Successfully Integrate Your Work, Home, Community, and Self
You can be a committed A-player executive, a good parent, an attentive spouse, and a healthy person with time for community engagement and hobbies. How on earth do you do all that? Stop juggling and start integrating. Begin with a clear view of what you want from — and can contribute to — each domain of your life (work, home, community, and self). Carefully consider the people who matter most to you and the expectations you have of one another. Then experiment with some minor changes and see how they affect all four domains over a short period.
If an experiment doesn't work out in one or more areas, you can make adjustments or put an end to it, and little is lost. But if it does work out, it's a small win. Rack up enough small wins, and you're well on your way to a life that's less stressful and more productive.
Skeptical? Many people are when they first hear about this approach. But time and again, I've seen business professionals use it to find the greater harmony they're seeking. Working with Harvard Business Review, I've created a free interactive assessment test to help you identify misalignments between the amount of time you spend on one area and how important it is to you. The test also incorporates how satisfied you are, generally, in each of the four areas. Your results will highlight gaps between your values and your actions and ways to get started addressing those gaps. Click here to get started on the assessment.
One of the best ways to address the incongruities that may surface via the assessment is to structure an experiment focused on improving your well-being and performance in all four domains of your life. The assessment results will provide more detail on how to get started, but to show what an experiment can look like in practice, here's a story of a Target executive I worked with who experimented his way toward improving his well-being and performance.
David is a VP accountable for a multibillion-dollar P&L. (His name and title are disguised.) For years, he felt a relentless tension between the domains of work and home, as many of us do: "I spent most of my waking hours at work," he explains, "and I always shut down from work at home." But keeping things separate like this hurt his relationship with his wife. They talked about the kids, nothing more, because that was all they had in common. And at work, David never had enough time to prepare for all his meetings.
So he devised an experiment. Before leaving the office each day, he'd look at the next day's schedule and pick one big meeting to get ready for. On his drive home — at a decent hour — he'd think about what he could do and say at that meeting. When he got home, he'd run some ideas by his wife.
It worked beautifully: "This gave us something new to talk about each day, it gave her a much better understanding of what I do, it engaged her, and it enhanced our relationship because we were having richer conversations. My wife made good suggestions — and I've had better meetings as a result."
The experiment has also had a positive effect on David's team. After telling his direct reports he was changing his hours in the office, one of them approached him with a request to adjust her schedule, because it was aggravating a medical problem. Another employee said he felt empowered to take care of an aging parent during the day when he needed to. He didn't feel guilty about it — David's own actions made it clear that it was OK.
"The example I was setting before was work first, work first, work first," David reflects. "Now I might be in the office for fewer hours, but I'm making faster and better decisions. And my wife has more understanding when work does have to come first. In the long-term, this means that I'm a more engaged leader for Target without an unmanageable tension between my wife and my work."
Interested in identifying your own misalignments and structuring experiments to improve them? Let's get started.
Adapted from "Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life" (HBR April 2008) and content posted on hbr.org on February 21, 2013. Stew Friedman's thoughts on how to structure experiments to better your four-domain integration can be found in the HBR Press book, Guide to Managing Stress at Work.