Post #4 in a series of 6 posts on balance: Answering the tough questions

Work-Life-BalanceLast time I provided the five questions that comprise a framework to help executives find elusive “work/life balance.” Does it seem as mysterious—and daunting—as uncovering the Holy Grail? Working your way through the questions might provide at least partial insight into your own best path to work/life sanity. (Read the full story in the October 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review.)

Here’s my take at answering the questions, with the hope that my responses will provide you with your own jumping off point in this process.

  1. Where do your options fall on the needs-wants spectrum? At this stage in my life, I have enough “stuff.” So for me, it’s a matter of weighing how I allocate my most precious resource—my time—between many competing interests: spending time with my wife and children, growing my business, talking to and spending time with my friends and family, and paying attention to my health and personal fitness goals.
  2. What are the investment and opportunity costs? In business, I look for three things when I make time investments.  I look for areas where I have Unique Ability (see Dan Sullivan’s work in this area), get a factor back in returns, and produce results.  Ultimately, this measured in profit and customer and employee satisfaction.
  3. Are the potential benefits worth the costs? This is an easy one for me to answer. It’s a resounding “Yes!” If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s how fleeting life and health can be. As you probably know if you read my blog posts, I lost my father in a farm accident two years ago.  Six months later, my closest friend, Peter Quinn, was hit by a car and lost his ability to walk. In the midst of these tragedies, my wife, Linda, and I adopted two wonderful young children. Struggling with the loss of my Dad and being inspired by Pete as he recovers from the accident reminded me how much relationships matter. Welcoming our son and daughter into our family reinforced that the only thing that really matters, in the end, is being there for the daily moments that define a childhood and a family.
  4. Can you make a trade? I have made several trades in the past year bringing more balance with my overall life priorities.  From choosing to work an additional day per week from home (and using the saved commute time to go to the park or read to the kids before naps) to blending activities (my morning runs include the kids if they’re awake) to hiring an operations manager, I’ve made several “trades” resulting in more balance and time.  As the commercial says, this time is “priceless.”
  5. Have you considered sequencing your most valued options? I guess that answer would have to be “yes” as well because that is exactly what I have done. As a man with an incredibly supportive wife, I had the luxury of working crazy hours in my 20s and 30s without sacrificing the option of having a rich family life in my 40s and beyond.

I think it’s important for men to acknowledge that many women need to sequence life priorities differently due to their biological imperative. As business leaders I also think we need to find ways to help our employees make these choices and still honor our business priorities. More about that in my next post.