In a world where information is at our fingertips and mobile devices make it impossible to really “unplug,” the old adage, “Work Life Balance” has become obsolete. Instead, the new formula for success in the 21st century is “Work Life INTEGRATION.”
I first learned about this concept during a training session with Mark Woods, author of, Attack Your Day. Instead of having discrete time periods for work, home, chores, family, friends etc., look for opportunities to step in and out of those roles on an ongoing basis throughout the day. Personally, I think women are genetically more capable of operating this way; as we have had generations of modeling on how to make meals, while nursing babies, while stoking the fire, while cleaning the house (thank you kiddos)! It looks a little different for the 21st century workforce, but the skills are the same.
Having my son has taught me that I CAN still do it all; but it requires extreme discipline, planning, and a lot of help.
So what does that mean? The first step to creating work life integration is to clearly understand your priorities. My priority list is simple, but well defined:
- Take impeccable care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, so that I may serve the highest and greatest good of my family, friends, colleagues and customers.
- Run Career TEAM’s Education Division effectively while providing “best-in-class” support to our customers.
- Spend quality time with my son, husband, family and friends. Celebrate the milestones, and be 100% present when I have the honor of their presence.
- Continue my education on a daily basis and use what I learn to support all of the above-mentioned priorities.
Once the priorities are identified, it comes down unpacking the list, and understanding what tasks and activities support the goals.
- Self-Care: Pilates two times per week, daily meditation, sleep, cardio exercise, balanced meals, weekly life coaching, weekly visits to the chiropractor, hair, make-up, nails, etc.
- Career TEAM: Driving vision, business development, supporting EST colleagues, quality assurance, conferences, speaking engagements, innovation, implementation, project management, etc.
- Friends & Family: Two – three QUALITY hours per day with my son. When I am not traveling, dinner with my husband and mother when I am not traveling. Weekly get-togethers with different friends, bi-weekly date nights. Lot’s of play!
- Education: Reading books, attending seminars, watching documentaries, taking courses, participating in women’s leadership organizations, etc.
**Moms, I’m sure you are looking at that list and snarking at me right now. “Ha, Micaela – there is NO WAY you can run a household, work, take care of your child, and fit in so much time for yourself” (insert judgmental mother of the year glare here). First of all, the belief that “self-care” is “selfish” is a FLAWED and outdated paradigm. There is plenty of research that supports the idea that the happier and healthier you are, the better energy and modeling you will provide for your children. I subscribe to this belief!**
Once the list of activities is defined, it all comes down to how effectively you can INTEGRATE multiple priorities while creating as many opportunities for BOTH/AND. Get creative! It is amazing how much crossover there is when you start thinking outside the box.
For example, I recently became frustrated with my physical fitness level. I felt like I could EITHER workout, OR spend time with friends, OR take care of my son. Suddenly it dawned on me that ALL of my close friends care about their fitness, too…and many have small children. I ended up meeting an incredible Pilates instructor, Emily, and started a Pilates class twice a week at my house. The classes take place at 4 pm on Wednesdays (after my EST colleagues/customers have wound down for the day), and 10:00 am on Saturdays (early enough so that it doesn’t disrupt our family weekend events). Emily is also a mother and brings her daughter, Bentley to the class. Kai, Bentley, Jesse, and Camille all play while the moms get our girlfriend time in and sweat! The best part is that these ladies are all entrepreneurs, and some of my best business ideas come out of the conversations we have while practicing the “Swan Dive!” The final calculation: we’ve taken what would have been 6-8 hours of activities if tackled individually and turned them into 90 minutes of integration.
Some other ways we work integrate at the Alper’s home:
- Make time for weekly life coaching sessions with Kathy Milburn. Gaining elevation on weekly basis provides the space for my best idea creation, accountability, and the reflection to become more self-aware every day. (Supports 1-4)
- Listen to books while on a plane, in the car, exercising, etc. I use the Audible.com app on my phone. (Supports 1, 2, 4)
- Prepare healthy meals in bulk ahead of time (Supports 1, 3)
- Plan family outdoor events like hiking, biking, kayaking & paddle boarding. (Supports 1, 3)
- Attend other sessions while presenting at conferences to continue feeding my quest for knowledge. (Supports 2, 4)
- Plan date nights with my husband. He is also an entrepreneur. Some of our best ideas come from each other while sipping cabernet at our favorite restaurants (supports 2, 3, 4)
- Bring work to the nail salon, hair salon, etc. Mifi devices and lap tops make it easy to work through reports, create presentations, and reply to customer emails while your hair is full of foils (1, 2)
I recently worked through our Career EDGE module on Time Management. It is amazing how much space there really is in the 168-hour week if you look at things on paper and start doing the math. Like I said, the Work Life INTEGRATION approach requires extreme DISCIPLINE. It may not leave a lot of room for spontaneity or down time, but that isn’t my priority. Do I execute this perfectly everyday? Heck no! If something doesn’t work, I change it. The key is having a plan, adjusting as you go, and learning to rebound quickly! Let’s go!