My father surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly is a brilliant man… He was not a “well schooled” individual in terms that most would consider, but he had matured during decades that seemed to impart a wisdom to him that I often wonder is lost on my generation. Earlier in the week I had mentioned nuggets of wisdom that he has shared with me. Let us move on.
I’ll pre-empt this writing by admitting that I’ve not been the best at following this bit of advice, although I have never doubted it’s truth. I think you’ll understand, but let’s get moving.
After the birth of my first child, my father sat me down for another of our talks. At the time, I was 29 years old, and as most professionals at that age, I was very much career focused. My father was well aware of my passion for my work, had seen the hours that I had been keeping, and seized the opportunity to speak with me. Nearing the end of our conversation, he asked, “On your deathbed, what could your single biggest regret be? Could it be that you didn’t achieve a certain salary or job title? Could it be that you didn’t work hard enough for your employers? Or could it be that you did not spend enough time with your family?”
Admittedly, this was lost on me at the time. And it wouldn’t be until I learned that we would be adding twin girls to the family that I began to understand and appreciate what he had shared. Like I had said at the beginning of this week’s post, this is advice that I’ve had a hard time following through the years. I refer often to many of the nuggets that the old man has shared with me, but this has become my most used yardstick in measuring my performance in balancing professional and personal aspects of my life.
Strategies that have worked for me
- Set your priorities: Physically write them down, and then look at them each morning. For me, if my priority was going to be my family, then I was going to have to make compromises professionally and personally at different times. Maintaining each of my priorities meant achieving a balance that required negotiating with my Boss, work teams, and my home team, to ensure that I had their support.
- Get in the office early: I don’t start at 6:00AM because I love getting up in the dark, but by getting in the office before others, it gave me the opportunity to get the portion of my job done that does not requiring meeting with others. This also gave me the flexibility to have personal time available to me later in the work day when needed.
- Schedule Your Life: You can plan your life, or you can let it happen to you… To achieve the flexibility to balance a professional and personal life, it requires that these things be planned. This means being extremely detailed concerning personal and professional calendars. I was once kidded by a Vice President who had spied personal calendar events on my mobile device. My response was that if being at a basketball game or band performance was a priority for me, then it should be front and center. Including it on my calendar ensured that my top priorities at work and at home were visible to me. Not surprisingly, he understood.
I’m a firm believer that Career and Family do not have to come at the expense of one another. If you’re like me, you’ve worked hard to position yourself in a career for which you have an unbridled passion – in those circumstances it is very easy to bury yourself in work that you enjoy. But for each of us to excel in areas that are our priorities, it requires that we be intentional about how we approach and integrate all aspects of our lives.
Please… go be intentional!