By August 28, 2012 6 Comments Read More →

The Ultimate Work-Life Balance System is You

work-life balance system

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” — Patti Smith

I’ve been teaching work-life balance to more teams at Microsoft using Agile Results from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  I hadn’t thought of Agile Results as a simple work-life balance system.  I thought of it as a personal results system for work and life.  I thought of it as a simple productivity system.  I thought of it as a simple time management system.

But now I see why people are using it as a work-life balance system.  It’s all about spending your precious life force on the right things in life that matter to you.  Agile Results is all about you.

The Bridge Between Work and Life

Agile Results is a work-life balance system in that it connects work and life by living your values.  It also guides you to focus on flowing value in work and in life.  It also guides you to balance the balls that you juggle in work and in life.  It makes time a first-class citizen, meaning that you spend your precious time as an investment in the most valuable things, in your work and in your life.  Your work becomes self-expression, and an extension of you vs. something separate you do, just to make a living.  Work becomes more of a service you provide, as you share your gifts with the world, while you grow and expand your capabilities.

Work Less, Flow More Value

You can’t just throw more time at things.  In fact, I would argue that the first key to flowing more value is to limit the time you spend. I think why work-life balance is hot now is because people are bumping into limits of what they can do in terms of time.  They can’t throw more time at things, and yet they are asked to flow more value.  What I do with Agile Results is show people how to flow the same value or more from 80 hours or 60 hours a week, in 40 hours a week (or less).

It’s Value, Not Volume

I start the process in a simple way.  When somebody tells me they work 80 hours, I ask them what falls off their plate if they only work 60 hours?  Usually, they can’t answer.  They go off and try to figure this out.  When they come back, I then ask them, what if you can only work 40 hours, now what falls off your plate?  Again, they can’t answer, so they go off and figure it out. When they come back, we look at who the work is for, how valuable it is.  Now this sets the stage to step back and look at the overall portfolio of time spent, relative to value.  This also sets the stage for looking at the vision, mission, values, and strengths in more detail to see if the value is a unique contribution that brings out their best.

As you can imagine, stepping into the process is very revealing, and it’s a great reminder of a few things:
It’s outcomes, not activities.
It’s value, not volume.
It’s energy, not time.

Boundaries and Buffers for Work and Life

The big deal though is that while Agile Results creates a bridge, it also puts boundaries and buffers in place.  You basically put a box around the most valuable things in your life, and you find ways to spend more time your values.  In this way, you can achieve a three-pronged approach to happiness (see The Three Paths of Happiness: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and The Meaningful Life.)

The ultimate thing to keep in mind is that you are the ultimate work-life balance system.  Nobody comes along and says, hey, do more of this stuff you love, or hey, you really need to put some boundaries in place here, or hey, why not take all this low value stuff off your plate, so you can concentrate on more high-value things?

No, it’s not quite like that.  You have to fight the good fight.

You are the Ultimate Work-Life Balance System

The good fight is you getting on your path, living your values, playing to strengths, giving your best where you have your best to give, putting your boundaries in place, and actually respecting your own boundaries.  If you don’t enforce them, nobody else will.

Ultimately, you have to design what work-life balance means for you.  You are the ultimate architect of your life-style.  You are the one who writes your story forward.

You are YOUR ultimate work-life balance system.

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6 Comments on "The Ultimate Work-Life Balance System is You"

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  1. Evelyn Lim says:

    I certainly like the idea of an integrated work-life balance. Ultimately, we find ourselves working less for the same output. We also derive more joy and satisfaction because we can see how each part of our lives is connected with the next.

    I am intrigued by what you said about flowing more value by considering putting in fewer hours. I have been less online this year and instead, I channel more time to core inner work. I would like to believe that ultimately I will be able to deliver more value.

    I enjoyed this article tremendously. One of your best that delivers plenty of value. Thanks!

  2. Alik Levin says:

    It’s value, not volume
    It’s energy, not time

    How succinct, how powerful, how true.

  3. Kimbundance says:

    This is really nicely written and very thorough. I agree it is about Value and not volume.

    =)

  4. JD says:

    @ Evelyn — Thank you.

    The idea that restricting our time is similar to the idea that necessity is the mother of invention. When we limit our time, we value it more, and then we spend it more carefully.

    It forces us to really pay attention to what’s most valuable, and let the rest go.

    It’s also related to Parkinson’s Law, which says time expands to fill its container.

    Setting contraints, such as time, is also a way to force more ingenuity and innovation in your process.

    @ Alik — I think value, not volume is going to be a very sticky mantra as more people latch on to the idea.

    @ Kimbundance — Thank you.

    The real trick with value is always to remember, who do you serve, and that value is in the eye of the beholder (or another way to put it is, value is in the eye of the stakeholder.)

  5. Catherina Chia says:

    Awesome, JD!

    “It’s outcomes, not activities.
    It’s value, not volume.
    It’s energy, not time.”

    I like this very much.

    I appreciate you taking a few moments of your precious time in reading this.

    Thank you.

    To your happiness, health & success
    With 100% warmest regards,

    Catherina Chia

  6. JD says:

    @ Catherina — Thank you.

    I should have thrown one more into the mix:
    It’s results, not effort.

    While we need to embrace our effort, the key is to get more results out of the effort we already put into things.

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