Work/Life Balance Is Not About Time Management

Two coaching clients this week wanted to talk about work/life balance. Actually, they both said work/family balance (“there wasn’t time for anything more in life” they each said). Ugh, that concerns me as a coach who wants people to have a sustainably fulfilling life.

One guy asked for the tips and tricks of time management for more time with his family. Given coaching is more than tips and tricks he arrived at some interesting observations and actions after our coaching work so I thought I’d share them here:

  1. It’s not about time management, it’s about putting the important priorities in our calendar first (24 hours per day is non-negotiable). That means the time you want to arrive and leave at the office. And then at the office what are the big things you need to accomplish, that only you can do, book that time in your day to do that work. Then put in time for the people that you need to empower and motivate to do all the other things you can’t do. Google a video about rocks, pebbles, sand to see this visually explained.
  2. Emails are not part of anyone’s job description! Do a root-cause analysis of who sends you emails and on what topics. Are there certain people or topics that generate most of your emails? If so, how can you help those people tackle the issues themselves or in a more efficient manner than email. Or are there topics that need to be defined, re-directed or communicated to prevent the emails? Do meetings need to change to prevent emails even having to be written? Are some emails addressed to everyone because the roles or decision making is not clear, or the culture is so risk averse people want to ensure they don’t make a mistake? If so, clarify the roles, decision making, parameters, transform the culture.
  3. Hold “open hours” like a drop-in center/doctor’s surgery. If people have to book time with you to discuss an issue they usually book 30min as that’s often the acceptable minimum and might be too much time. If they know you’re available Tuesday and Thursday 9-10am they can bring the issues then, don’t sit down, don’t close the door, laser discussions – not to rush them, rather empower them to let them get on with what they want to do.

What have you done to focus on your priorities, what matters to you?