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Work-Life Balance: One Executive’s Advice - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: One Executive’s Advice

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: One Executive’s Advice

If work-life balance were easy to attain, the bookstore shelves wouldn’t be crammed so full of advice on how to get it. The Wall Street Journal wouldn’t have dedicated an entire blog to it with an almost defeatist title like The Juggle. And relatives wouldn’t keep quoting to you that story of the man on his deathbed NOT wishing with his last words that he wish he’d spent more time at the office.

You get it. But how do you get it?

One former executive says you don’t, because work-life balance is a myth. Teresa A. Taylor, former COO of Qwest, writes in her book The Balance: Rethinking Work-Life Success (Greenleaf Book Group, 2013) that the balanced equation model is doomed to fail because it implies trade-offs on one side in favor of the other, when those two parts are in fact pieces of a single whole. “True success,” she writes, “is living an accomplished life and making sure that life is fully lived.” Rather than making the trade-off, she advises, “If your work life is challenging, take energy from your home and put it into work. If your home life is difficult, give yourself a break at work so you can focus on home.”

Making home life a priority is critical, because with a stressed-out home life, one can never dedicate the energy, mood, and talent necessary for success at work. Taylor repeatedly underlines that the concept of keeping your home life and work life separate is futile: if you have problems at home, you will bring them to work; if you have problems at work, you will bring them home. The solution, then, is not to serve this separation with some misguided concept of an equation, but to embrace both sides as parts of who you are.

Taylor’s advice for finding work-life success is to think of the pieces of your life as layers of clothing, which you add to or subtract from as weather dictates. Managing each layer keeps the whole life comfortable, and she identifies these layers as time management, weekends, childcare, one calendar, and something she calls “layers to work.”

The one calendar concept has received some attention from commenters. Rather than maintain a calendar for work and a calendar for the rest of your life, Taylor insists that everything should exist on one calendar, thereby avoiding the feeling of being separated or torn apart when one life demands time from the other. Instead of letting the two calendars fight for each day’s only twelve o’clock hour, decide what goes in that twelve o’clock spot and then figure out where the other things fit.

Moving everything to one calendar is practical advice from someone who has managed a successful home and a large company, but it also works metaphorically as an alternative approach to the balance concept, gaining control over one’s whole life and not merely keeping them home life and work life from fighting.

 

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Work-Life Balance: One Executive’s Advice - Executive Leadership Articles

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