Principles Of Work Life Balance: by Michael Koscec - Entec Corporation - Thursday, December 04 2008

Submitted by spherica on Mon, 2005-02-28 10:19. Administrator
Principles Of Work Life Balance: by Michael Koscec

Recently I read the book Life Matters by Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill. Everybody is concerned about work/life balance, but few understand that time and money are as important to life balance as work and family. In the book the authors note that each area matters and focusing on one without considering the others is ultimately unfulfilling because they are so closely interrelated. Even the term "balance" implies a one-time effort instead of an ongoing journey.

In reality, a lack of balance is a misalignment of the principles that are important to you, and how you act with regard to them. It is possible that your expectations about work, family, time and money are unrealistic, and therefore you don’t see them properly. With unrealistic expectations, you do not act effectively, and you won’t get what you want. By examining your own experience, and seeking wisdom and inspiration, you can develop your navigational intelligence to optimize your life choices and stop wasting energy, money and time on issues and behaviors that are not important or that do not invest in the future. To truly make every aspect of your life matter, you must focus on those principles that are important and make decisions to live accordingly.

The Three Principles of Work/Life Balance

There is a lot of advice out there about how to make your life better, but in the area of life balance there are three pivotal principles. You must: validate expectations, optimize effort and develop "navigational intelligence."

Validate Expectations

People often operate out of incorrect or distorted assumptions and paradigms. However, you will not get maximum quality results unless you align your expectations with reality. The way you see and perceive situations so drastically affects your thoughts, expectations and behaviors that you must learn to validate your expectations by understanding what is real and what is realistic. Timeless principles such as "trust," "hard work," and "love" are real, but valid expectations around the pace and results of your alignment with these principles must take into account what you can realistically expect from yourself and others.

Optimize Effort

Throughout most of history, "work" has been family work. Children worked and learned alongside parents as they performed the tasks that sustained life. Because the Industrial Revolution split family and work apart, accessing the full richness of both in our lives today requires us to work proactively to create a synergy between the two.

Once you create valid expectations, you must align your efforts with what is real and what is realistic and then leverage them to make sure you get the most results for your effort. In each area - work, family, time and money - consider what you do and how you do it to determine the "optimizers" that will help you create the most positive change.

Develop "Navigational Intelligence"

The final principle is to develop the ability to deal with the tension between the need to focus and the need to be open to unexpected opportunities as you align and leverage your efforts with your expectations. It would be great if you could make a master plan and follow it to a T, but life is unpredictable.

Navigational intelligence is the ability to make good judgments in the decision moments, when both focus and awareness are required. By developing the gift of discernment, you can constantly scan for, recognize, and respond to what is most important to you, even when focused on something else. To calibrate discernment:

Value principles. Create a personal mission statement and read "wisdom literature" to keep yourself constantly scanning for priorities aligned with principles.

Evaluate experience. Learn from living. View mistakes as high-leverage feedback and take the time to evaluate and course-correct.

Invite inspiration. Be open to receiving personal insight that comes from a personal retreat, writing a mission statement, or quiet reflection.

Work Matters

Clearly there is a difference in the way people see their work. To some, work is drudgery; a necessary evil. To others, it means fame and fortune. Work can also represent a life’s mission, or a contribution of love. The differences in how people see work lead to differences in how they do their work, and ultimately, in what they get out of their lives.

Do you see your work as a joy, monotony, or an escape? The pleasure and satisfaction you get from work is as much a function of why and how you work as what you do for work. It is the context that matters.

Work Optimizers

The way you see work will also influence how you see yourself as a worker. It is possible to choose to be a great worker, but most people need some guidance or motivation. Considering research shows that most managers squander their time at inefficient tasks, and that the ability to manage money affects far more than the budgeting dimensions of an employee’s job, here are some aligned, high-leverage optimizers to use at work:

Be Proactive. Take initiative and always think, "What can I do?"

Focus on Job One. Understand your organization, your role in it, and the vision of your boss and peers.

Think Teams. Maximize interdependent effort to achieve success.

Create Partnership Agreements. Make formal or informal agreements to create shared vision about what you are planning to achieve, why and how.

Build on Your Strengths. Align your work with your talents without sacrificing important priorities.

Continually Improve. Seek feedback and invest in professional development

Just ... Work! Develop good work habits. Make sure you are perceived as an asset for your dependability and ability to produce results. You can simply do these optimizers or you can do them with awareness and build your navigational intelligence. Find timeless principles at their root, such as responsibility, focus and alignment, and learn to consciously recognize and value such principles. Evaluate your own experience while using these optimizers and invite inspiration on unique ways to apply them to your own situation. Make the decisions that are right for you.

