Find­ing the bal­ance be­tween your life and work

New Straits Times - - Business - The writer is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Malaysia Au­to­mo­tive In­sti­tute.

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.

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