I'm not a big fan of integrating work into your life if it compromises your life. That's why relationships go south, why kids get the shaft and feel isolated, why there is so much stress and digital overload in every corner of our existence. Forget checking your email constantly or looking for texts; the new measure of "balance" seems to be how much time you spend not doing those things and living a normal life.

The worst mistake you can make when you're trying to integrate work into your life is thinking that work is the priority and life has to figure out how to get along without you. The failure is seeing the integration backwards, that life integrates into work.

Here's an example.

You show up at the gym and get one email about a conflict. You head for the hallway and start frantically tapping on your phone trying to put out the fire. Guess what? You just put work ahead of life and didn't integrate properly. The right way to do that is to make a plan. You'll run on a treadmill for 30 minutes no matter what. You'll check for urgent messages and respond to a few for five minutes, but no matter what, you'll get back on the treadmill for another 15 minutes.  

Do you see the difference? Integration is not bad--living in such a hyper-connected world means we can stop and check on work. It doesn't mean we need to do that every 15 minutes (or every 15 second). That's not integration. That's obsession. And, I know this from my own life--I've been a poor integrator myself.

The secret is being just as hyper-intentional about balancing life as you are about staying hyper-connected and keeping tabs on projects. The secret is being aware of how important it is to integrate. There's a need to be even more rigid in protecting family time. All that effort we put into working at a high level should only be matched by the effort we put into protecting our daily lives from being all about work.

I still don't know why my seven-minute morning routine became such a hit and is even gaining in popularity in recent weeks, but my guess is that people need a way to prepare for chaos. They are overwhelmed by too many demands on their time at all hours of the day. They are not integrating correctly, and it is making people feel miserable. The worst part is that this hyper-connectivity, this readily available access, is a good thing because it can boost our productivity. It becomes a bad thing when we feel the need to be productive every second.

Here's my advice. Make a plan to deal with work-life integration now and figure out how to make it work more effectively, before the stress takes you down. Let people know you are working on the problem. Communicate with your friends and family and tell them how you plan to change. Tackle this problem now.

And then: Do it! Follow through with your grand ambition to make work a second priority and integrated into the biggest priorities. If you go on vacation or take a few days off, it's OK to have a plan to make a few phone calls or meet with a few colleagues. The difference between those who integrate well with life and those who don't is this: Bad integrators jump on the phone during dinner. They excuse themselves at the pool. They're hectic. Good integrators accept the fact that integration is a current reality in business but they know how to manage it.

Do you need some specific help on this issue? Has work taken over? Send me a message with your backstory and why this has become a problem and I'll try to help.

Published on: Aug 15, 2015