From early in life, balance is a key attribute we strive to accomplish. From learning to sit and walk, to juggling sleeping with waking hours, we figure out how to navigate the world. This carries through to school years where our parents help us learn to balance learning with creativity, exercise, downtime, and family. The endeavor to balance doesn’t end there. Striving for balance is a life-long pursuit and an essential key to success in business and life.
First, let’s explore what balance truly means.
We define balance as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” While this definition of balance is great for a scale or a seesaw, balance in life doesn’t always mean equal. It doesn’t mean to have everything all the time. It means you have to work hard to make space. To tackle the items that are most impactful and of highest priority. To focus on the correct proportions.
As the Director of Mobile Delivery at Shockoe, along with being a wife and mother of 3 boys, striking a work-life balance is familiar territory. There is always the tug to be everywhere and do everything. The struggle is real, and not just for someone in my shoes. Most people I know are trying to strike the right balance in their lives across multiple fronts.
Let’s dive into some activities to undertake to help you achieve the correct proportions in both your life and business.
Setting Clear Goals
Establishing what is most important and the ultimate outcomes desired are sometimes the hardest part of balance. Internal reflection is tough work. Sitting down with yourself to understand who you want to be when you grow up or what you ultimately want to accomplish in life is not for slouches. But understanding what brings you joy, what leaves your cup full, the mark you are trying to leave on the world, will clarify what really matters to you. Marissa Mayer, Former president and CEO of Yahoo stated “You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. Thinking in that way empowers you to work hard for a long period.”
In “The Myth of the Nice Girl,” Fran Hauser — a long-time media executive, startup investor, and best-selling author — recommends choosing the four most important areas of your life and place them into a four square, one area in each square. Then determine the top 2-3 priorities and goals for each area. This exercise helps narrow focus. What’s great is that you can revisit this list — and should! It also lends itself to helping with the next step of setting and maintaining boundaries.
Structure and Boundaries
Review your commitments and ensure that you are focusing on activities that directly correlate to your new list of goals. If something requesting your time doesn’t align with your goals, you don’t tackle it — you create boundaries. This may lead to tough conversations or even some soul searching, but will ultimately ensure you’re spending the time you have on the most important activities.
“Burnout is about resentment. Preventing it is about knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.” Marissa Mayer
Structure is about making the activities you undertake, and the ways you spend your time, routine. It brings consistency and reliability to your day. The great part of having a more scheduled lifestyle is that when something has to shift or expand, it’s clear what it will impact and the tradeoffs that will need to happen to accommodate.
Moving with Intention
Tailoring your tasks to the top-most goals and priorities, while purposefully planning and executing on your day, allows you to move into the space where you can commit to carrying out aligned activities. This ensures that you are getting the most out of your time and efforts. This purpose driven approach of bringing focus to your tasks helps get away from just “going through the motions” and instead build habits around the most important things, minimizing the noise and distractions.
One trap many people fall into is focusing on where you are not, rather than where you are. To dwell at work on the toddler who cried as you dropped him off, to be thinking of the big presentation tomorrow when you are helping with homework. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard was to be in the current moment — be fully present and invested in wherever you are. As noted in Star Wars: Episode 1 by the character Qui-Gon Jinn “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” This is true for Jedis and for us regular folks, and can help you remain present in the moment.
Understand what is most critical and take the time to ensure you prioritize it accordingly. Sometimes the focus will be work heavy, sometimes it will be family heavy. Revisiting the steps needed to achieve your goals will ensure you are consistently pursuing the correct activities. It also provides a mechanism to rebalance when there is too much focus on one area or if tasks are creeping in that are in parity with your desired end results.
As life moves forward, taking a step back to determine if your defined goals are still the most important is critical for alignment and prioritization.
Now let’s unpack how these key tactics can apply to business situations.
- There is an old adage that you can only pick two — fast, cheap, or good. The interdependence of time, scope, and cost—known as the triple constraint — highlights the impacts of project demands on each other, along with quality. Prioritizing the critical activities with the project’s end goal in mind helps maintain the alignment of work and is a key component of Agile method. A key factor to success is learning to handle curveballs sent your way to ensure you continually balance these three constraints. Understanding how these dependencies impact each other and solving for unintended shifts in these dynamics is the foundation of delivery success.
- Change is inevitable, so maintain a fluid approach and be adaptable. If the goals, structure, and boundaries are clear re-prioritization is crucial, yet doesn’t have to be painful. Willingness to shift and adjust, along with the ability to execute on these adaptations, drives success. This applies to a myriad of business situations including shifts in resources, adjustments for client satisfaction, and interpersonal communications.
- Ensuring a happy, healthy team by helping others find a balance. As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben espoused “With great power comes great responsibility”, and that truth that applies to management within companies. Work-life balance is important for everyone. Determine what drives your people and their satisfaction. Is it snacks in the break room? Flexible schedules? Clear expectations setting? Use this information to help facilitate a workplace that provides for these needs.
- There is a balance found between executing on current responsibilities while still allowing to expand accountability. Mentoring is a great way to provide growth, ensure the focus on top priorities, and garner feedback if needs are being met. Working with people — both inside and outside of the company — to understand strengths, determine opportunities, and enrich skill sets is a valuable undertaking. While we often see the mentor as the person providing the information and knowledge, the arrangement is often beneficial for all participants.
Learning to juggle the demands of personal and professional is necessary for a well-rounded life and long-term success. It increases productivity, reduces stress, and narrows focus to the most important activities. It makes the space to conquer the tasks that really matter.
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