There's a ton of research that's already available to you about one single fact that is now virtually uncontested.
Multi-tasking doesn't work.
I know you're wondering what that has to do with a post written about work life balance. I promise I'll connect the dots for you in just a second.
But let's talk more about this idea of multi-tasking.
The idea, at least as it was initially shared with me years ago, was that I'd be more productive if I learned how to do more than one thing at a time.
The result, as you can imagine, was years of being on phone calls where I wasn't listening because I was typing at the same time. It was years of trying to do two things at once and realizing I was doing neither of them well.
In fact, every time I tried to do two things at once, I failed. Miserably.
Are you with me? Have you had the same experience?
So why are we shocked when we create a challenge for ourselves to do both life and work at the same time, to do them well, and to have some sort of balance between them?
One of the challenges, when we talk about work/life balance is that we talk about it in these terms – with words like “balance.”
When we do that, we craft a narrative that they're in conflict with each other, and that it's a zero sum game. The gain in one area comes at the cost of another.
If this is how we think about things, is it any wonder that we have tons of posts about it, tons of conversations about it, and yet we never find it?
Going Fast & Going Slow
I've shared this before, but I'm not sure I've shared it here on my blog. It normally comes up when I'm interviewed on another site. But here's my reality.
I move slow.
I'm not talking about energy. I have tons of it and bring it to everything I do. If you know me, you know I can get easily excited about stuff.
I'm not talking about physical movement. I'm not a fast walker, but this has nothing to do with travel, walking, running or exercise.
I'm talking about accomplishments in life. I have goals like anyone I know. But I move much slower towards them than most of the folks I know.
In fact, I think I move slower towards those goals than anyone I've ever met. And it's on purpose.
When I move slow, I'm able to think about things from several different angles. I'm able to coordinate lots of different dynamics. I'm able to investigate various hypotheses. I'm able to test various approaches.
I move slow, but with intentionality.
And as a result, I normally find that I enjoy the results much faster than some of the folks around me. Because I don't waste energy or moves on ill-fated hopes. I try not to waste effort down paths that won't bear fruit.
In that way, I move fast. But it's as a result of moving slow.
Does that make sense?
At this point, maybe you're wondering how any of this relates to work life balance. So let me see if I can connect the dots.
I don't try to find balance between work and life because I don't bifurcate my life that way. I have one life. So I don't try to move in two different simultaneous directions because it's as futile (for me) as multi-tasking.
But because I'm willing to move slowly, I can work on alignment. Alignment so that my work and my life line up much more effectively than if I were trying to go in multiple directions.
Now if that sounds confusing, let me see if I can bring in two other dynamics that make this all work for me.
My Values & My Relationships
I have one strategy in life – to assemble amazing and talented people together.
This is a result of my values (I have a high value for people, their gifts, and having healthy and happy relationships with them).
When I bring amazing and talented people together, the results are often astounding and far more incredible than I could ever have planned.
So I define some goals in life – like having success at home, at work, and in business. But success for me is all about having healthy relationships and enjoying my time with amazing people.
And what I know is that if I bring amazing people together, great things will happen. I also know if I invest in the relationships around me, I can help free up, or bring out, the amazing talents in them as well. It's my focus. It's my objective.
And because of that, I find that there's tremendous alignment in life.
I could go on and on about this philosophy of alignment, but the reality of it breaks down pretty simply for me (and I have to keep it simple so that it's a natural part of every one of my days).
- Every person out there has something amazing about them.
- Some of those people are already clear about it.
- If I connect & collaborate with them, amazing things will happen.
- For those that aren't clear about it, I can see if I can help bring it out.
- If I can, there's more amazing folks to bring together.
- If I can't, I don't stress. I move on and hope someone else can help.
- In every interaction, I'm looking to add value or help someone else add it.
- For work and in life, I evaluate each relationship to see where we can go.
- If we go together, we'll go further.
So how does this impact work & life?
To end, let me see if I can briefly touch on how all of this impacts that “work/life balance” that most people are pursuing.
I have tons of conversations every day. In a leadership and management role, virtually all of my day is spent talking with people (or writing proposals to work with other people).
In each one, I'm looking to build alignment and bring amazing people together.
At home, I do the same. In my family. Among our friends. In our church. Alignment and bringing people together.
In every one of those situations, I'm investing less in the short-term goal than in relationships. So I'm not very task-driven. But I make sure tasks get done – not because of the task, but because of the impact on trust in relationships.
So there's very little difference, if you watch me “at work” or “at life” – my days look the same.
I'm talking with people. I'm telling people stories. I'm trying to connect people.
And because my value is focused on relationships, I'm constantly checking in to see which ones need more investment and nurturing. Sometimes it's personal relationships. Sometimes it's work ones. I invest where I need to.
But because I move slow, I don't try to do too much at any given time. I'm letting time do the work for me. And because I've brought amazing and talented people together (at home, at work, everywhere), I find that if we protect each other from wasting energy, we all move forward faster together than if we used any other strategy.
I could show you my daily calendar, but it would be pretty boring for you.
- End each day with a sense of goals for tomorrow
- List out any key relationships to invest in (based on that)
- Wake up and pencil in key conversations
- Write down 3-5 key actions to accomplish
- Spend the day moving between key conversations and regular upkeep ones
- Test hypotheses about where to find alignment
- Move things a tiny bit forward toward my goals
- End each day with a sense of goals for tomorrow
And what you'll notice is that there's no distinction between work and life. My balance is much more about energy than time. And to that end, you'll notice my day begins at night before I go to bed.
It helps me think about my life as starting with sleep, rather than ending with it.
But that's just me. How do you see it?