Earlier this year, co-host of The Today Show Matt Lauer, asked Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Corp., whether she could successfully balance the demands of family and being a CEO. Recently, Max Schireson, a dad and CEO of MongoDB, a cross-platform database company, voluntarily stepped down from his role. He was on track to fly 300,000 miles a year commuting between New York and Palo Alto, Calif., and struggled to make time for his three children and wife. He realized that he was missing too many special family moments, and as a result felt out of balance.
As I have written about before, work-life balance is a personal choice. While one person can feel completely balanced being on a plane every week, another person will not. There is no right or wrong balance level, only what’s right for you.
Here is a framework to consider as you try to find your range of work-life balance.
1. See the Bigger Picture
Take a thoughtful approach to your life and understand how each action relates to a specific outcome. Some refer to this concept as a vision, and others as a long-term view. Regardless, the point is to look at your situation from a different perspective. Our natural tendency is to focus on the day-to-day minutiae. While it’s easy to get stuck in the details of your life, it’s essential to pause and ask yourself, what is truly important? Seeing the bigger picture helps you gain a broader perspective, refrain from overreacting and keep your emotions local rather than globalizing them to every area of your life.
Tip: How can you refocus your lens to view the world by putting the details into perspective and focusing on the bigger picture?
2. Identify Your Non-negotiables
Non-negotiables are beliefs, commitments and values that you are not willing to compromise. You can have non-negotiables in each area of your life. They can range from practicing yoga three times a week, to getting at least seven hours of sleep every night, to having dinner with your family every night, to eating breakfast, to picking up your son from school, to weekly meetings with employees, to brushing your teeth daily. While most people would not consider going a day without brushing their teeth, some might compromise on sleep, exercise and making themselves a priority. The more consistently you practice these non-negotiables, the more balanced you will feel.
Because circumstances shift over time, you need to reassess what’s important to you and what, if any, non-negotiables need to change.
Beware: When you don’t honor these values and beliefs you begin to lose your sense of balance and your foundation begins to break down.
Tip: What are three non-negotiables you need to honor on a consistent basis to feel good?
3. Make Conscious Trade-Offs
The third factor in cultivating greater balance in your life is your ability to make conscious trade-offs. We all face choices and dilemmas daily, and as you gain clarity on your priorities the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together. These choices need to align with your goals and values. How will you prioritize family versus wellness versus yourself versus your career?
If you’re starting a new business, for instance, you may be out of balance for six months. But if you’re going to be out of balance for two years, is that sustainable for you?
Tip: Consider three questions to help sort through possible trade-offs:
• What are the most important priorities in my life and am I honoring them?
• What trade-offs are necessary to honor myself?
• Are these trade-offs aligned with my goals and values?
As you consider the bigger picture, identify and practice your non-negotiables, and determine which, if any, trade-offs are essential. Think back to when have you felt most balanced in your life. What steps did you take then to achieve this feeling?
Finally, don’t compare yourself to others because we all have different goals.