This is a slightly-edited repost of a blog I first wrote in January 09 for our employee intranet:
Do you struggle with balance? I sure do. It seems I always have too many things that “have to get done,” so I end up neglecting other areas of life. I have long claimed my family is the most important part of my life. Unfortunately, the way I allocate my time does not always reflect that claim. Too often, my wife and kids take a backseat to “I’ll be done soon” or the promise of “next month.” Too often, I put plans with friends on hold because I’d rather work.
That’s right. I’d really rather work. I derive a great sense of satisfaction from what we do as a law firm. I like helping people. I like overcoming challenges. I enjoy expending a lot of mental energy solving complex puzzles. I love working with individuals and getting to know them better. I like making a positive impact on the lives of people around me. So, for me, there is no real separation between work and “life.” I define myself by my work.
It’s a part of my nature that I am wrestling with more these days. You see, no matter how much I work, I can never get everything done that I want to get done. And it seems I measure myself by what I did not get done rather than by what I did accomplish. Since I always measure the deficit, I generally choose to keep working to try to make up ground, lying to myself and my family that “I’ll be done soon” or we’ll have more time together “next month.”
This focus on what I don’t accomplish also means I’m more likely to not delegate tasks or allow others to step up to help, since I’m focused on a self-perceived deficit. I have to accept that there simply is not a way everything can be “done” and stay that way.
And that’s why I’m concerned about balance. This is something of a difficult topic for me to talk or write about because, while I am working toward better balance, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I absolutely love my job and greatly enjoy what I do. I have no desire to short-change JSF. The quest for balance is not an excuse to work less or give less. But one of my primary goals this year is to find margin. What do I mean by that?
Well, margin is the “wiggle room” in life, so to speak. In the context of work, it’s having enough time to do a great job and still invest in all the other important areas of life (like, say, family time or exercise). To develop margin, I have to have ask myself a few difficult questions like:
- How do you define yourself?
- How do you measure yourself?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your deficits?
- In what ways can you best contribute to the firm’s success?
- What limits your contributions to the firm’s success?
- How well do you meet your other important commitments?
- How can you arrange your time to match your priorities?
These are helpful questions for me. I hope they are helpful for you. Once you have the answers, you have to develop a plan for addressing what you’ve just uncovered. I realized I am deeply committed to success (a good thing) but that I don’t always do a good job of managing my time.
So, one of my personal goals this year is to become a better steward of my time (find balance). In order to do that, I need to be better organized. And I need to do a better job of managing my priorities. And I need to be better about letting someone else grow rather than trying to do it all myself.
If I can follow through on these things, I should be able to contribute more to my family and more to the firm. The best leaders equip those around them. Those people then equip the next generation. And it goes on. This army of leaders will be far more effective than I could ever be on my own.
I will continue giving 100% to JSF, the individuals here, and our future. That simply cannot change. However, I can be smarter about how I do that. I can be a better steward of my time. I can be more efficient and more effective. I can certainly be better organized. I can help others around me rise up to greater responsibility and reward. If I do this right, I should be able to invest more quality time with my wife, children, and friends – all without taking anything away from my commitment to JSF.
Meanwhile, I hope you have found balance in your life. If not, feel free to talk with me about it. Maybe we can help each other.