Balancing Work and Family

Work should truly become love for your family made visible. Work and balance are both principles, and they should be leveraged to bring maximum effectiveness in both areas. Involve children and family in building bridges between work and home. Here’s how:

Share the vision of what you do and why with children. Teach children to work hard in school and at home. Teach children to love work by loving your work. Take your children to work, to see how it helps the family. Participate in career days at school. Share positive work experiences with the family. Bring stories of work heroes home. Be aware of what family members are doing and keep in touch with notes or e-mails. Involve your family in work projects.

Family Matters

In relationships, the little things are the big things. Showing caring and commitment through small acts like listening, respecting others’ space, and saying "thank you" consistently over time makes a huge difference in the quality of family life. Many people consider family one of the most important things in their lives, but they are not satisfied with the quantity or quality of time they invest in their families. As with work, the way you see your family determines what you do with your family and what results you get.

How Do You See Your Family?

From the Brady Bunch to the Simpsons to the Sopranos, the media shows very different views of family. We live in a time when social messages about family are mixed and the purpose of family is confusing. Family used to be a sacred institution, but now it seems optional, essentially social, and recreational.

But human history shows us that family is the nucleus of civilization, and as teenage suicides, out-of-wedlock births, divorce rates, and domestic violence statistics rise, it is clear we are headed in the wrong direction. An ideal family would include members who love, trust, forgive, help and believe in each other. It would have members who work, serve, play and worship together. Few people believe their families live up to the ideal. But even if you think first of the faults in your family, remember, "ideal" does not mean "without challenge," it means "strength to handle the challenge." Also, the ideal family life is a saga of "becoming." No matter what your experience, your greatest impact on the happiness of future generations is to nurture them in principles of joyful family living.

Also consider your role in the family. Do you consider work the place to contribute, and home the place to crash? Family can give you great joy and satisfaction, but that only comes with work and sacrifice for the family. Once you align your expectations with the overarching principles, you can see both home and work as avenues of contribution. Capture your vision of the spouse/parent/family member you want to be. Be brutally honest with yourself concerning what kind of family member you are. Raise your sights to a mark and keep moving toward it.

Family Optimizers

Begin to think in terms of family leadership and your unique opportunity to influence and nurture the members of your family. Though all members of the family have the opportunity to contribute leadership, the most important ingredient in a successful family is parental leadership. Parents have four basic roles:

  1. Provide the basic necessities of life: physical, social, emotional and spiritual.
  2. Protect family members from physical, social and emotional harm.
  3. Nurture family members in love and kindness.
  4. Teach family members principles and values that empower them to have rich, rewarding relationships and joyful, fulfilling lives.

Beyond these roles are some optimizers to further improve your family life:

  1. Create a Family Mission Statement. Clarify a shared vision for the family.
  2. Have Weekly "Family Time." Schedule a weekly time to bond, communicate, coordinate and play.
  3. Date Your Mate. The most important thing you can do for your children is love your spouse.
  4. Have "Sneak-Ins" and "Sneak-Outs." Share one-on-one time with children at home and away to build friendship.
  5. Hold Regular Parent Chats. Develop your role as a parent by asking "What are you working on?" and "What can we do to help?"
  6. Have a Daily Family Wisdom Time. Spend time each day discussing truly great thoughts and ideas throughout time.
  7. Establish Clear Stewardships. Make responsibilities and division of labor clear.
  8. Bring Heroes Home. Talk about heroic acts of real people rather than glamorizing entertainment stars.

Again, approach these optimizers with awareness and build your navigational intelligence in the process. Seek and embrace principles such as contribution, creativity, stewardship, respect, love, service and forgiveness. You will discover other more personalized ways to apply them to your situation, and the navigational intelligence gained from examining your principles, experience and inspiration will help you know that you are making decisions that matter most in your family.

Time Matters

Time becomes an important factor in life when it is necessary to coordinate all of the details and decisions that contribute to life balance, satisfaction and joy. Traditionally these challenges fall under the tricks and techniques of time management, but really they are a function of personal leadership. More than doing things right, it’s doing the right things.

How Do You See Time?

Like other parts of life, it is important to examine your expectations about time. In the Western world, the clock reigns supreme, and time is seen as a limited resource. Busyness becomes a status symbol and people are always working toward it. We also see time as the enemy. What is your relationship with time?

How much of the time do you feel frustrated? Frustration is a function of expectation. You may need to change your expectations or increase your ability to get things done.

How much do you struggle with what is "realistic?" Consider whether you expect too much or too little of yourself.

