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Work-Life Balance, Productivity, Performance

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High performance and work/life balance are two terms deemed by many so-called experts to be at odds with each other. I mean, really!

In fact, if you were to poll small business owners, you would discover that many believe high performance/achievement is synonymous with long hours, dedication, missed recitals, meals eaten on the go, exhaustion, lack of sleep…and stress! Let’s not forget stress.

Work/life balance, on the other hand, is seen as being compatible with a sense of calm, going with the flow, sufficient sleep — even going to the gym! Who knew!?

Business owners who cut their entrepreneurial teeth a decade or more ago continue to believe that the two of these phenoms are incompatible. And, today’s entrepreneurs have a tendency to follow in their mentor’s footsteps and adapt the same — albeit flawed — belief.

Technology: Compliment or Curse of Work/Life Balance

With the advancement of technology has come greater complexity. But wait! Wasn’t technology intended to make life and business easier? Less complicated? Less stressful?

In a word — yes! That was, and still is, the original intent. However, this equation breaks down when we ADD ON rather than ADD TO.

The Pile-On Small Business Generation

In a time of “more,” business owners are notorious for piling on. And why wouldn’t we? The mantra for the past several years has been “do more with less.” Less brain cells, that is…

Is it any wonder we’re developing kyphosis? Most ergonomic experts have told us it’s the way we slump at our desks. Honestly, it’s because of the burden we experience from what is already a heavy load to carry.

Doing It All — Having It All

In case the email went directly to your spam folder, the notion of “doing it all” has failed in epic fashion.

Those who embraced this concept drug themselves through a trench only to emerge bruised, muddied, and a bit dazed. Despite this beating, overachieving types continue to press forward on solving the do it all-have it all dilemma. (Insert definition of insanity here.)

How do we rectify our legion of ambitions with our finite supply of resources like time, money, and energy?

Here’s a little something I discovered recently…

The Excess Overload

My sister recently brought up the notion of walking the Camino de Santiago. I love the outdoors and immediately saw this as a physical challenge to experience.

In case you’ve not heard, El Camino is a 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain. First made famous in 1994 by Shirley MacLaine and later in the movie, “The Way,” with Martin Sheen, the El Camino is a mental, physical, and emotional challenge.

Along with training for El Camino, I want to learn Spanish, strengthen my spine to avoid the ravages of osteoporosis, and grow my business and that of my clients…

As someone who came to age during the “do it all/have it all” era, my bucket list doesn’t end there. I have goals to achieve, health to gain, retirement funds to procure, places to see, people to visit…you get the point. It’s endless. Plus, I want dust-free baseboards in my office.

I need a 32 hour day!

There’s little to no accommodation for balance — or so I thought….

The Add-To Alternative to Having it All

Early on, my mom taught me to take a load of “stuff” when enroute to the basement. Whether it was a load of laundry, pickles for the “fruit room,” or toys returned to the playroom, including those items during pre-planned trips optimized the trek…and the workload.

Was it possible to incorporate a similar philosophy into my goals? Yes, of course.

And so began the great mashup with these two discovery questions:

  • What am I currently doing that is not — to use a common phrase — optimized?
  • How can I optimize that activity to include other objectives and goals?

Spanish podcasts, business audiobooks, meditation, and farmers’ market expeditions are being added to my daily odyssey of 10,000–20,000 steps. Sun salutations and planks happen during Facetime with my niece. A “never cook alone” philosophy is unfolding with friends. Even drafts of my blogs are audio recorded during walks when my mind is free to roam about the countryside.

Lunch with a business colleague? Why not replace with a stroll through the local museum. Just because it doesn’t follow conventional wisdom of how business is conducted doesn’t mean it’s not an effective replacement.

The Bottom Line

You get the point…we truly can have much of what we desire when we’re willing to add to rather than add on. In fact, that sounds like a dandy new mantra!

You in?

Work-life balance is a sham.

