Leadership - 08.13.2018

Striving for Balance? Try Harmony Instead.

Working to achieve harmony is challenging (that’s why they call it work).

Tony Hunter Author: Tony Hunter

Many moons ago during an interview with the Chicago Tribune, my future boss (the late, great Vince Casanova) said, “At Tribune, we work half days. Good news is you get to pick the 12 hours you work.” At first, I nervously laughed. But then I realized he was setting expectations. In order to be successful at Tribune (or any company) you must be willing to work hard. At times, putting in more than an 8 hour day. He was also letting me know that I would have control over those work hours.

Many driven business leaders, despite best efforts, feel they will never find a balance between work and personal life. But here is the truth: balance as a professional is not about working less. Balance is about striving to achieve harmony between work and life, and two keys to achieving harmony are flexibility and mindset.

As we think about achieving harmony, it’s important to establish our priorities and values. Circumstances change frequently and your decisions regarding work and life should adjust accordingly. Are you making overt decisions about when to work and when to focus on personal matters, or just going with the flow? The idea of “swinging the pendulum” is one of my favorite analogies to the challenge of reaching harmony.

To meet your goals, achieve new heights, and find harmony in your life, it’s important to assess the circumstances and make the right decision on whether the pendulum swings to work or life. In other words, determine how you spend your time based on what needs your attention “now.” If there’s a big project you’re working on and it requires significant time and extra hours, clearly, that’s the priority. So the pendulum must swing to work. Candid, direct communication with your family and friends will help you gain support, and maintain harmony.

On the other side of the pendulum swing, don’t assume you can’t move a meeting or get home early a few nights week because you are “busy” at work. Sometimes your family or friends need you; certain circumstances and situations require your presence and involvement. Kids are sick… parent-teacher conferences… a child in a school activity… family member or friend is sick or has an important doctor’s appointment. If we’re in the moment and are mindful of the circumstances, we swing the pendulum to our personal life.

When you are overt and purposeful about your priorities and values you can course-correct when unforeseen bumps come along. And hopefully, over time, you can develop the mindset and framework to help you notice when you are swinging the pendulum too far one way or another. There are times when your life (family, friends, home) needs your attention and unwavering focus; and the same goes for work. The key is to recognize these moments and prepare to make the best choice. This allows you to adapt and act intentionally in order to keep your life and work in harmony… without feeling guilty or torn between your priorities.

As I learned from my great friend Vince Casanova, YOU get to pick the 12 hours. And as we all know, the best way to have the flexibility to choose our hours is to deliver exceptional results and great work for your organization.

Working to achieve harmony is challenging (that’s why they call it work).