I’ve never found myself subscribing to the concept of work-life balance. For me, thinking of these ideas as separate focus areas has always felt unnatural. I give my parents, especially my mother, credit for this perspective. My father, a military man, taught me the value and importance of hard work and dedication. However, my mother was the one who showed me it was possible to integrate work with other parts of your life. As an entrepreneur, my mother started her own school and aligned her lifelong commitment to education with being a trusted mother, partner, friend and mentor to others.
After my son was born I found myself being more intentional about how I integrate work and life. This meant being proactive with my career decisions, deliberate with family time, and ruthless with the extracurricular activities I invested my time and energy in. My priority has been to align these intentions with my short-term goals and responsibilities, as well as a long-term vision of the future.
To make sure I’m keeping things balanced, each quarter I do a centering exercise. It’s still a work in progress, and I’ll continue to refine it. It involves pausing, looking back and reflecting on specific areas of my life that I hope to improve within a given year, and then breaking them down into sprints using a hybrid of the 12 week planning process and the Wheel of Life reflection exercise. For reference, here is a link to a podcast outlining the Wheel of life exercise and a link to the book The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran.
There are two steps I’ve found helpful in making this process work for me. The first is limiting the areas I work on each quarter to no more than three areas so that I can maximize impact within each given area. Love and friendship are usually closely related so I keep them together. The second step is to use books I’ve read during the previous quarter to inform my thinking on the chosen focus areas during the next 12 week sprint.
My areas of focus for the next 12 weeks are: work, fun, and love/friendship. Below are the books that I’ve selected to inform my thinking in each area this time around:
- Work – Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham
- Work – Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit by Joe Pulizzi
- Love/Friendship – Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg
- Fun – Runner’s World Complete Book of Running by Amby Burfoot
Bonus: Personal Growth – I started embracing stoic philosophy a few years and have found it the perfect framework for managing the complexities of life. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday provides the perfect high-level overview of some of Stoicism’s more impactful concepts. I’ve found it useful to combine this book with the fear setting exercise outlined in this TED talk on fear setting by Tim Ferriss.