There! I’ve said it. Whew! Am I ever glad to get that off my chest.

Before you scamper for a screwdriver to tighten what may appear as an obvious loose screw, hear me out.

It wasn’t as though anyone set out to purposefully mislead the countless number of sleep-deprived entrepreneurs. In our desperation, we bought the disinformation that led us to believe that equilibrium between one’s professional and personal life was possible.

Yes. We’ve all implemented countless strategies to achieve the utopian state known as “work-life balance.” Yet, if we take inventory of our professional/personal balance, or query our colleagues, we’re certain to find work-life balance is as elusive as unicorns and tooth fairies.

Despite decades of information designed to reduce the stress and overwhelm that accompanies too much work and too little play; work-life balance strategies are an epic fail. In fact, since the 70s, workplace stress has risen to epidemic proportions. As an example, the number of mental stress-related cases rose from 1844 in 1981 to 15, 688 in 1999 in California alone. Today, most entrepreneurs live in a continual state of heightened anxiety. In essence, the quest for work-life equilibrium hasn’t created the intended calm and self-fulfillment.

Take heart. In an article I recently wrote for Zane Benefits, I share proven, effective strategies for achieving a rich, full life brimming with fulfillment and satisfaction.

Article Highlights: The Work-Life Balance Myth: Life Hacks to Create a Happy, Fulfilled Personal and Professional Life

For most, work – life balance is demanding, tough, difficult, painful, and most times, impossible. In order to meet the growing demands of our professional and personal lives, our approach to a happy, accomplished life must also advance.

Goodbye Balance. Hello Time for Life.

Here are four strategies guaranteed to coach you to greater fulfillment.

  1. Reboot. I call this “running away from home.” And, who doesn’t love the idea of reliving childhood fantasies. Escaping the daily grind encourages relaxation which is quickly followed by piercing clarity.
  2. Redefine. Rather than filling each day with the demands thrust upon you, re-define what success is for you.
  3. Rejuvenate. Nurture an understanding of what feeds your soul. What simple, profound actions induce recovery and fuel a rebound for you that are non-negotiable for a life of fulfillment, satisfaction, and success?
  4. Reduce stress. Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? It’s likely your expectations are out of touch with reality. Discover for yourself what needs to take place to bridge the expectation-reality gap.

Although balancing work with life was established with the best of intentions, it has gone the way of cassette players, VHS recorders, and pet rocks. Today’s entrepreneur deserves a different, more effective approach for creating a happy, fulfilled, satisfied personal and professional life.

If you’re ready to trade in the inadequate approaches of the work-life juggle for strategies that make time for life, we’re only a click or call away.

The full article can be accessed via Zane Benefits.

Occasionally, I forget why email was a good idea. Since the first email system evolved circa 1965, thanks to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, email has become a vital and overwhelming part of an entrepreneurs day. In fact, email surpassed the use of the telephone in 2007. Although email devours the hours in our day, interrupts projects, messes with productivity, scatters our focus, and is a constant source of irritation, like any good relationship, we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it.

Email, and it’s impact on productivity, has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and blogs. The experts tout the countless strategies for mastering email like prioritize messages, set up filters, use shortcuts, and reply immediately yet most people feel trapped by the constant email conundrum.

A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test.  It’s similar to missing a night’s sleep.  For those who “think” they can email while carrying on a phone conversation, scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old. (I do believe I’ve spoken with them.) In the final analysis of how to be more productive with email, there is one common denominator that continually is overlooked – YOU!

I recently made this discovery.  I realized that I was the biggest roadblock to my own email productivity. I was the one who kept my email program open throughout day. I was the one who clicked send/receive more times than I could count during an hour. I was the one who toggled between my projects and my email program. I was the one who believed my clients wanted an instant response. I was the one with all the productive email strategies in place yet I had remained horribly unproductive with email.

Once I unearthed this dirty little secret, one simple adjustment in my email habits transformed my productivity – I added the following message to my email signature, “PS  I respond to email once a day.  If this is urgent, please call” – and I stick to it.

