Wisdom and Strategy

Is Work-Life Balance Possible for Busy Executives?

Every busy executive knows work-life balance is important, but it’s also an issue that very few know how to perfect. Unfortunately, this often leads to a host of personal and professional problems that can range from mildly problematic to seriously disconcerting.

How to Find Some Balance In Your Life

There will be seasons in your life where you have to dedicate a lot of time and mental energy towards work. There will be other seasons where your family is dealing with a particular issue and you have to spend more time than usual fixing things on the home front. But these are exceptions. Normally, you have the ability to decide where you spend your time, money, and resources. You might feel pulled and pressured in certain directions, but it’s up to you to decide how you’ll fulfill personal and professional obligations.

As an executive, you face a unique set of challenges. Not only do you have a family to lead, but you also have an organization that’s expecting you to lead them. If you don’t find balance, you’ll get tossed back and forth, back and forth, until you end up doing something drastic.

1. Know What’s Most Important

You have to decide what’s most important in your life. You can’t say your job is most important, while also saying your family comes first. It’s impossible for two things to be most important – so go ahead and decide. When push comes to shove, this is what you’ll revert to. (If you’re wise, you’ll put your kids and family first.)

“I am better at my job for being a mother and vice versa. I will always need to compromise and make choices — you just have to work hard at making the right choice day by day,” says Marianne Lake, JPMorgan Chase CFO. “When push comes to shove, my children always come first, and I am lucky that I work in an environment that respects that.”

2. Deal With Addictive Behaviors Right Away

Did you know that roughly 10 percent of professionals in high-stress positions – like public officials, doctors, pilots, and lawyers – often find themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol as a form of coping with their stress?

While you’re going to make mistakes, it’s important that you confine these mistakes and avoid letting them overwhelm you. If you find yourself becoming too dependent on drugs or alcohol – or even something like food, sex, or pornography – seek out professional help. Addictive behaviors are tough to curb on your own and you stand a much better chance of moving on if you have professional guidance.

3. Become a Better Scheduler of Time

When you have an appointment with an important client, what do you do? You put it on your schedule so you won’t forget. When you know you have a project due on a certain date, you do the same thing. The question is, are you being equally as intentional with how you schedule out your personal time?

You can’t just expect things to fall into place in your personal life. Whether it’s a date with your spouse, time to relax with the kids, or a beach vacation in the summer, you have to carve out time and put it on the calendar. Otherwise, you’ll never give it the priority it needs to happen.

4. Know When to Unplug

One of the reasons it’s harder than ever to achieve work-life balance is that executives have the ability to stay connected around the clock. In the past, work stayed at the office – save the occasional phone call home. Today you have smartphones, tablets, email, computers, instant messaging, video conferencing, and dozens of other tools and applications to keep you in-the-know, regardless of where you are.

If you want to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, you have to unplug for periods of time when you’re home. This might look like checking out for an entire weekend, or reserving two or three hours in the evenings where you don’t do anything work-related. Whatever works for you is fine, but give it your best shot.

5. Learn How to Become a Better Delegator

Are you afraid to delegate tasks to others? Do you tend to micromanage every little thing that comes across your desk? The more you involve yourself in tasks that don’t have anything to do with you, the less likely that you’ll be able to escape and enjoy free time with your family.

“Many experts say one of the biggest barriers to achieving more work-life balance is that CEOs are afraid to delegate,” Craig Guillot writes for Chief Executive. “Having advisors and staff, and being willing to trust them with tasks, can free up more of your schedule for family and personal time. Micromanaging is not only bad for morale and the work environment, it can curtail a leader’s personal time.”

Learning how to delegate can take some serious effort and focus. However, if you hire people you trust, it becomes a whole lot easier.

It’s Time to Realign Your Life

Perfect harmony isn’t possible when you have a family and a business to run. However, you could probably improve your present situation by being mindful of how much energy and effort you’re spending in these different areas. With a new year approaching, now’s as good a time as any to reset your priorities and get your life back on track. What are you waiting for?