Last week, we looked at how to create a life you don’t need a vacation from. This was all about feeling excited to start your week every Monday morning; having a sense of purpose and meaning; and spending your time and energy on the activities and people that matter the most. What this means, in reality, is that you’ll be getting closer to the concept of work-life integration. This is especially true when you find, and build, a business that you love.
I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on why there’s no such thing as work-life balance and why instead I’m an advocate of work-life integration. I won’t repeat that here; what I’m more interested in now is how to make work-life integration work for you.
What is work-life integration?
Before getting into how to make work-life integration work for you, it would help to clarify what I mean by this. You don’t need me to tell you that the boundaries between work and personal life have become blurred, with technology allowing us to message friends on Facebook while we’re in the office just as it allows us to check emails from home or while we’re on holiday.
Learn how you can design a sustainable business outside of the 9 to 5
The 5 pillars scorecard consists of 50 statements that will help you discover where you are on each pillar, give you an indication of specific areas to focus on, and offer you clear next steps for how to improve your score.
But work-life integration is not about working during your holiday or faffing around on the internet when you’re meant to be working! It’s about enjoying the time you spend working as well as the time when you’re not; finding fulfilment in your personal life as you do in your business; and blending your personal and professional worlds so that they co-exist as a coherent whole.
How to make work-life integration work for you
1. Define what success looks like
As ever, the first step has to be deciding on what you’re trying to achieve: What does success look like for you? What would an ideal ‘work-life integration’ look like for you and your family? What are the parameters within which you want to run your business, and live your life?
It’s worth considering this from a broader perspective as well, in terms of what you’re really trying to achieve with your business. Is your income goal to reach a salary of six figures or are you looking for an additional revenue stream that will supplement your existing income? Are you aiming to scale your business and team so that it can live on without you or are you content with keeping things small? Do you want to prioritise flexibility and the ability to work from home and on your own time? All these aspects are important to consider when you’re setting goals for your business in the context of your broader life goals.
2. Use one calendar for personal and professional appointments
This is something I learned from a productivity training in my corporate career, funnily enough, but it’s even more important when you’re running your own business. If you have one calendar in the office and one at home, you’ll be missing the helicopter view of what’s happening, you won’t be able to make priority calls, and the risk is that one of the areas will suffer (most likely, your personal priorities will be sacrificed for an important work meeting or deadline). Having one, integrated calendar will give you an overview of all your priorities and make sure you don’t miss something important.
In practical terms, using one calendar for your whole life means blocking out time to go to the gym or to head out for a run; it means having doctor’s appointments or school events marked alongside client calls and meetings; and it means keeping your personal commitments – to yourself as much as to other people – as sacred as your professional ones.
You might also find my article on designing your ideal week useful here.
3. Set clear boundaries
This last one might sound contradictory but bear with me! When I say I’m a fan of work-life integration, that doesn’t mean that there should be no distinctions between your personal and your professional life.
Especially when you’re running your own business and working from home, it’s easy for the lines to get too blurred. It’s also easy to justify this by saying, “Oh, but I love my work so much that I don’t mind working all the time,” or, conversely, to get distracted by chores at home so that, before you know it, your whole day has passed without your having achieved your important work priorities.
Setting boundaries will ensure that you have quality time with your loved ones, and time for any hobbies or activities unrelated to work; and that you make real progress on your goals during the time slots where you are meant to be working.
It’s up to you to define what boundaries you set and how strictly you follow them. I have a client, for example, who sticks religiously to the Monday-to-Friday, 8-to-5 routine, physically leaving his home office on the dot at 5 pm and then shifting his focus to mowing the lawn, cooking dinner for the kids, or spending time with his wife.
Here are some examples of setting boundaries to make work-life integration work for you:
- Deciding on specific hours when you want to be working and when you want to be off (this goes back to point 2 on blocking your calendar);
- Saying ‘no’ to projects with deadlines that will require you to work weekends / late nights / when you’re meant to be on holiday (or pushing back on the deadline if possible);
- Turning off the notifications on your phone so that you check your emails and social channels on your own schedule instead of every time there’s a ‘ping’;
- Switching your phone to silent (and putting it away) when you’re having dinner with your family;
- Checking your phone at pre-defined intervals when you’re on holiday (instead of doing so every couple of minutes).
What are some of the boundaries you might want to set to make work-life integration work for you? Do you have any tips or tactics that you use that might help others to achieve a better integration as well? Share your thoughts in the comments below!