How often do you need to respond to email? Do your clients expect an immediate response? How did they develop that expectation?  Given the nature of your business and your clients current expectation, you may not feel as though you can respond to email once a day. Can you respond twice a day? 3X a day? Email productivity is about two things – shifting your mindset and managing your client expectations. Like a baby be weaned from a pacifier, you both may need time to adjust.

Are you planning to implement a new email response schedule? If so, we’d love hearing from you.

Related Blog Posts:

Death by a Thousand Emails

13 Tips to Make Time Work for You

Small Business Advice on Time Saving Technology

This Strategic Coach Says “No” and Means It*

Are You Stuck? What Keeps You Moving Forward


Work/Life Balance. What is it? How do we, as entrepreneurs, attain it? Why does it seem to elude the smartest of entrepreneurs? And, is it work/life balance we’re after or the outcome of what we assume balance will provide that we desire? No matter what we’re truly after, what we know to be true is that a balanced life is a productive life.

Webster defines “balance” as a state of equilibrium in weight, force, etc. It is the dynamic tension between wanting and having—between getting and spending—that leaves one feeling satisfied, happy, peaceful, and tranquil.

For true work/life balance, consider these steps:

  1. Define “balance” for yourself. Dee Hock, Visa International, said, “We tend to fall in love with the things we think are true.” Do you define balance based on what is true for your life or do you strive for balance as defined by society? If you’re using society’s meaning of balance to guide your life, you’ll find it difficult to accomplish. Business Coaching Tip: Discover what definition of balance works for your life based on your values.
  2. Identify the imbalances in your life. The components of a balanced life are many. These include your business, recreation, community, family, health, physical activity, and spiritual growth. As you think of each area that is important in your definition of balance, what percentage of time do you currently spend in each one of those areas? What percentage would you like it to be? What would you need to change in order to make that happen? Business Coaching Tip: Once you determine what components and percentages fit your characterization of balance, distinguish the areas that throw your life out of balance and eliminate them.
  3. Establish strong boundaries. Boundaries are imaginary lines we establish around ourselves to protect our souls, hearts, and minds from the unhealthy or damaging behavior of others. Business Coaching Tip: Decide for yourself what others can and cannot do around you that impact your ability to maintain balance. Educate others on how to respect your new boundaries.
  4. Underpromise. Overpromising creates a great deal of stress. In fact, most people make promises too quickly, then become ensnared by the effort that it takes to keep their word. Business Coaching Tip: Promise half of what you think you can accomplish. You will experience much less pressure to perform, plus the extra time and space that you will have created will allow you to be more resourceful.
  5. Reduce your roles by 50%. Have you thought about the many roles you play? You may be an employee, employer, spouse, parent, caretaker, volunteer, shopper, organizer, bookkeeper—the list goes on and on. Each requires time and effort. Which roles did you select and agree to? Which ones have unknowingly crept into your life? Business Coaching Tip: Determine which roles are essential to your values and goals and do away with the rest.
  6. Unhook yourself from the promises of others. Has anyone ever made a promise to someone else that quickly involved you? Did they check with you first or was it something that was assumed by them—and you—that you would automatically agree to? Did it cause you to have more things “to do” as a result of their commitment? Business Coaching Tip: Be aware of who’s commitment is who’s. Allowing others to take responsibility for their commitments helps them grow and assists you in creating balance in your life.
  7. Establish realistic expectations. High achievers are a unique group of people that expect more of themselves than anyone else would or could. They wear a shiny “S” on their chest (designated for “superperson”) and continue to set expectations far beyond what can realistically be accomplished within the allotted time. The space that exists between the level of expectation and what is possible is a source of continual imbalance and stress. There are no opportunities to celebrate as they continue to raise the bar with higher expectations.Business Coaching Tip: Create reasonable expectations for yourself daily. Your balance will grow in direct proportion to the expectations that you achieve.

