Let’s Change It Up: Your Life’s Work

Recently, a colleague wrote about the common phrase of “work life balance”.  And then another colleague added that this common phrase should be changed to “work life integration.” This concerned me, as it prompted me to wonder what’s behind society and leaders allowing the move from “work life balance” to “work life integration”. In my practice, clients are teaching me a lot: if clients allow their work to integrate their life by not setting boundaries, not making purposeful & prioritized decisions, then the client is more apt to struggle with meeting their personal goals.  If a client embraces and communicates their priorities and purpose, I find that the client can begin to establish new practices & habits, balance their life better, and achieve personal goals that previously seemed unachievable.  Whether it is work life balance or work life integration, aren’t we better served by embracing life first?

I now am completely questioning this common phrase: “work life balance.”  Throughout a person’s life, one spends approximately 15-25% of his/her time at work.  Most of one’s time is spent sleeping, eating, relaxing, and enjoying life’s pleasures and treasures.  Even though the globe is more connected than ever and working 24 hours/day 5 to 7 days/week, that still doesn’t give reason for work to integrate your personal life.

I recommend we change it up.  How about we talk about balancing life into work and integrating life with work? Let’s rename it from work life balance or work life integration to Your Life’s Work. To make this shift, try answering these questions:  What are your most important life goals? What are your goals for 2012 and 2013? What are your goals for the remainder of this year? What do you want employees at work to truly know about you? Does your boss understand your personal goals and how important they are to you?

As you answered those questions, what did you notice? Are your work goals just one piece of your overall personal or life goals? If they are, then you are well on your way to Your Life’s Work.  If you noticed that your goals are more work focused, are you ready to be introspective and define who you want to be, what steps you need to take to develop your plan, and how you want to be remembered?

So, how can you change it up and move from struggling with work life balance to developing Your Life’s Work?

Talk & Ask. Who can you talk to about your life’s goals, priorities, and purpose?  Who will support you along your journey in accomplishing Your Life’s Work? Pick someone who truly listens to your plan, asks insightful questions, and will support you. A good first step is to talk about and plan your personal time as rigorously as your work schedule.

Write. Numerous studies have indicated that individuals, sports teams, and companies who write down their goals are much more apt to achieve them than those who don’t write them. Keep in mind that not all goals are met, so be ready to expect that.  In baseball, an excellent batting average is above .350.  In football, a quarterback is superb when he connects on 75% of his passing attempts. In basketball, the best free throw shooters hit more than 85% of their free throws.  Teams who win 75% of their games position themselves to win championships. Expect progress, not perfection.

Share. Let others know about your plans, your priorities, and Your Life’s Work.  When others know a bit more about what’s behind your actions and decisions, they might be more apt to support you.  For example, let your boss know that you want to take your children’s birthdays off annually, because you want the kids to know that one day a year, they are #1. That decision and action may also send a signal to your boss that you can prioritize highly important things in Your Life’s Work.

Display. If a company can post their strategy on their website and on employee bulletin boards, then where can you post your personal goals that will support Your Life’s Work? I post mine annual goals by our personal calendar in the kitchen and also carry it in my wallet. It is always present, to help keep me focused on My Life’s Work.

Go. Take the first step toward Your Life’s Plan.  Progress begins with that first step, embracing the plan, & doing it.

Let Your Life’s Work begin. Talk to someone today, so you can display and start Your Life’s Work tomorrow.

Big Decision Time? REST.

As a leader, you are faced with difficult decisions that have large impacts on people, families, products, services, and financial results. The more responsibility, the more difficult the decisions. In 2010, I had the opportunity to hear Army four-star general George Casey speak to a room full of senior executives. He quickly got our attention by simply stating, “the easy decisions have already been made, by others. You get the hard ones, with the most risk.” The entire auditorium woke up and was on-notice. He got our attention, but then he provided a tool to help us ensure we do the right things to help make better decisions.

Casey recommended REST (read, exercise, sleep, think):

The “R” is a reminder to read and prep before you make a decision. Many of the entrepreneurs or women that I coach are skimming articles, instead of really reading them, being introspective, and thinking about the implications. I encourage clients to read, reflect, understand the implications, and then recommend. This is a sound implementation cadence of reading and prepping.

The “E” was to reinforce the importance of exercising and being healthy to make difficult decisions. One of my former colleagues, who is the CFO of a Fortune 50 company, considers himself to be a ‘corporate athlete’. He firmly takes the stance that being physically healthy via exercise and proper nutrition feeds his brain and body to make solid decisions under pressure. He has a weight, nutrition, and Body Mass Index (BMI) goal to help him be the best leader he can possibly be.

The “S” was to ensure you get your sleep, so that you are in a good mindset. Ever made a bad or rushed decision when you were tired? Former President Bill Clinton once said after his Presidency that, “I made my poorest decisions when I was rushed or tired, or both.” The importance of sleep is also reinforced by Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington. She has implemented nap rooms at her workplace, so that employees can take a nap in the afternoon if they become fatigued.

The “T” is for taking time to think and weigh the options and associated risks before making a decision. How often has your team rushed you for an answer? When was the last time you coached someone else to think about something over the weekend? My father has been known to ‘measure twice, and then not cut’. He will tell you that during his lifetime, many urgent requests for a decision to be made actually just go away if you take time to think. He has reinforced to me many times that employees who bring these urgent requests will either figure it out, let it go, or bring it back to you if they are completely stumped. So he is obviously a thinker. However, in a truly urgent situation that could mean life or death, a simple short walk can allow a leader to think and clear the mind to help ensure a better decision.

These simple and highly effective acronyms like REST have a way of reminding me to lead and coach more effectively. For example, if we have a huge decision to make in the markets we are serving at Slingshot SEO, I will ensure I practice and prep (i.e. Read and Think) a couple nights before something is due. This helps me be calm and also ensures that I Sleep more soundly the night before the deadline. Regarding the importance of Exercise, it is planned in to my day just like a business meeting or school sporting event. Exercise is on the calendar. How can you implement REST to help you become an even better emerging leader?