Achieving More with Greater Life Balance

June 7, 2011

I was in the middle of my MBA program when I received a call from a contract job shop about a position at National Semiconductor Computer Products Group.  I showed up for the interview and believed without one ounce of hesitation that I could do the job hands down.

I told my potential employer that I was on my way to Santa Clara University as soon as the interview was over to sign-up and pay for next-quarter’s MBA classes and needed to know on the spot if they wanted me to start the position on Monday as I would sign up for 2 rather 4 classes. [As I understood it, the Jesuits did not refund money for classes.]

My potential employer was a bit aghast at my brazenness, something I could certainly understand, but, frankly, my primary focus in life was getting my MBA.  If opportunity and fate could converge that morning, I’d be happy to make something work at National Semiconductor; if not, oh well.  So, for my potential employer, it was a “snooze you loose” proposition.  He chose not to snooze.  This turned out to be a “win-win.”  I soon joined National Semiconductor as a full-time employee; National paid for the second half of my MBA.

What’s the point of this story?  I was not to be deterred when it came to getting my MBA.  I was focused like a laser-beam on this.  As the years have passed, I find it takes more effort to sustain the same laser-like focus.  Some of my consulting colleagues mentioned a book that addressed this and I couldn’t wait to get it and read it. I was not disappointed.

This marvelous book is called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  I recommend it highly. In this book, Steven talks about overcoming resistance to getting things done that profoundly impactful one’s life, e.g., writing a book, starting an important article, setting up a meeting that you aren’t looking forward to, getting an MBA, etc.  He slices and dices resistance in such a way that, if you suffer from procrastination, there is no way you are going to miss seeing yourself in the picture.

For example, I’ve known all week that this article is due and I’ve now allocated time to “just do it.”  I am out of runway. I had no definitive angle selected as I started to write this article—I just started writing as Steven Pressfield advises. I want you to receive tremendous value for taking a few minutes to read this.

Business people are prone to focusing on the urgent matters in their world, not the most important matters. It’s a disease.  I suffer from it; most people suffer from it.

I can tolerate procrastination on key issues no more. It is easy to get immersed in email, online forums, the Internet, phone calls, etc., and harder to get focused on the things that really matter, e.g., exercise, diet, quality family time, writing my next book proposal, writing the book itself, writing an article for The Business Forum, etc.

In Stephanie Frank’s book The Accidental Millionaire, Stephanie suggests we look at our time usage in four dimensions:



Focus Time

Time when you work “on” your business such as product & service development, book creation, article, speech development, marketing, web site evolution, etc.  This is the important stuff. 

Flex Time

Time when you work “in” your business—actual delivery of your products and services.  This is the urgent stuff. 

Family Time

Time with family 

Free Time

Time for yourself to exercise, read a novel, watch television, meditate, contemplate your navel, etc.

Most of us are really busy with Flex and Family time but allocate little time for Focus and Free time. This out-of-balance situation is not sustainable for you or your business.

  • If you never have any Free time, you may feel as though you just go through the motions of life, never taking a moment for yourself.
  • If you give up Family time, you are missing things that can’t be replaced.
  • If you never allow yourself Focus time, your business may not be sustainable.  You have to prime the pump of desire if you are to continually position yourself to attract new customers and clients. That requires dedicated Focus time.

There are 2 dimensions to solving this time allocation issue:  (1) awareness of where you are spending your time, and (2) being willing to change what you are doing if you are continually out of balance.  If Flex time is consuming most of your time and energy, you need to figure out how to personally not do that work yourself: offload, outsource, stop doing unnecessary things, etc.

My mentor, Alan Weiss, teaches that, as much as we’d like to believe to the contrary, we really don’t have a business life and a personal life: we have a life.  That life is built around the 4 dimensions Stephanie Frank addresses.

Here’s to better life balance and greater achievements.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2011 Dave Gardner