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Is There Such a Thing as Work-Life Balance?


“How do I have work-life balance?” It’s one of the most common questions I get working with leaders. I always have to break the news: There is no such thing as a perfect balance.

Imagine a scale. You can’t have equal parts work and “life” (whatever that is supposed to mean) on each side. The most disciplined individual can’t achieve this balance. Instead, life is a series of choices and tradeoffs. Furthermore, there are different seasons in your life. There will be periods of life where work has to be the priority. There can be other seasons where work is less demanding.

I got to ask Peter Lehrman, CEO and Founder of Axial, how he manages the trade-offs of being a CEO, a husband, and a father. On top of being a CEO, husband, and father, he raises a family in New York City, a place many think of as being notoriously unfriendly to families. He provided some great thoughts about his journey to be a great CEO and family leader in my podcast, For You Leaders.

1. Create non-negotiables to protect your family time.

Peter said you need to create a routine and non-negotiables around family. This forces definition and clarity. It gets the whole family on the same page.

It’s better to have definition than a blanket statement of “I’m going to be a better dad.” The routines can be as simple as taking your kid to school every morning, or having dinner as a family every night. That doesn’t mean that business meetings or other commitments will come up and plans change. But those should become the exceptions, not the rule.

Your business most likely has non-negotiable values. Why would you treat your family any differently?

2. Push your actions to their logical conclusion.

Peter also said you have to push yourself to think of the outcomes of your current actions. If you keep acting the way that you are, what are the consequences (good or bad)? He said, “You have to ask yourself, if you could have the most incredible version of your business…but were to lose your spouse…would it be worth it?” For some entrepreneurs it’s worth it. For others it needs to be one of their non-negotiables.

Pushing your actions to their logical conclusions is a powerful way to borrow some pain from the future to make hard choices today.

3. Be mindful.

It’s one thing to be around your family. It’s another to be fully present and mindful. You need to be present and mindful when you are with your family.

In today’s world of non-stop push notification, we’re fat on information. Our brains are addicted to it. However, our families are starving for attention. We can afford to lose some weight on information by giving our families and friends some attention.

One quick exercise: try being 100% mindful of the next three conversations you have, especially at home. Put the phone on silent with screen down. You will notice things that you’ve never noticed before. You will see how different it is when you are in the moment. Your family and friends will appreciate it.

After you get past the panic if not checking your phone, you will even enjoy family time even more.

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