Finding the balance between your life and work
LAST weekend, my wife and I were very privileged to be invited to attend the wonderful marriage ceremony of our dear friends Charlotte Morgan and Chris Lim.
The nuptials were everything you could want in a jubilant celebration. The lovely bride and groom chose a fabulous location, a rustic mansion in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, and invited a small group of family and close friends. Heartfelt vows were exchanged, accompanied by fine music, glorious food, dancing and abundant revelry. And of course, like any proper wedding, lots of joyful tears were shed.
You could not have wished for a better start for this charming young couple. They declared their deep love, and commitment for each other, surrounded by people they care about.
As I witnessed the merriments, I was so happy for them. At the same time, I could not help but also reflect on what impact marriage has on our careers.
Many of you who read my column every week put in long hours at work.
It is pretty clear that for you to advance in your profession, you need to work between eight and 12 hours a day, for the foreseeable future. Often, for many of you, the 60-hour work a week is the absolute minimum.
In my leadership coaching, people frequently ask me how to manage being a good husband or wife, while still succeeding at work, considering the number of hours their work demands.
The quandary you face is the conflict between your private life with your life-partner and for some of you, your children, and the fact that your work-life seems to drain every ounce of energy you have.
How do you do justice to both? Witnessing Charlotte and Chris’s wedding made me think of this, deeper.
Juggling having a professional career as well as being an owner of multiple businesses, and being a husband, I have had to work out what success means to me. While the delineation of my work-life balance varies from time to time, the hardest part has always been to get my professional and personal needs aligned.
At some points I have found it impossible to pay enough attention to both facets of my life. And sadly, like many of you, I, too, have opted for the wrong priorities.
My feeling used to be that my work or business life had to take priority, because it paid for my life-style choices.
But as my marriage suffered from the lack of attention, I knew something had to change. It was at this point that I decided to flip the balance over.
I started giving my family-life priority.
I continued to work really hard professionally, but I became incisive about my time. At work, I became selective of what to do each day, within a given number of hours, without overreaching.
To be successful at this, you must be absolutely honest. You must curb laziness, and learn to manage your tendency to procrastinate. Each day, focus and be razor-sharp with the aim of freeing yourself within a given time-frame. This way you have more time to share with the people and the things you care about.
I also have some other techniques I use to ensure that I achieve this balance.
My wife and I spend about an hour each morning together, before we head off to work. This time is not spent attending to our morning chores. Those things get done earlier. This is time spent hanging out together, talking and connecting, perhaps over a cup of coffee.
The tough part is to not get drawn to the newspapers or your social media feeds. If you manage to get this morning connection done, it sets you up nicely for the rest of the day.
The next thing is to create a schedule in your life. As boring and predictable as this may sound, it will be your salvation when balancing your work and private lives.
I am fortunate that I work for myself, therefore I am not constrained by rigid working hours. However, this also means that I can end up working all day long. So, I force myself to follow a schedule. This includes planning when I reply my emails or how often I count the “likes” on my social media posts.
And, arguably the most important discipline both my wife and I have cultivated, is to go on “workfree-dates”. This simply means that we go out for a movie, or for a walk, or for a meal, and choose not to discuss work matters at all. But instead, we just focus on being in each other’s company.
When you successfully master the balance of attention between your personal life and your professional or business life; and by placing your personal life on a higher priority, you end up feeling more energised.
Ironically, this in turn, makes you better at your job.
When you successfully master the balance of attention between your personal life and your professional or business life; and by placing your personal life on a higher priority, you end up feeling more energized.