In my work as a consultant to top management, I come across the same question over and over again: “Doctor Adizes, how do I balance my professional career with my personal life? I am not just a corporate leader, but also a spouse, a parent, and a community member. What do I do when my work totally absorbs all of my time and my personal life suffers?”I hear this question mostly in countries experiencing rapid change.
Change causes problems. Problems call for solutions. Business solutions, to be developed and implemented, consume lots of time and personal life suffers.In order to balance life, ask yourself, “What do I truly value the most?”People usually discover what is of value too late. On their death bed. Or when they get sick.Why? Because we recognize the most important things in life by their absence.You do not know the value of health until you get sick, the value of democracy until you live in a dictatorship, the value of love until you do not have it, or the value of living until you are dying.
We take for granted the most important things in life because we normally have them. But not really. Health, democracy, and love are not static, fixed. If not maintained, they deteriorate. With time passing, they do not stay the same. There is nothing you need to do for love or health or democracy to deteriorate. Just do nothing and they will diminish with time on their own. Consider this metaphor: build the best garden money can buy. Do not do anything to this garden for two years. What happened to the garden? It is the same with love, health, democracy, and thus the quality of your life! Just to maintain it, not to mention to enrich it, you need to dedicate time.
Here is what I suggest my clients to do: Open your calendar and budget time. Like you budget money. Budgeting time is more important than budgeting money because time is absolutely fixed while money is not. Every hour, every minute that passes will not come back. Money might. Time does not, and there is no bank of time where you can ask for time to be loaned to you.Usually, people spend time as pressuring problem to require, until they have no time left for what they really want to do. It is the equivalent of spending money without a budget as opportunities to spend arise and then being surprised when there is no money left for what they really need the money for.
I believe we do not budget time because to really accept that time is fixed is tantamount to accepting that we will die. We know we will, but we do not want to look at the topic of death in the eye and accept it; it is too scary. So, we spend time freely as if we will live forever.You know the truth, so have courage and get to work. Budget your time.
To help us budget time I am going to use my PAEI model: First, realize what most people do wrong: they usually spend their time on (P) first, because it is a short-term focused role and the immediate needs always take precedence over what needs to be done later or in the long run.Next, people’s focus turns to (A), taking care of the details of paying bills, answering emails or inquiries, etc. Another short term focus. Unless you are the entrepreneurial or creative type, (E) is attended to if time is left, usually when it robs us of sleep or we are on vacation. (I) gets attention during a crisis: if the spouse threatens with divorce, someone in the family gets sick, or children are abusing drugs, for example.If you are going to balance your life, you need to change and address what is really of value to you.
Since success is from the inside out and not from the outside in, I suggest: (I) should be first, (E) second, (A) third, and (P) should be the last; If you handle the long term issues right, the short term problems down the road can be proactively prevented...Let us begin with (I).Your first priority is time for yourself like exercise, practice yoga, meditation, read a book, play some music and maybe have some time to do nothing whatsoever. Just contemplate your navel. This will remove the need for late night insomnia.Now, (I) for your spouse. Open the calendar and plan one evening per week for going out for a date. To a candlelit restaurant. It must be the same day of the week and not when time permits. It is planned; the time is safely secured like Christmas. You do not decide when to celebrate Christmas. The date is known year after year. Same should be true for having a date with your spouse. Your spouse can count on it. And go out just the two of you and no one else, and reconnect. And agree to have no computers, TV screens, or smartphones in the bedroom so you can have pillow talk nightly.
Furthermore, I suggest a re-honeymoon on each anniversary of your wedding day because, as one client of mine said: one honeymoon is not enough for a lifetime of marriage.Next, (I) with your children. Every child gets scheduled undivided time, same time, same day, for just the two of you. Not with all the kids. One kid at a time so that each child gets your undivided attention. Each child is different. Dedicate the time to something that that specific child adores. Perhaps one likes horseback riding, another might prefer ballet, a third child skateboarding or stamp collecting.Now, schedule one long weekend per month or at least per quarter, for the whole family, starting Thursday evening and ending Monday evening. Go somewhere, away from home, without computers or smartphones. During that long weekend, have a family meeting and establish rules of not interrupting each other. Discuss whatever is bothering anyone that needs to be addressed by the family. For those who have experienced Syndag, the first phase in the Adizes Program for Organizational Transformation, consider this a family Syndag.
PUT ALL OF THIS IN THE CALENDAR. If you do not, it will not happen. It will be difficult to honor these commitments as is.Without the calendar reminder, my experience is that it has no chance of being implemented.You might want to extend the (I) one more level, to integration with the community. Explore allocating time for social community work.Now schedule time in the calendar for (E), time for discussing what changes need to be made in the company or in your life. Do not mix executive committee meetings, which are usually for (A) purposes, with strategic planning, which is for (E) purposes. If you mix the two, (A) will take up all of your time and (E) will suffer.Now that you have taken care of (I) and (E), in the long run, allocate time for (A) in your calendar. This is when the executive committee will meet or you will hold one-on-one meetings with your subordinates to follow-up on decisions.Of the time left, use it for (P): to call clients, sell, or perform responsibilities that produce actual results; (P) should be delegated as much as possible.When you finish it all, look at your calendar. You should still have thirty percent of the calendar empty. Reserve this time for unexpected demands. Never, ever, have your calendar full. This allows no time to think, no time to just reflect or to be available when someone needs you unexpectedly.
You are a lousy executive if your secretary has to tell someone begging for your time that you are only available next month or worse, in two or three months.I can imagine that in allocating the time you found that there are simply not enough hours in a day, week or year to give each PAEI role the time you would like to dedicate.Back to the drawing board. Just like when you budget money, you have to make choices. You need to decide what to cut. You need to decide what is in the “need to” category or in the “nice to” category.Every quarter, have your secretary give you a report of how much time was budgeted for each PAEI role and how much time was actually spent on each role. Next quarter, you can take corrective action just like you do when budgeting money.It is normal that you might have difficulties implementing these recommendations. You might be too close to the action and have a hard time making choices, a problem I have difficulty with myself. If this is the case, then ask somebody close to you, someone, you respect, to support you in budgeting your time.Notice the difference between being in control of how you spend your time, to the usual practice where time is spent as dictated by the problems.Who should be in charge? You of your Life? or Your Life of You?