When it comes to going on a journey, it helps to have a map. We can, of course, wander around until we find our way. But a map improves our sense of direction and gives us a strategy to follow. It increases our courage to embark on the journey and our ability to control what happens along the way. This Provision explains how to set a strategy for Work / Life Balance.
Not having a current and viable strategy is one of the main reasons for never reaching our ideal Work / Life Balance. If you don’t have a current or viable strategy, don’t worry. In this issue we take a practical, easy and effective approach to developing a strategy that will work.
For our strategy to work, it must do two things: It must aim to meet the full depth of our needs, and it must span the width of all areas of our life.
Covering all the areas of our life is important because the different areas all impact and rely on each another. To illustrate this interaction, let’s pick two: Career and Personal Growth. For our career to prosper in the long-term, we must grow personally by updating our skills. As technology and business change, a new set of skills is required. By focusing on Career alone, we would eventually fall behind. The two areas directly impact each other and demand balance. So it is with all the areas.
To achieve a complete picture of balance, we apply an adaptation of the eight areas of life from the work of Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl in Co-Active Coaching. Our eight areas of life are as follows:
- Friends & Community
- Family & Partner
- Personal Growth
- Fun & Recreation
- Physical Environment (one of our many designed environments)
These eight areas represent the ones that most people find essential to producing a sustainable Work / Life Balance. However, as Work / Life Balance is not a one-size-fits-all formula you may want to tailor these areas after doing this the first time.
To get started on mapping out your strategy, be sure to find a place that works well for you. It may be somewhere quiet and peaceful, or it may be better for you to work on it while you sit at your desk, on a plane, in the subway, or even in front of the TV! Wherever it is, it needs to be your map-making place.
Once you have found that place, here are three easy steps to get started. The first one takes around 10 minutes to sketch out.
STEP ONE: Assess the current situation, by scoring each of the eight areas. This is not a left-brain, scientific exercise. This exercise requires our right-brain creativity. We can tap into this by asking ourselves how we feel about each area, and then nominate a score out of ten for each area. Zero is the lowest and ten is the highest or best.
Next, we clarify the score by making an extremely important decision on whether each area is getting better or worse. Next to our score, we rank the area as either getting worse, by using a minus sign “-” , or getting better by using a plus sign “+”. There is no “staying the same” in our rapidly changing world. We must make a decision and rank it one way or the other.
This ranking is important because our Career area could score 10 out of 10 but because our skills are not staying updated, our Career area is actually trending for the worse. Our Family and Partner area may be 5 out of 10 but if we are now giving them our full attention or have quit neglecting them until we have succeeded in another area, then our Family and Partner area may be getting better.
To complete and validate our assessment of the current situation we can check it with a friend, family member, or co-worker. This is similar to the 360-degree assessment used by HR professionals. It will show us if we are missing anything and might challenge us to compare our perception against someone else’s. Because this is a creative, non-scientific, exercise, there is no right or wrong. It is important to base our assessment on the current situation, not how we want the situation to look in the future. Done properly, this exercise will produce a high-quality assessment to base our map on.
If you choose to do nothing else with your strategy other than to assess the current situation, the act of raising your awareness alone will help. If you want to play a lead role in meeting your needs, however, then it’s time for Step 2.
STEP 2: Name our needs and wants. This is the fun part. It is where we sharpen our aim at what will satisfy our Work / Life Balance. Here we aim for what is “enough” to satisfy our needs, nothing more and nothing less.
We start by turning our needs or wants into goals. A goal is another term for something we want to have, be or do. We either achieve it or not by a designated time. The SMART goal acronym is a great guide. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. Here’s an example: Save $2,000 by December 25th by depositing $200 each week into a reserve account at a financial institution.
Goals represent our top priorities in each life area. To determine these for each of the eight areas, ask yourself, “What is my top priority in this area right now?” Make sure it represents a need and want. Then turn it into SMART goal. If there is more than one priority in each area, list your top three.
Here’s a checklist for our goals.
