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Scott sighed with exasperation … “l didn’t think I was going to make it here this month.  Last night I didn’t get home until late and I haven’t made it to the gym in the last two weeks.  I keep saying I want better work-life balance, but I’m not making much progress.  I don’t think it’s possible unless I hire another two or three people!  Plus, having to train them will only make things worse for a while.”

“Let me ask you this,” queried Jeremy, “how long has this been going on?  Is this a short-term problem due to a sudden uptick in business or maybe a key employee quit? Or has this been going on for quite a while?”

“It’s been going on for quite a while – many months.  It got worse last year when my manufacturing manager retired, but her replacement is totally up to speed now, and there’s still little relief. I keep saying I’m going to get to the gym and lose this excess weight, but, honestly, as you can see, I haven’t lost a pound.”

Cindy totally understood: “When I was a department head, I was so focused on becoming the next CEO, that I pushed myself constantly to get that extra thing done each day. Of course, when I became CEO, I was overwhelmed with all the new responsibilities … there was no end in sight.  It took a serious health setback to get my attention.” “I actually prefer the term ‘work-life harmony’. Maybe it’s just semantics, but when I hear ‘balance’, I think … that’s not possible.  It will never be in balance; I try to get it in harmony.”

“My observation,” noted Sarah, “is it’s more of a personality trait than a company size issue.  Some people just seem to have these unreasonably high standards, work diligently to meet their own standards and are just unable to let go.  They’ll tell you that their family and their health are a priority, but their behavior says differently.   Their kids and some colleagues call them workaholics, but they don’t believe it.  In their mind, their priorities are in order; it’s just external circumstances that make it impossible to leave work when they planned.”

Juan Carlo chimed in, “If you really think it’s an excess workload issue, there’s only one solution – do less.  You can either delegate more or just stop doing certain things.  What finally got me started in the right direction was when I started setting metrics for non-work things.  I always had metrics for things I was responsible for at work; I monitored them weekly.  But it wasn’t until I set metrics for time spent with family each night and hours at the gym each week that I started to change. I set my goals and started measuring my performance.  Once I started recording what time I left the office each evening and how many days each week I made it to the gym, I realized I had been fooling myself.  A little advice from a friend really helped: he made me realize that my to-do list was endless.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right.  I could stay a little later and get one or two more things off my list or I could just leave them on the list for the next day.  Instead of using A, B & C priorities, he taught me to categorize my list into imperative – must be done today, and important, but not imperative.  If it wasn’t important, why was it even on my list?!  I did the imperative things first each day; then did as many important things as I could get done and left the office when it was time.”

 “I never thought about setting metrics for non-work things … it almost sounds obsessive,” reacted Scott.  “I hear you,” responded Juan Carlo.  “I overheard my wife telling a neighbor that I never get home before 7 pm; I thought she was exaggerating. So, I tracked it the next week and found out that she was right!  That started my journey.”  

Cindy chimed in, “Peter Drucker said: ‘You can’t improve what you don’t measure.’  I found this to be pretty accurate.  But someone else added: ‘only measure what really matters.’  If non-work things really matter, and you want to change or improve them, then measure them!  Those are my words of wisdom for the month!” 😇

Scott thought quietly for a few minutes.  He then made the following commitment: “There are three non-work things that are important to me: time with my family, exercising, and praying / meditating.  I’m going to measure how much time I dedicate to each.  I’ll see where that leads me.”  “But I can tell you right now, I’ve got to find a better way to delegate.  Now when I delegate, nothing gets done the way I want it done … so delegating just frustrates me.  But that’s a topic for next month.”


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What’s the biggest factor affecting work-life balance?

External circumstances OR individual priorities/values?