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Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
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Monday, August 10, 2015

10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Productivity and Stay Sane with Work-Life Integration

 I disagree with the concept of “work-life balance”. When thinking about “balance”, it often conjures up the image of a scale, which forces a perception of tradeoffs or costs necessary for success. I do not believe my “work” competes with my “life”, regularly seeing how they complement each other. Although balance would be static, life is certainly not and requires fluid solutions.

Whether you call it “work-life integration”, “work-life harmony”, “work-life efficiency”, “work-life mash-up" or something else, it’s important to recognize how each element you choose to have in your life can add value to each of the other elements. Conflict and stress are certainly not inevitable; instead, harmony is possible.

As explained by Lifehacker in its “How to Master Work-Life Integration and Find Harmony in Your Schedule” article, “instead of thinking ‘what work can I easily integrate into my home life’, focus on the bigger picture: Integrate all areas of your life the best way you can."

Since 1984, Stew Friedman has been at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he is the Practice Professor of Management and founded the Wharton Leadership Program in 1991. Friedman has done a good deal of research related to the interactions between all the elements encompassed in life: work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit. I agree wholeheartedly with Friedman’s finding that “you don’t have to sacrifice, tradeoff or balance to have a sane, productive and meaningful work life and home life”. Amen!

There are a number of well-known examples for how “work-life integration” leads to greater success:
  • Andre Agassi, tennis legend
  • Craig Cincotta, VP of Brand Communications at Porch.com
  • Barbara Corcoran, “Shark” investor
  • Jennifer Dulski, President & COO of Change.org
  • Julie Foudy, soccer champion
  • Eric Greitens, Mission Continues founder 
  • Robert Herjavec, “Shark” investor & CEO of Canada’s largest IT security provider
  • Fay Johnson, Founder & CEO of deliberateLife
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairperson & CEO of PepsiCo
  • First Lady Michelle Obama
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
  • Max Schireson, former CEO of MongoDB
  • rock icon Bruce Springsteen
  • businesswoman & television personality Martha Stewart
  • Tom Tierney, Bridgespan co-founder, and many, many more.
As Dulski explains in a post on LinkedIn, “I’m still a parent when I walk into work, and I still lead a company when I come home. If my daughter’s school calls with a question in the middle of a meeting, I’m going to take the call, and, if a viral petition breaks out in the middle of dinner, I’ll probably take that call, too… I have accepted that work and life are layers on top of each other, with rotating levels of emphasis, and I have benefited from celebrating that overlap, rather than trying to force it apart."

According to that same post by Dulski, in tech-speak, a “mashup” is a webpage or app created by combing data and / or functionality from multiple sources while, in music, a “mashup” is a piece of music combining two or more tracks into one. As Dulski explains, “one of the key concepts of a mashup is the resulting product provides value in a way that neither originally did on its own; each layer adds value to the other”, revealing why she calls handling all of life’s elements a “work-life mashup”.

Looking at your own life, are you wondering how to make this integration, harmony and efficiency possible? Here are a few action items to consider today:

1. Do great work. When you are good at your job, you can position doing something for yourself, your friends or your family during “normal” work hours as a complement, communicating clearly your “why” and showing how it empowers you to do even better work and better help the team.

Per Dulski’s post, “If colleagues and managers know they can trust you to deliver high-quality results - beyond what was asked - … they’ll be less concerned with when and where you get that work done."

2. Recognize which small changes are a good beginning. As Friedman explains, aim for “4-way wins, (where there’s) improved performance at work, at home, in the community and for yourself.” Greater productivity and satisfaction come with small changes that are under our control, and, yes, you have more control than you think.

Turnover, absenteeism and disgruntled workers are costly; therefore, when your harmony leads to the business achieving its goals, there are options. What are activities you can do to release stress in the midst of your workday? Would working from early morning to mid-afternoon and picking back up once the kids are in bed help you produce better work by letting you attend to your children’s needs for attention?

