Work Life Balance Harvard Book Review

Work life balance harvard book review

Stressed out. This is how many people feel today. Everyone is struggling to have meaningful work, domestic bliss, community engagement, and a satisfying inner life. It assumes you must make trade-offs among the four main aspects of your life: work, home, community, and self.

Julio Cedeno (MBA 2020): The Case Method and Work-Life Balance

Integration starts with embracing three principles: be real, be whole, and be innovative. This article outlines the skills that bring those principles to life and shows how to hone several critical skills with exercises such as:.

Through these and other exercises, executives can find the path to a more fulfilling and less hectic life.

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Take an assessment —produced in partnership with Qualtrics—of your Total Leadership skills, and learn how to strengthen them and about people who exemplify them. Stretched too thin. This is how many of us describe ourselves today.

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I hear it from men and women; from the young and the old; from executives, MBA students, doctors, retailers, artisans, research scientists, soldiers, stay-at-home parents, teachers, and engineers around the world. In an age of constant communication and economic pressure, everyone is struggling to have meaningful work, domestic bliss, community engagement, and a satisfying inner life. A more realistic and more gratifying goal is better integration between work and the rest of life through the pursuit of four-way wins, which improve performance in all four dimensions.

Skills for Being Whole

In this article I describe those skills and offer exercises—drawn from the latest findings in organizational psychology and related fields—to help you hone a few of the skills that business professionals often find most difficult to master. That requires you to:. The ability to do the first two things is especially crucial. One exercise that enhances this skill, called four circles, has you examine the importance and congruence of your various roles and responsibilities in life.

You can do it online at this free site: www. You start by drawing circles representing the four domains—work, home, community, and self—varying the sizes to reflect how much you value each. Next you move the circles to show whether and to what degree they overlap.

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At this point you think about the values, goals, interests, actions, and results you pursue in each domain. Are they compatible or in opposition?

Work-Life “Balance” Isn’t the Point

Imagine what your life would be like if your aspirations in all four circles, and the means by which you achieved them, lined up perfectly, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk. Could you change how you work, or even how you think about the purpose of your work, without diminishing the personal value you derive from it? Could you help your family to better see how your business life benefits them so that they would be more supportive of it?

A complementary exercise, called conversation starter, encourages people to embody values consistently. This involves bringing an object from your nonwork life such as a family photograph, a travel memento, or a trophy into the office.

If You Want to Be Happy at Work, Have a Life Outside of It

If a colleague mentions it, you explain what this part of your life means to you and how it helps you at work. Then you consider asking that person to bring his or her own conversation starter. You might also take something from your work to your home and talk to your roommates, spouse, kids, or dinner guests about it.

Tell them about what you do and who you are in your role at work, focusing especially on what this might mean for them. When Victoria, the head of marketing for a pharmaceutical company division, drew her four circles, she initially placed the biggest one, representing work, apart from all the rest. But when she began to talk about the separation with a few colleagues, friends, and family members, she came to realize that one major aspect of her mission as an executive—promoting greater health—was a lot more compatible with her other circles than she had thought.

Balance is bunk. She could also see how just a few small changes in approach might create much more overlap.

Work + Home + Community + Self

As a result, her group became more impassioned and hardworking, which ultimately eased her load and gave her more time for other pursuits. The second principle that Total Leadership addresses is being whole—or acting with integrity. What I mean by that is respecting the fact that all the roles you play make up one whole person and encouraging others to view you the same way.

To do that you must be able to:. One of the most important skills here is knowing how to apply all your resources such as your knowledge, skills, and contacts in the various domains of your life to benefit the other domains. An exercise that helps you do that is called talent transfer.

Organizational psychologists call this a strength development approach: You identify your talents and then apply them in new areas, enhancing them further. How might the skills you used to achieve the former help you in the latter? To manage boundaries intelligently is another key challenge. I advise people to practice something I call segment and merge, and then decide which strategy works best when.

First, think about ways to create separation in time and space between your different roles.

Work life balance

You might try setting limits on yourself. Now do the opposite: Think about opportunities to bring together two or more parts of your life. You might take a child to a company-sponsored charity run or bring a coworker to a block party in your neighborhood.

Work life balance harvard book review

Were you more or less productive? Did you find yourself more or less distracted?

Work life balance harvard book review

How did others react? Were they put off, or did they seem to feel closer to and more trusting of you? An example of the segmenting concept in action comes from Brian, a manager in an accounting firm. Sometimes, as an alternative to that inward focus, he had conversations with the neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances he sat next to on the train, exchanging advice about everything from child care to real estate.

Having an after-work buffer period allowed him to reenter his home with less stress and more openness and to develop new insights about how he could be a better father and husband.

Again, the small shift in boundaries significantly boosted his productivity, well-being, and relationships. Everyone with whom he interacted daily noticed that he was less cranky and more energetic. The third Total Leadership principle is to be innovative—to act with creativity in identifying and pursuing more four-way wins. To do so, you need to:. Scenario exercises are one of several effective methods of increasing your capacity to focus on results, especially on the quality of your contributions rather than the amount of time or energy you spend on them.

This sort of brainstorming encourages you to keep your eyes on the prize.

See a Problem?

Another method is experimenting with new patterns of behavior, trying activities at new times or in different places. It could be something as simple as shaving at the gym instead of at home, or practicing your trumpet at the office after hours rather than disturbing your neighbors at home.

Work life balance harvard book review

What were the pros and cons of switching up your routine? How did it affect your results? Crowdsourcing is an exercise that helps you practice how to see new ways of doing things. Then ask for ideas about potential solutions and record what you hear.

Harvard Business Review on Work and Life Balance

Select the one you think wisest, draft a plan, and try to make it happen. Stay in touch with your advisers, at least weekly, and after a month or so review your results with them. This was the first of many on which he would serve. In , Tierney folded all that experience, knowledge, and crowdsourced wisdom into Bridgespan, and a year later he stepped down as chief executive of Bain to focus on the new organization.

Work life balance harvard book review

Leading the life you want is a craft. As with music, writing, dance, or any athletic endeavor, you can always get better at it by practicing. Start with these three big ideas: Be real, be whole, and be innovative.

Understand the skills you need to accomplish each. And then commit to doing the fun and fruitful work of making them part of your leadership repertoire. Stewart D.

September Issue Explore the Archive. This article outlines the skills that bring those principles to life and shows how to hone several critical skills with exercises such as: Four circles, in which you assess the importance of each domain and then diagram the extent to which the values you pursue in them are compatible Talent transfer, in which you examine all your skills, from mentoring colleagues to organizing family activities, and how each might be used to achieve different ends Crowdsourcing, in which you gather solutions for problems from creative friends and test them out Through these and other exercises, executives can find the path to a more fulfilling and less hectic life.

That requires you to: Know what matters.

Defining Success for Yourself

Embody values consistently. Align actions with values. Convey values with stories. Envision your legacy. Hold yourself accountable. A version of this article appeared in the September issue of Harvard Business Review. Partner Center.