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In 2006, I attended The Seven Habits Workshop run by FranklinCovey in the UK, at their then HQ in Banbury, Oxfordshire. It was facilitated by the skilled coach Stephen Smith who, like me, looked a lot younger in those days.

During a ‘Why are you here’ session, Stephen asked the hitherto reluctant, waiting-to-see-how-the-land-lies participants “Well, do you want to improve your work-life balance?” As one might expect, we chorused in a fashion designed to at least give the impression of enthusiasm, “YES!”

“Okay then, let’s see just how much more work we can get out of you, then.,” said a smirking, ‘I-knew-you-were-going-to-fall-for-it’ Steve.

Very few people want to skew their work-life balance in favour of the former. Which is odd, really, because so many people do unconsciously skew their lives that way.

I know people who work every hour God sends in an effort to maximise income, only to swear blind that their ‘family comes first’. Which is not to say that they’re lying, just that what they are doing (working) may not be what they think they’re doing (providing a secure lifestyle for their family).

And I say that because I wonder if they’ve asked their families do they want mummy/daddy working for mo’ money – or do they want mummy and daddy present.

(I suppose teenagers may provide a different answer, depending on the level of gadgets they have or want.)

I believe, as do many in the ‘family field’, that what families need more than anything else, is presence. They want Ma or Pa to ‘be there’ at school concerts, recitals, sports events – and above all to be waiting when they need picking up. Selfish, really. But that’s what kids want.

Go home, be present. At least sometimes.

On another tack, in terms of the balance between work and ‘life’, since Steve regaled us on the matter the world has changed to the degree that the lines between work and ‘life’ have blurred. We are, thanks to the smartphone, available to work when at home, and home when at work. Few think about the appropriateness of crossing the divide. Most think it’s alright to interrupt people when they want, because they can. You may notice that phenomenon when you’re chatting to A and B butts in without an ‘excuse me’, because the smartphone has legitimised interruption.

Of course, in terms of the aforementioned work-life balance ‘thing’, when either interrupts the other our eye is taken off the ball in the moment. Concentration wanders, mistakes are possible, disaster can occur.

As far as possible, and in recognition that I use the word ‘appropriateness’ in this article, try to keep communication under the right heading. Work for work time, life for life-time, at least as much as you can manage. It’s the most productive approach to ‘The Balance’. It means you can get work done without thinking about cooking dinner, and it means putting the right amount of salt and butter into the mashed potato without wondering if that report you submitted is in the right post-tray.

Damn – now I’m hungry………………


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