As an executive coach, I’m often asked by clients, “How can I better juggle all the responsibilities I’m faced with in my life?”
My clients are routinely asked to do more to meet the escalating demands of their business, placing more strain on their personal lives. The term “work/life balance” is often talked about but remains an elusive concept because busy professionals aren’t able to dedicate themselves fully to either work or life.
For example, several months ago an executive of a large retailer shared with me that he was struggling with increased demands due to an initiative that expanded their footprint into new markets. “Jim” found himself buried in budgets, leading both new and legacy meetings, restructuring a challenging vendor relationship, and putting out fires related to conflict amongst his leadership team. He also had three kids, who are active in sports and regularly volunteers in his community. Keeping his head above water had taken an emotional toll, as he felt that neither spheres of his life were receiving his best efforts. Ultimately, he raised his hand for help.
Today, he finds himself relaxed and in sync with his commitments. His productivity has skyrocketed and his stress level has reduced significantly.
How has he and many others turned the corner, gaining control of both their schedules and demands? They applied what I call the B² formula.
The formula is simple:
A. Be present.
B. Build boundaries.
Being present means giving your complete attention to the task or person you are engaged with. Tasks that receive your full focus tend to get done faster and more intelligently. People who receive your committed attention tend to respond in-kind, which deepens relationships and improves results. To be fully present feels both light and agile because you are not weighed down by where you are not. Your mind is free to focus and maximize the moment you are in.
Ways to be present include:
• Unplugging: Put your phone away and step away from your computer. This will allow you to fully engage with the person or task at hand.
• Spending time alone: Blocked time for projects, exercise and creative thinking will allow you to clear your mind and hold your attention when you reconnect with work colleagues and family.
• Limiting meetings to 45 minutes: This forces attendees to prepare and stay focused. It also allows you to have transition time between meetings, which allows you to address potential distractions and urgent demands.
• Being grateful: This will prevent you from focusing on yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s problems.
Being intentional about your boundaries establishes clarity and healthy expectations between you and the inevitable distractions that invade your time. By establishing and communicating healthy boundaries, your time becomes manageable because you are distinguishing what’s acceptable from what’s not. This is hard for many leaders to remain loyal to, but is essential to arriving at peace of mind.
Ways to maintain boundaries include:
• “Work/life” transitions: “I don’t take work calls after 6 p.m.,” or “I’ll handle all personal issues during my lunch hour.”
• Blocked calendar times: For example, Wednesday mornings are reserved for _______.
• Core values: Use your personal or company values to make difficult decisions. If it goes against your values — don’t do it.
• Say “no:” Leaders often find themselves a mile wide and an inch deep. Don’t commit yourself beyond the “must do” tasks for 30 days. You’ll be amazed by the increased productivity and quality of your work.
Combining your full presence with committed boundaries removes the white noise of anxiety that stresses over what could or should be happening, and frees you to be fully engaged with each of your commitments. Simply adopt the B² formula to gain control and optimize your life both personally and professionally.