Do you always think "Life will be better when ..."? What is it that keeps you from immersing yourself in the present?

Do interruptions irritate you? The expectation that life should move smoothly without any surprises is not realistic. And particularly in the family, interruptions are often opportunities to respond to what matters most.

Does the way you feel about yourself affect the number of things you check off your to-do list? Would you still get satisfaction if you couldn’t check things off your list?

Does your desire to do a lot of things reflect a lack of confidence in your ability to do a few important things well? Don’t mistake busyness for success and replace clarity around Job One with crisis-oriented urgency addiction.

Do you feel that if you do the best you can, it still may not be enough? Enough for what? Are your expectations of yourself too high?

Do you honestly believe it’s possible to have a satisfying work/family balance in your life? Do you think it would be possible for someone else, but not for you?

Time Optimizers

Once you understand that time should be spent on issues that are important instead of those that are merely urgent, you can use the following optimizers to make decisions:

Make Weekly Plans. Review your personal mission statement and set goals for yourself each week, planning your schedule for greatest efficiency and synergy.

Use Time Zones. Schedule large, interchangeable blocks of time designated for different kinds of important activities.

T-Plan Daily. This structure allows you to put time-sensitive activities on one side and any-time activities on the other, so you can prioritize and "keep score" as you make decisions throughout the day.

Track Your Time. A time log will give you surprising insight into which quadrant receives most of your attention and how much time you spend on actual priorities.

Build Relationships of Trust. Life is highly interdependent, and your ability to resolve time conflicts depends to a great extent on the quality of relationships with the people involved.

Use Technology in Your Personal Leadership System. Learn to understand and use technology to your advantage.

Money Matters

In order to manage money properly you must align yourself with the fundamental principle of investing instead of consuming. Like time, money is a huge communicator of value and what we buy reflects what is important to us. Money is tied inescapably into work, family and time, so improving your ability to manage it will make a significant difference in the other aspects of your life.

What is your immediate response upon hearing the word "money"? Confidence, security, anxiety, guilt? Consider the myths that promote some of the many negative emotions about money:

Money and Things = Success and Happiness. You may want to be successful so you can have better clothes, homes and cars, but people who have those things often have large debts as well. These symbols are not substance and do not necessarily bring happiness. Often their price is far more than money and includes broken health and relationships.

The Best Financial Improvement Strategy Is to Increase Income. This seems like the obvious solution, but more money usually also includes less time at home, more job-related costs, and a higher tax rate. Often you are quickly back in financial stress, just at a higher level. How you manage what you bring in is far more important than how much you bring in.

Money = Privilege = Children’s Success. The best clothes, cars and schools do not necessarily provide children with the opportunity to do more in life. Character strengths such as honesty, integrity and thrift are best taught through sacrifice, cooperation and the need to prioritize and choose. Children often need you and your time more than they need what extra money can provide.

Money Optimizers

Time and money are very similar because they communicate what is important in your life. The more you learn about how you spend and invest both time and money, the more you learn about yourself. But they are different in the way you can allocate them. Time moves independently. You need to learn to respond in the moment as it continues to flow. Money doesn’t move until you move it. You have to decide to put it where it will produce the greatest growth. Many time decisions must be made on the spot, but money decisions can be made in advance. Use the following high-leverage optimizers to help you make those decisions:

Know Where Your Money Is Going. Track your spending to find areas of waste and misalignment with your principles.

Know Where You Want Your Money to Go. Create a clear, and if appropriate, shared vision of where you want your money to go. Prioritize your top five financial goals and focus on them when you are tempted to waste money.

Plan Weekly. Keep an ongoing look at the differences between your values and approaches and keep working toward greater alignment.

Increase Your Financial Intelligence. Invest time in learning about money by reading, attending a seminar, or talking to people who know how to set their standard of living below their level of income.

Build Margin. Increase the space between resources and immediate needs in this time of increased economic uncertainties, downsizing and national disasters when you might need to draw on reserves.

After looking at work, family, time and money, and ways to validate, optimize and navigate in each area, draw back and look at them as a whole life system. How do work, family, time and money interrelate and create day-to-day life balance questions, such as: whether to stay late to finish a project; whether to take a new job; whether to pay for nursing home care for parents or take them into your house; or whether to stay at home with the new baby.

These questions will never be answered with "balance the scale" approaches. The perceived imbalance is really misalignment with principles; the best way to make decisions about this everyday dynamic equilibrium is with wisdom, or navigational intelligence. Wisdom is the ability to make the choices that create the positive consequences we want to have in our lives.


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