The Mindset Shift
One of the top questions I get asked is, “How do you manage work-life balance?” It comes up in 1:1s, when I’m speaking, coaching sessions, and in everyday conversations. There’s good reason, this is a big challenge for those of us in technology. Tech companies are known for their demanding cultures, a focus on high output, and working long hours.
But the concept of Work-Life Balance is incomplete. It implies we have two lives – work and personal.
In reality, we have one life with many diverse aspects. Things like health, relationships, finances, and experiences. Each of these areas are interdependent, and what we do or do not do in one affects the others – work is just one of these.
Work-life balance implies that there’s a hard line between work and our personal lives. Yet the lines between the two are blurred and it’s only increasing. Today’s business world is global, it operates 24/7, we can work from anywhere, and most have flexible work schedules.
Work-Life Balance also implies that working fewer hours will make you happier. This alone is wrong. The South Korean government reduced the workweek in their country from six days to five. After a decade of research, they found that people were no happier after working significantly less hours each week.
Being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life.Zig Ziglar
If you want to successfully balance your life the secret is to shift from a mindset of Work-Life Balance to Whole-Life Balance. This means looking at the “big picture,” identifying the most important areas of your life, and balancing your time across them.
The number of areas in your life are infinite, but there are seven that I’ve found to have the biggest impact: Personal Growth, Experiences, Relationships, Career, Health, Finances, and Giving. You can use these seven, add to them, or substitute any of them with your own.
Acronyms make things easier to remember, so I call it PERCH FiG (pronounced perch fig).
Let’s take a look at each:
Multiple studies have shown that life-long learning and growth increases health and happiness. As Phillip Moeller puts it, “Your mind may be the closest thing to the Holy Grail of longevity and happiness.”
Making time for personal growth looks like learning a new programing language, finding a mentor, reading books on self-improvement, growing spiritually, or taking a course on-line.
Imagine if you were to learn three new skills a year. In just five years, you would have 15 new skills! We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in ten years.
Experiences provide greater happiness than possessions do, and the positive effects last much longer. If you look back at your life, the memories that stand out the most are usually experiences. And the best experiences are new – they create novelty, excitement, and a richer life.
Good examples of experiences are traveling to a new country, running a marathon, learning to sail, hiking through the mountains, or spending the weekend with friends you haven’t seen in ages.
If you really want to be happy and live life to the fullest, spend your time and resources on experiences.
Humans are social animals; we want and need others in our lives. In fact, those with strong friendships live longer, are healthier, and are happier than those with few or no friends. A recent study found that, “those who had a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by more than 20%.”
Relationships also create a sense of belonging, they boost self-confidence, reduce stress, and provide a powerful coping mechanism during difficult times.
Don’t let the busyness of life consume you – invest in relationships.
A successful career doesn’t happen by luck. It takes setting goals and deliberate effort.
When you set goals you’re 10x more likely to achieve them. If you write them down, your odds of success increase by 30x! Setting career goals can be earning a promotion, building your network, changing roles to gain new skills, or increasing your scope and impact.
Goals are meaningless without action. Schedule time on your calendar and begin taking action no matter how small – little steps add up to great distances over time.
By being clear on your goals, carving out time for them, and taking thoughtful action – you’ll take your career to the next level.
Without health the rest of your life suffers. It’s also one of the single greatest determinants of happiness. Having a greater impact than even income or age.
The benefits of investing in your health are countless: increased energy, improved cognition, longevity of life, enhanced mood, stronger immunity, and many more.
Devoting time to your health looks like: eating healthy, exercising regularly, managing sugar intake, portion control, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
If you find yourself too busy, it’s most likely by your own doing. Researcher Robert E. Goodin found, “Those who feel most overworked – those who have the least ‘free time’ – largely do it to themselves.”
Health being such a key component to our wellbeing, it’s critical that we prioritize and make time for it.
If you’re not putting time into learning about and managing your finances, odds are you won’t achieve your financial goals.
55% of millionaires in one study said their financial success was due to the efforts they put into learning and studying the subject. This can be reading books like one of my personal favorites The Investor’s Manifesto, researching investments, or taking an on-line personal finance course at Khan Academy or Coursera.
Spending time on your finances also means creating and managing your budget, putting your money to work through investments, having a diversified portfolio, and automatically contributing to your 401K.
The best part? Time is on your side. Even small amounts of money have exponential results over time. For example, at a 10 percent compound growth rate, it only takes seven years to double your money. After 14 years your money grows four times bigger. That’s the power of compound interest.
It literally pays to put time into your finances.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Well, it turns out it’s true. Professor Elizabeth Dunn found that people report significantly greater happiness if they spend their time and money on giving.
Studies have also shown that giving improves physical and mental health including lowering blood pressure, decreasing depression, lowering stress, and increasing self-esteem.
Giving looks like: volunteering at a soup kitchen, being a mentor, donating to a cause you care about, giving back to your community, helping others.
With so many benefits it only makes sense that we make time for giving.
Putting It All Together
Managing the many areas of our lives takes balance, but not like most think.
Balance is not a perfect balance of all things. It’s recognizing when things are out of alignment and adjusting them.
Balance is moving from a narrow view of Work-Life Balance to a broad perspective of Whole-Life Balance.
Balance is refusing to live life on autopilot. It’s using PERCH FiG to be deliberate on where we focus our time and energy.
Think of balance as the foundation of a house, and our lives the home that sits on top of it. The more balanced we are, the stronger the foundation.
When key parts of our lives are neglected, it creates cracks in the foundation. If the foundation gets too weak the entire house can collapse. But if we keep our lives balanced, we have a strong foundation with a resilient home that can withstand the storms of life.
When we have balance we’re fulfilled, we achieve more, and we have greater control of our lives.
You have the tools to manage your life like a boss. What will you do with them?