Balance: the even tension that holds your life in harmonious proportions of equilibrium. How do you achieve balance in your life?

Time is money. It’s a suitable mantra for any business professionals but its even more critical for the small office – home office entrepreneur.

Recently, I turned to the colleagues in my professional network for small business advice on their best time-saving technology.  Here is what I learned:

  1. Kenneth Larson uses flash drives that allow you to work on a variety of client projects at a variety of locations and computers
  2. Lou Susi uses ‘Design Thinking’ — “sometimes just drawing out an idea and talking through it can save a ton of time and energy.”
  3. Wallace Jackson suggests a “Gateway HexaCore 64-bit Win7 AMD Workstation with 9GB DDR5 & 1.5TB HDD” for lighting fast speed.
  4. George Tyler & Lorraine Duncan recommend “Hootsuite for scheduling LinkedIn, Tweets and Facebook posts.”  Hootsuite allows you to schedule social media posts months in advance. This is a time-saving technology we happen to love also.
  5. Jimmy uses “Dropbox and Giant cloud application (these both are file sharing & transfer applications). Also Location Based Apps on my iPhone…help me to reach destination easy.”
  6. Gayle LaSalle shared some wise council when she said “knowing when to say no. It is a complete sentence, after all. Don’t agree to do things you don’t want to or don’t have the time for.” Can we get an Amen?
  7. Dhanasekar D uses his phone as a time-saver.  Rather than live behind his keyboard, email or social media, Dhana saves time by picking up his phone to get fast answers.
  8. Cheri Baker is a big fan of “dual monitors.” It’s amazing how much faster you can get desk work done if you can read off of one screen while typing or inputting into the other screen.”
  9. Dean Berry’s “favorite time-saving technology is reasoning: I do not have to type urls, search my favorites or try to remember all the websites I visit on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.”
  10. Kim Luu is a big fan of “cloud based on most everything. It allows me to spontaneously capture thoughts as I dictate as well as work with clients. I can access anything I need.”
  11. Bernie Siben became a fast friend with his time-saving response:  “A Smith & Wesson – so much faster than poison.”  We always appreciate a good sense of humor!
  12. Dave Maskin suggests “Google search”.
  13. Chris Barton likes using a “small notepad and pen”.
  14. Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi highly recommends “MindMaps – Mainly because it easy to review and re-arrange your notes, schedule, whatever it is you are capturing.” Check out Wisemapping, a free online mindmapping platform.
  15. Judy Hojel is a raving fan of her “pen and paper! I plan many training courses and presentations and I’ve learnt over the years that I can save myself much time and frustration by putting pen to paper first. Later I can transfer my information, but for me the initial story boarding is best done without technology!”
  16. Cristina Falcao uses “email, cloud storage and USB sticks”.
  17. Dawud Miracle uses the best non-technology available by taking regularly schedule breaks. “Every 50 minutes, I step away from my work, go outside for a few minutes, breathe in fresh air and drink some water. Doing this 5, 6, 7 times a day has increased my overall productivity by about 25% over just sitting and grinding all day or just taking a break here and there.”
  18. Aabhas Zaveri advocates “Automation Anywhere, a business process automation tool that automates practically anything that I do over my desktop, network or internet manually and repeatedly.”
  19. Laura Lara uses remote access with her clients. It not only saves her time but keeps her off the freeway.
  20. Zoey Smith is a big fan of all things Google. With a highly collaborative team, she finds Google calendar, email search, docs, and talk help her and her team stay connected.
  21. Scott Siders uses to automate his social media posts and save valuable time.
  22. Margaret Jacoby loves her new Neat Desk, desktop scanner, to save her time and keep her receipts and papers under control.
  23. Time Trade is one of our favorite new time-saving technologies.  Time Trade affords you the ease of scheduling important meetings and/or calls via email while avoiding the back-and-forth time-wasting email exchange.

What is YOUR favorite time-saving technology?

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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