We all know that balance between personal and professional priorities is important. And although achieving that balance in today’s environment is harder than ever, it’s also more important than ever.
Recently a good friend said that one of the things he admires about me is my ability to keep things in balance. I’m not sure my family would totally agree with him, but his comment did prompt me to examine the idea.
One conclusion I came to was that creating balance today takes a high degree of discipline. I realized that I spend much more time now than ever bringing things into balance or keeping them from going out of balance. Here are a few ideas that may help to bring a little more balance to your work and life.
Short vs. Long Term
The first area to examine is balance between the energy you devote to both short- and long-term issues and goals. Many people — and businesses — today focus too heavily on short-term goals and interests, whether it’s juggling kids’ activities or dealing with the latest business emergency. In some cases, long-term thinking and planning is nonexistent.
A short-term perspective makes what we do less interesting and makes us less effective. Try to devote 10% of your time — at least a couple of hours each week — to long-term planning. You will not only have a better handle on where you and your business are heading, but you will also more easily find the energy and conviction to get there in these tough, unpredictable times.
Cold vs. Warm Touch
Another area where balance is important, and a challenge to maintain, is in the relationship between technology and people. Many people now prefer to communicate via e-mail — a so-called “cold touch” — rather than the “warm touch” of a phone call or a face-to-face encounter. But I believe people feed off other people, and it’s difficult to get that fix through your computer. Although using technology to communicate can be efficient, it may not be as effective or fulfilling as making a more personal connection.
Knowing what you want to communicate is critical, but it’s equally important to pay attention to how you communicate. The speed and convenience of e-mail is hard to resist, but to create better balance, add a couple of extra phone calls and an additional face-to-face meeting each week.
The Right Pace
Another factor that affects balance is pace. Unless we pay attention to the speed of both our business and our personal lives, they will soon race out of control. This may already be the case, for some people.
Today, everything moves faster. But rather than simply adjusting to the ever-increasing speed, we need to develop the discipline to take control and modulate the pace to fit the circumstances. Sometimes that may mean speeding things up to meet a short-term deadline, but mostly it involves learning how to slow things down to allow time to make a well-considered decision. Even when you’re caught off-guard and need to react to some event or development, it’s important to set your own pace and not be carried along by the circumstances or by what others are demanding.
All of these elements can be influenced by applying some extra discipline. Three tips to try:
1) Plan your work today and every day, then work your plan.
2) Make appointments with yourself (just the way you do with your clients).
3) Make sure some of your weekly activities are focused on longer-term goals and activities.
Balance in your work life and personal life will not only help you feel better and achieve more, it will also positively influence others around you.
—Mark Richardson is co-chairman of The Case Institute of Remodeling, which provides business educational tools and events for the remodeling industry. email@example.com; 301.229.4600.