Check 1: Our goals must be exciting. They must be a balance of “shoulds” and “wants.” If all of our goals look like “shoulds,” we won’t be motivated.
Check 2: Our goals must be failsafe. A trend in recent success literature has been to confuse exciting goals with huge unattainable goals. It’s okay to have great goals, but they must be broken down into achievable sizes. Sometimes we sabotage our efforts by setting goals that are too difficult to achieve. Breaking large goals into smaller, achievable goals is how successful organisations perform strategic planning. Our personal and professional goals will benefit from the same approach.
Check 3: Our goals must anticipate obstacles. Each goal will require us to say “Yes” to something while saying “No” to something else and vice versa. Deciding this upfront turns an obstacle into a goal. Saying “Yes” to tennis on Wednesdays, means saying “No” to coaching the soccer team this season. Making decisions about obstacles in advance can turn them into small goals that support bigger goals.
Check 4: Our goals must be free of hidden Celebrity Success Elements. The hallmark of Celebrity Success is a self-centeredness that aims at limitless, stardom. Living by Celebrity Success, we are the stars of our own limitless fantasy. We usually focus on only one area at the expense of all others. We don’t entertain the idea of peaks and troughs, only peaks that we never seem to reach. Celebrity Success leads us to eventual disappointment by pursuing unrealistic expectations with blind focus. Realistic goals become achievable goals. Remember the old adage: Success breeds success.
STEP 3: Take the controls. With the map drawn, we can embark on the journey by driving, steering and correcting our course as we go. We achieve balance as we take control along the route, not only as we arrive at a destination. Balance is a means and not an end. To borrow Dr. Wayne Dyer’s formula for happiness and apply it to achieving balance: There is no way to balance; balance is the way.
As we seek balance, we may encounter resistance from within. Our beliefs in one life area may prevent us from reaching a need in another area. If we hold the belief that, “To be successful at my job, I must work long hours and sacrifice time with my family,” then we will find it almost impossible to achieve a goal of spending more time with our family. This belief may be valid, but we may decide it doesn’t work for us anymore.
One way to overcome this is to shift our perspective. We can do this by viewing how one area impacts another. This will help us to see things in a different way. Any way is okay, as long as it is different. For example, family can feel like an obstacle to work, but it can be our most important goal in the bigger scheme of things. A different perspective shows how family can actually support our performance at work and validate it at the same time.
While we are at the controls, we must maintain momentum. Our multidimensional strategy does not defer goals until another stage of life because we are chasing the “maximum” in one area. This is the, “I’ll be happy when•” trap. While there are periods of natural focus in life, we can still satisfy our needs by sharing our passion, energy, and enjoyment across all areas in our lives.
Avoiding the “I’ll be happy when•” trap of deferring people and need in our life might be as easy as realising that Work / Life Balance is not a 50/50 split between work and family. If we aim for this kind of goal, we end up deferring to the most urgent thing all the time. By realising that our balance may be 80/20 or 30/70 during periods of focus, we can still find it satisfying. As life changes, so does our focus and strategy. Reviewing our strategy now and then keeps it fresh and keeps us focused on our needs.
Go ahead. Try it. Spend a few 10-minute cycles over the next week to work on your map and embark on your journey. It takes discipline and courage to define and follow our own strategy. We cannot outsource our strategy for Work / Life Balance. And why would we want to? How often have we admired the idea of dancing to the beat of our own drum? Having our own strategy, we can move from the idea to the reality of the dance.
Coaching Inquiries: What are your top priorities right now? Do they lead to a sense of satisfaction and balance? Which direction is each area of your life headed? What changes do you need to make to reach your ideal Work / Life Balance?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.
I think it is great that you have your material available on AvantGo. The next step is to get signed up for Podcasts. Folks who have iPods subscribe to audio podcasts that get updated like the information on AvantGo. The difference is that it is audio vs. text in nature. Just a thought. (Ed. Note: What a terrific suggestion. Thanks! We’ll look into the logistics of making it happen in the near future.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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