Imagine a scale, and on one end of it is the professional you – the alter-ego serious, fully competent person continually on the move from meeting to project to meeting. On the other end of the scale is the fully engaged person you aspire to be, with quality family time, planned vacations and time set aside to chill with friends. Quickly you can see that trying to balance those two sides is almost impossible; it would be far more satisfying (and reasonable) to integrate your two worlds, doing more of what makes you happiest in both worlds rather than watering down either.
That’s the trend today, especially for younger managers entering the C-Suite. While exiting boomers expected to give their best to the office until retirement, when it would become “their time” to focus on their dreams and hobbies, younger cohorts are exploring ways to slip out for school concerts or a quick yoga session and then catch up on business correspondence after tucking the kids in at night.
Integrating doesn’t mean blending or blurring roles. While you might take a break at work to spend an hour with a friend, and later spend some time at your kitchen table outlining the agenda for next week’s meeting, you still set some necessary boundaries to assure that you are present wherever you truly are at the moment. A romantic dinner isn’t the time or the place to check phone messages, just as you wouldn’t schedule a dentist appointment for a time you’re expected to meet with staff. Integration isn’t about going rogue; rather, it’s about managing your time so that you are more truly authentically participating in the area of your life that most needs you at the moment.
Here are two principals you may find helpful in adopting an integration mindset:
Quality over quantity. If you’re having a really hectic workweek with a tight deadline, plan a special outing with the family or with friends so that the little time you do have with them during this week is memorable and enjoyable. Rather than promise to be home for dinner every night, perhaps you could offer a special dinner out one evening. Time is frequently less relevant than content.
Be innovative in defining your own success. What gives your life meaning? When do you feel most “real”, most “whole”? What makes your job meaningful to you? Balance implied a 50/50 approach; integration allows for the reality that you may find greater meaning in diving into a career when a promotion is possible, or greater fulfillment in pursuing a private passion when you’re on an even keel at work – only you can cultivate an integrated life in which actions, values, social contributions and personal growth are in sync regardless of the activity of the moment.
Integration means unapologetically scheduling both business and pleasure so that you can go to bed at night feeling like you’ve made a positive contribution at the office and you’ve also made an investment in your own company – the place where your emotional stock has been invested. Whether it’s within the framework of a family, in the strengthening of your body at the gym, or in the enjoyment of theater or the arts — wherever your personal passion lies, that’s the sweet spot you want to contribute to every day.