3. Offer your flexibility as a “temporary experiment”. When you frame how your solution benefits your team, explain how it will be evaluated and can be discarded if it just doesn’t work out as expected. Then, when you achieve enhanced productivity with greater outputs, everyone will support your tactics.

4. Be creative in ways to achieve multiple goals with individual actions. The Lifehacker article stated, “With a clear set of general priorities, you can plan tasks to fulfill more than one priority at once”. For example, walking your dog meets your goals to live a healthier life as well as take care of your pet simultaneously; however, if you brainstorm a big pitch for work at the same time, you can accomplish even more via this “work-life integration” tactic. Attending business conferences is another excellent example for addressing multiple elements at the same time: you're learning new information, networking with other professionals and visiting great locations.

5. Focus on outcomes over activities. Rather than doing things you think you are “supposed” to do, have specific goals mapped out for your week and incorporate actions that will drive those results. I use my Weekly Strategy Session and Daily Wrap-Ups to create a game plan and stay on track, fueling results with actual value. By focusing my actions on achieving my desired outcomes, I know whether I’m being successful.

6. Plan for all elements of your life in the same daily, weekly and monthly game plans. With a clear awareness of your priorities, you can include actions that address goals for all of those priorities, rather than segmenting your life, and you'll be able to focus on activities that will address your needs in multiple elements at the same time. Instead of compartmentalizing activities by individual elements in your life, schedule your priorities, and figure out how to bring your priorities together so multiple goals can be accomplished simultaneously.

7. Acknowledge how technology can help. In today’s technology-infused world, people seek a more blended, harmonious existence, but it’s important to honor your boundaries, using technology to stay connected when it boosts your desired results while disconnecting when that better meets your goals. Likewise, there are many ways technology can eliminate steps in a process to open time for other actions; can technology make you more efficient so you can better address all the elements in your life? How can technology empower you to get work done without needing to be at work so your hours can be more flexible? If a business owner, can you be more connected to the data you need?

8. Complete a regular audit of your harmony. Experiencing burnout is usually due to a misalignment between your goals or values and your daily actions. On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, make sure your actions are consistent with your values, including an accountability partner in your efforts if needed. For example, are you attending meetings you don’t really need to be in just so you can be seen there? Verify meetings you attend have a structured agenda, a need for input from all attending and set goals. Since our individual circumstances change at different stages in our lives, the percent of each day that needs to be devoted to each element of life will vary, meaning we must keep our focus fluid.

Corcoran has a strategy: When feeling exhausted, she makes two lists. One for “what I love” and one for “what I hate” about all that’s going on in her life. When she reflects on what she loves, she can dump the things she’s listed as what she hates.

9. Control what you can control. Above all, only you are the boss of you and can control the fate of your week. Life will throw you curve balls, but you choose how to react and with what attitude you face those challenges. How much or how little guilt you experience in any element really is in your control, just as you control your responses.

10. Encourage the right culture for “work-life integration” in your workplace. The growth of virtual workforces, where more people work remotely or with varying schedules, appears to be a result of the growing awareness related to how “work-life integration” boosts productivity. As Johnson explains, many people want "to live well while making a positive impact” and those businesses that respond appropriately will succeed greatest. Further, as Millennials (those born between 1982 and 1993) will make up roughly 75% of the global workforce by 2025, their desire to blur the lines between work and personal for a “healthy work-life blend” will continue to drive what businesses must provide, forcing more and more companies to focus on flexibility, outcomes and collaborative efforts. As entrepreneurs, we must celebrate how each of our employees and vendor partners brings value to our team in different ways. 

At the Wharton School, students focus on the three core principles of the Total Leadership Approach: be real, be whole and be innovative. As Friedman explains, “To be real is to act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important to you. To be whole is to act with integrity by recognizing how the different parts of your life affect one another. All this examination allows you to be innovative."

As you look at the relationship between all elements of your life, including work, home, community, mind, body and spirit, are you integrating layers into a mashup that drives harmony, satisfaction, enhanced productivity and greater outputs? If not, what small changes can you make now to be more real, be more whole and be more innovative for greater success in the future?

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