The phrase “work-life balance” has become a constant part of our everyday vocabulary. There are 190 million results when you search Google, and the term even has its own Wikipedia page! What does the phrase really mean? Wikipedia lists this definition: Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) and "lifestyle" (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).
At Executives Unlimited, we think there is so much more to the concept of working to maintain overall balance—including minimizing multi-tasking, reducing what has become almost an addiction to devices, and periodically taking true quality time away from it all. These aspects of achieving better overall balance are especially relevant for business leaders and executives.
In one study conducted by Harvard Medical School faculty, 96% of senior leaders reported feeling burned out to some degree, with one-third describing their burnout as extreme. We believe there are a few key areas that should be immediately addressed to put life back into balance.
Simply Make Time
A famous commencement speech by the former President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Brian Dyson, paints a beautiful picture of why we strive for balance:
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—work, family, health, friends and spirit…and you’re keeping all of these in the air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls—family, health, friends and spirit—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
We all fundamentally understand that making time for the things that matter in life is important, but demanding careers often send us down the path of total imbalance. Striving for healthy habits and discipline in certain areas—such as actually scheduling time for family to ensure it happens—is the key.
Minimize Technology Where Possible
Technology and the use of our personal devices is pervasive in every facet of modern life. Sitting in meetings or presentations, often half of the audience is looking down at their phones, unable to concentrate on the immediate and present activity going on right in front of them.
In addition, professionals have their rhythms set by the very technology invented to make their lives easier and free up time. Computers and mobile devices operate at high speeds, continuously, for hours on end. We try to keep up, but it’s a “Groundhog Day” type of never-ending challenge, and we’re destined to fall behind.
Taking a deliberate and routine break from computers and devices is really the key to rising above the noise and putting purpose back into a daily routine. This will help individuals to remain focused on long- and short-term goals and maintain—rather than erode—performance.
Build Rituals to Thrive
Again, deliberately scheduling time for the things that truly matter in life is key for a healthy and successful executive. A recent article on CEO.com pointed out that defending against stress can be another great way to achieve balance. The article makes two key recommendations, which we highly endorse:
- Find ways to renew and relax regularly, such as meditate, get bodywork/massage, play, engage in a passion (music, sports, etc.).
- Carve out time each day to disconnect from work to be fully present with those you care about.
We suggest taking this one step further, and also taking significant time to completely “unplug”—both figuratively and literally—and plan time to refresh whether on a vacation, mission trip, or sabbatical. This helps regain the perspective often needed to re-focus on strategic goals and objectives.
As a way to summarize, these topics were succinctly addressed in a study that included more than 4,000 executives worldwide, conducted by students at Harvard Business School: By making deliberate choices about which opportunities executives will pursue and which they’ll decline, rather than simply reacting to emergencies, leaders can and do engage meaningfully with work, family, and community.
At Executives Unlimited, we are committed to helping make executives successful, and finding the right fit for each position that enables overall balance. For information about our services, please call us at (866) 957-4466 or contact us online today.
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