Do the words “leadership” and “balance” sound like opposites to you? You’re in good company.
Many executives desire balance, but I often hear how hard it is for them to “find it.” They usually argue that it is “impossible to find balance in my position since we are required to (___ fill-in-the-blank___).” Is that thought running through your mind?
How Leaders Create Balance
Establish A Hands-On Goal
Creating balance is a matter of defining what balance looks like so you can set a target. If you don’t now what you’re aiming for, there’s no point in lamenting about a lack of alance. Leaders who have balance know that it is not something happening to them; it is something they create.
After creating balance, you have to work on maintaining it. That’s the principle of a balance: “A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.” In other words, balance requires your consistent assessment and adjustment to maintain it.
Once you have established your S.M.A.R.T. goals, it is on you to establish a system or environment that helps you achieve balance. No one aiming for healthier eating habits would deliberately place themselves in an environment promoting unhealthy consumption.
No Boundaries, No Balance
Guard your priorities. Know your specific targets, then pursue and protect them. There will always be people and needs competing for your time and attention. Be clear about your priorities so you can decide accordingly. For example, in your work priorities, what absolutely must get done? How much time can you allocate toward it? When do you need to prioritize personal matters? What does that require practically of your time allocation, mental energy and financial decisions?
This is where boundaries come into play. It will be hard to maintain balance without guardrails around your goals. You will with certainty get pulled in every direction by well-intended people. Everyone has expectations and no one likes to hear “no”, but it is a fact of life that you cannot please everyone. The ability to say “no” can be learned. No boundary will remain intact if you make “yes” your default answer. Make “no” your default answer and become more selective about what you agree to (even with your own impulses) and you will not only see your balance improve, but also your productivity.
Stop Energy-Draining Habits And Mindsets
This cannot be stressed enough. In another article, I stressed the futility of embracing unfiltered busyness.
Do a “busy-detox” and stop drinking the “busy” Kool-Aid where you pride yourself in being busy and being part of the game of “who’s the busiest leader on the team?” Being busy is a form of laziness because productivity may lead to busyness, but busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity. Be diligent in your prioritization and planning. Leave the “proud-to-be-busy” club. If you can produce results in half the time, you can pride yourself on your skillset while enjoying family time or tee time.
No More “Workations”
Stop “Workationing.” This is otherwise known as the common practice of working during your vacation and other times of rest, like family time. It bears the question of what makes a vacation any different from work. It’s called vacation because you vacate. Learn to delegate. Learn to be present (being fully at work or fully at home or fully on vacation, not fractionally present) so all parties get the best of you.
Stop Procrastinating. (Easier Said Than Done, I Know.)
If you feel like life is passing by or time slips through your fingers, jump off the carousel. Stop the car. Walk away. At least for a minute. As C.S. Lewis would say, there is no point in going faster if you’re going in the wrong direction. To move in the right direction, you’ll have to stop first — unless you are trained to maneuver your cars like 007.
Take a break. Reflect on why you are procrastinating. What makes you push declared priorities to the side? Were they true priorities in the first place? What has become more important in that moment? What underlying thoughts prevent you from progressing toward your goals? What makes the stress (or thrill) of pushing priorities (your top tasks) off till the proverbial “11th hour”?
You won’t change anything until you gain clarity in this area.
Assess Four Key Areas
- Physical. This includes what you need to be energized.
- Emotional/Relational. This includes your emotional/relational needs and the demands of others.
- Spiritual. This refers to the needs of your soul, your inner being.
- Mental. This refers to your mind. Leaders face a lot of information and have to process a lot of data to make decisions. It can get create exhaustion. What can you adjust to have what you need and less “data overload” from too much noise and little signal?
A partner can help you, especially in the beginning, to ensure you can reach your balance goal until you get the hang of it. This may be your spouse, an accountability partner, or your personal assistant.
Take some time this week to define clear balance targets and establish boundaries around them. An excellent way to start this is by using the time blocking method. Here are more resources on the topic.
- What’s Your Balance ROI? — The First Balance ROI Calculator
- Are You Burned Out? — Take The Burnout Assessment
- Thriving @ Work: Leveraging the Connection between Well-Being and Productivity (video course) — 41 min.
- How to Set Boundaries and Protect Your Time (video course) — 21 min.
- How to Slow Down and Be More Productive (video course) — 26 min.
- Boundaries for Leaders (book) — 275 pages
As my former boss would say, “Take good care of yourself, no one else can do it for you.”