5 Tips to balance work and life toward success  – A Personal Experience

The topic that is always interesting to debate amongst us worker bees are work life balance. It does not matter which generation, the topic never goes out of time. How one maintain one’s work and keep it in balance so one will have time to enjoy the fruits of all those hard work, individually or with their family. I am sharing my perspective, learning and observation, hoping that it will inspire you to develop your own style and approach.

I learn that my work life balance change over time (over decades) as I went through my career phase. The first decade of my career and the second decade as well (which means my 20s and 30s) are learning period. These days probably these learning career can be shorten given learning are more proliferating in the internet and some can experience the later part being in the management earlier. In any case, learning period is important to invest as much time to your skill in your chosen field so you are competitive enough vs your peers. After all you are competing to be successful, be it within corporation so internally or beyond. At this stage, my objective in my career is literally to breeze through career ladder and as well competence ladder. I am big at this stage, making the world my stage and competing with people across the globe I can’t see, just read about them through books and magazine. Only at a later part I have a family and then the struggle deepen given that I have my daughter at a later part, a phase when people typically already have grown up children, I am still struggling with my baby. Second phase is at my 40s where my daughter grown from baby to toddler to tween and my career took off, including stints as Singapore-based consultant while traveling half of the month, every month and my husband stay back in Jakarta. My daughter by then (and now) is a teenage girl. Third and last phase is on my 50s and my daughter is now teenage girl going to be young adult. These phases are when I already become senior leaders and are in the phase where I have to delivered strategic outcomes, deliver ‘create new’ and leave legacy behind. These stages are the stages do not require more toiling but a lot more external facing engagements, a lot more helping the businesses deliver (i.e sometime a lot of meetings) and thinking space. As you can see, in reality, to be successful at work, throughout the phase, the time spent at work won’t be less.

Understand Who You Are, Define Your Overall Goal and Stick with it – no matter what people said

There are two parts of learning. One, is to never succumb to pressure in your family and social pressure that has nothing to do with who you (and your family) are and the life goals. People outside do not know your goals nor they truly know who you and your family are, they don’t think about how to help you and your family succeed. In reality, not many people love to see success story either, and even if they would like to see you succeed, many are not qualified to help you succeed. Only listen to people who understood who you are, qualified to help you and most importantly have the best interest for you and your family. The sentences that coming out of nowhere (especially if you are a woman) about you should stay at home more to take care of your family, that nothing good coming from women who prioritize work, without offering insight how staying home can help family and childreen succeed, it is not coming from the right place. Staying at home nor working do not guarantee success of the children, it is what we do as mother and wife at home that will increase the probability to succeed. Success requires both wife and husband to share the load and collaborate to make the family a success. So not only you should not hear these meaningless thoughtless comments, but you should conciously look for insight and advise that will help you understand who you and your family are, help define (and expand) your goal for you at work and your family and help you stay the course even when there is distraction or hurdles. This way, you are in control of your life based on how you want to live your life and you can take time off based on your need. Of course, there are circumstances where staying home is absolutely the right decision and staying home is indeed value adding but let that be intentional decision. I, myself learn several times in which staying back help me with my daughter or manage my household, when my husband was working outside the city and cannot help with the load at the time. This balance is harder to achieve when you are a single parent and in this instance you have to have both and sacrifice more your work life balance, then your definition of work life balance must truly be your definition.

Second part of my observation is live you and your family life intentionally rather than having vague idea on where you and your family is heading in life.  Plan your family life ambitiously but at the same time something that if you and your family put your mind and bootstrap through life you and your family can make it. Being ambitious does not mean about everyone of us to become CEO and their children to enter Ivy league universities, but beyond these temporary goals, but even more than that by the time your children grown up, what do they want to become and what kind young woman and man you want them to be, as well as what you want your career and your life  legacy to be. Answer truthfully what kind of life you want to lead. Balance them well and realistically, calculate how much these will costs. Assess your capability and how much trajectory in term of your capability growth can you achieve, that will be your balancing factor to your ambition. Here, it will be good to hear insights and observations from people around you. People who have you as their best interest and your cheer leaders in life – preferably they are also skilled to make learned observation. I have several mentors in my life that knows me and my family, I also have several close friends that grow with me and have been through with me a lot, they gave me honest observations but in a way that also I know they are here to share this observation as part of my cheer leaders. This is important to your work life balance because balancing life with work also mean you achieve your career goal in life to balance your life goal and happiness outside work as well. If you have a lot of time in your life but you are not achieving much in your career to your potential, it means your work life is not balance either.

Getting better at what you do and working skill is the key to work life balance – and succeed in career

The more you invest early on to be good at what you do, the faster and the better you can complete your work task and the better the quality of your deliverable. This way you can definitely have more time to spend outside work but at the same time you can also get ahead in your career. It is unavoidable you have to spend ten thousand hours for many elements of your work. Example is that the higher your speed-reading skill, the faster you are in finishing your work required reading (the presentation, contract, manual, etc) as well the more accomplished you are in your spreadsheet skill, the faster you are in modelling. This is something you invest early on in your career even your university days, indeed preparing work life balance start even before you started to work. You have to keep investing your time to master your work skill simply because that will help you at work. Nowadays there are many online training so you can learn them at will and wherever you area, so it is more flexible. Most importantly you know what skill that will help you at work and equally important to understand which skills you need to prioritise to learn. Skills that help you work faster better and help you leverage others around you to help you, those are important to make time to master. I have always make time at least 2 weeks a year for classroom training, company funded or personally. Additionally, I create time and make effort to have at any given time for mentoring and coaching. Also early on I have acquired love for reading, it help me tremendously.

Apply What You Learn at Work at Home – and Vice Versa

Interestingly, as I get better on skill required at work, some are actually useful to apply at home. I use coaching skill I have to build relationship and advise my daughter to advance in her education, as well with my helper at home. I learn on developing reward and recognition system at work and apply them at home as well so bonus for my helper is conditional to specific achievements. Customising message and engagement style also help me delivering messages effectively with all the personal stakeholders in my life also.

Solid Support System is a Must !

Support system in our life is not just one support system, you have one to help you progress in your career, giving you guidance and honest feedbacks. You have one at home to help you with household and children. You have one to help you have fun generally in life. Once in a blue moon, these different support system need can be fulfilled by one support system, please remember when this is happen, you have to count your blessing and be thankful as it is not a given. Remember that as people become your support system, you need to help in-kind, be the best support system you can be.

Being a good support system to others means you are growing to become better individual and professional so there is an upside to your drive to become better support system to others. In kind they will also grow together with you. Once in a while, articulate and express your appreciation with thoughtful gifts, to convey that you are not taking your support system for granted.

As you grow in your life, your need of different support system also may happen and you need to continue to expand your support system. Networking with others, at your children school, different community based organisation, at work or professional association, you get to know more people and some may become your support system. Vice versa.

Just Do It – It is essential to your well-being

Whenever you feel you have enough with the pressure, whenever your body already screaming for rest, just rest. Just do it, just take a step back. Take time off. Nothing good ever come when you delay – I learn my lesson. Of course, you must make sure you do not leave things in a mess, you must prepare that your team is ready to take over whenever you need to rest. However, never think that taking time off is a sign of weakness, it is always a sign of strength.

I hope these lessons will be useful to build your work-life balance practice that will help lead you to a happy healthy life with your loved ones and incredible career growth.

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