to death. The workday should end at 5 p.m., and my identity has to be bigger than what I do to collect a paycheck. You may disagree. These fine folks who lead companies have a similar take on making sure what we do doesn't totally define who we are. What is your viewpoint on the subject?
1. Understand the tradeoff.
"A former board member, who used to run a Fortune 500 company, once told me when I asked him how he balanced it all that 'you'll never feel like life is in balance, but as long as you keep asking that question, then you're doing a good job.' The point was if you are aware of the tradeoffs between work, family, etc., then your life won't get out of balance. For me, the most important way to make sure INRIX doesn't define who I am is to ensure the important people and events outside of work life always have time on my schedule. I commit to driving my kids to school and being home in time for dinner when I'm not out of town on business. Business calls or meetings over breakfast and dinner meetings are avoided when I'm home unless absolutely necessary. I also don't work on Sundays and instead spend that time with family or reading books that have nothing to do with work, which I've found helps keeps my brain fresh and reduces stress." --Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO at INRIX
2. Simply listen.
"I am in a different city every day of every week sharing ideas and listening to new problems or opportunities from our clients. By listening, we see patterns and then develop unique algorithms that provide market advantage. To do it right, I spend a lot of late evenings and weekends just thinking of how to solve a new problem. Solutions look easy, of course, after months of thinking. Some nights I even fall asleep by doing math problems in my head to relax, since I can't turn off the thinking. Innovation takes time. So when I really want to chill out, I find that I rely on very simple ways to disconnect. My family and friends really don't care what I do for a living. They want to share their lives with me. So listening, once again, puts my life back in perspective. We love going to concerts in Austin. We love swimming in Lake Austin. Conversation, music, or a good swim is enough to stop the wheels of progress. Monday morning's 6 a.m. flight to somewhere will be here soon enough." --Bob Pearson, president at W2O Group
3. Choose opportunity over setbacks.
"When I first found out I was gluten intolerant six years ago, I learned that not letting one thing define you is a choice. I could have allowed my newly discovered dietary restrictions to define and limit me. Instead I began to explore my new food world, searching for great tasting gluten-free foods. While doing that I stumbled on a local restaurant's gluten-free pizza crust and loved it so much that I acquired the company behind the dough. I left my comfortable world of bits and bytes behind and made it my passion to help others discover and enjoy delicious ancient grains. By keeping an open mind and viewing setbacks as opportunities, I define my work, it doesn't define me." --Charlie Pace, CEO at Smart Flour
4. Stay curious and creative.
"In my technical work environment, there is no off. But by integrating my other life interests--culture, arts, science, music, and literature--I have found a way to strike a healthy work balance. One way I've done this is by looking for the music in the machine--not only through the devices that keep me connected to the beat or stories of others, but also through perspectives of the people supporting this always-on environment, those whom I like to call the guardians of the connected world. I decided early on that I wouldn't let a job drive or define me. Instead, I approach work the same way I approach life--with curiosity and creativity. Music and reading help me not be defined by work as much as my colleagues help me count on a network that is never off." --Jim McNiel, vice president of worldwide marketing at NetScout Systems
5. Set boundaries.
"Set boundaries on my work and its intrusion into my life. Boundaries include putting the devices (all of them) down. Have one or two outside commitments that broaden my definition; I do lead vocals in an '80s rock cover band. Cultivate your own growth mindset. Focus on what can you learn and how can you grow, not winning/losing or succeeding/failing. Ultimately, be someone outside of my job." --Joelle Kaufman, chief marketing officer at BloomReach
6. Be true to yourself.
"To the contrary, 100 percent of who I am is what defines how I approach my job. My core beliefs allow me to consider possibilities and "impossibilities." Like the chronic disease patients that my job serves, fixing seemingly unsolvable issues can only happen if you truly believe you can achieve your goals, even if you do not know the 'how.' The commitment and faith that you will find a way personifies the collective belief of my team." --Gary Sinderbrand, CEO at Betterpath