The effortless way to work-life balance

Believe it or not, a balanced approach to work and life leads to more success

man in business suit with arms outstretched, work-life balance

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.”
— Zig Ziglar

Contrary to what we may think, striking a work-life balance doesn’t make us less effective. In fact, it only makes us better workers than those who burn themselves out by focussing on work at the cost of family, health and harmony. Many senior executives complain that they have too many demands, too many interruptions and distractions. They struggle to prioritise and end up firefighting despite their best efforts. For them, work-life balance is an aspiration, albeit an elusive one. They often feel that if they eke out time for their family and personal needs, they will fall behind in their careers.

All of us are blessed with the same 168 hours in a week. However, while a few achieve breakthroughs in life, the majority merely trudge along, wondering why they can never find time to do the things they want to. It is not just that harmony benefits your life—lack of harmony hurts it, in real tangible ways. The ability to concentrate and use your time well is important if you want to succeed in business or in other areas of your life, and a well-balanced life is the best tool for that. When you are spiritually, mentally, physically, socially and economically balanced, then you’re successful in the real sense.

The key is to look after your business, your balance [work, health, social circle and family] and your beyond [spirituality, giving, purpose]; and not prioritise one over the other. Paying equal attention to all three aspects will strengthen you as a person.

The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American businesses $300 billion a year. The 2012 Workplace Survey released by the American Psychological Association suggests that many Americans report chronic work-related stress. Around 41 per cent said they “feel tense or stressed out during the workday,” an uptick from the previous year’s 36 per cent. In its annual wellness report, Employee Assistance Program provider ComPsych found that 38 per cent of employees can’t stop thinking about emotional, health, financial or job concerns.

Work-life balance not only results in happiness and personal success, it can even lead to business innovation. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has noted that some of his best ideas come when he engages his children in conversations about his work.

Melinda Gates sums it up well: “The only thing I care about on the day I die is that people think I was a great mom, family member, and friend.”

Challenge yourself with the following “How to” exercises to

  • MAKE balance a personal priority and be clear what balance means to you. As Dr. Stephen Covey puts it, “first things first”: making sure that business, balance and beyond all play their parts.
  • SPEND time with loved ones; also set aside time to improve your health and do things that matter to you, like pursuing a hobby. If you don’t spend quality time with yourself and your loved ones, someone or something less important will take up your time.
  • PREPARE a “not to do” list, not a “to do” list. This will remove non-essentials from your life. How do you make it? List everything that must be done in your life; delegate as much as you can; next, eliminate what is not necessary, then prioritise and execute what is left.
  • PRACTISE the Hour of Power: 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of meditation each morning.
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  • OBSERVE the Power of the Hour: schedule an appointment with yourself midday to regroup, reflect and reprioritise. This will make your afternoons more productive.
  • RECORD how your time is spent. When you do this, you become more aware and alert, thereby improving your focus and allocation of time.
  • REMEMBER that slow is fast—when you slow down and spend more time with your family, you notice a lot more about them, and have time to actually hear them out. Consequently, your relationships get better as your attention and care create impact. Or, as another example, if you start eating slowly, you can enjoy your food better and feel full faster.
  • FOCUS on the 20 per cent of things that give you 80 per cent of value.
  • WRITE the top three goals you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, and work on them exclusively [at least till 2pm the next day]. Then you can take care of smaller tasks.
  • SPEND quality time with business partners, colleagues, customers, spouse, children and parents.
  • DEFINE what a successful day and week means to you. Then set about achieving it.
  • DEVELOP the attitude that you will manage time, and not that time will manage you!
Adapted with permission from What You Are Seeking Is Seeking You by Azim Jamal and Brian Tracy; published by Jaico

This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing

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