Every day I feel torn between my personal life and my work life. The two seem to be in constant opposition to each other and each demand more and more of my time at the sacrifice of the other. As I yield to one the other often suffers and vice versa.
What if there was a better way? I believe that all too often we strive to create very distinct compartments for our personal and professional lives, without taking into consideration that they might actually be symbiotic systems.
I know that many of you will likely say, “Leave home at home and work at work!” I understand the intention behind that statement. No one appreciates that co-worker who consistently chooses to manage their personal business while on the clock. And though they tell me otherwise, I’m not sure if my family can endure another one of my painful monologues about the virtues of product management.
What I am saying is we must understand that neglecting major components of either our professional or personal lives will often have negative consequence in both arenas. An area I am often quick to neglect is personal fitness, even though I am an outdoor nut and love to work out. Too often I take that “emergency” call right at lunch and forego the run I had planned to enjoy.
Recommendation: Check out Elizabeth Grace Saunders recent HBR.org article, “A Formula to Stop You from Overcommitting Your Time“
The consequences of that decision begin to spiral through every compartment of my life. The first thing to go is my afternoon productivity. I depend on that run at lunch to re-energize me and help me through the rest of my day.
The next affected party is my family. When I get home I am irritated because I failed yet again to work out. Like an infection, that frustration weaves itself in and out of my conversations with my family members. By the time I have apologized to everyone and course corrected, it is time for bed. Except I can’t sleep. Because I did not work out and burn off my excess energy. So I wake up the next morning groggy, too tired to work out, and the cycle repeats itself. The negative fallout continues to impact both my professional and personal compartments, even though the original task appeared to be only a personal matter. Ultimately my team and my product suffer because I am too tired to be an effective leader.
My goal is not to convince you to go out and get a gym membership (though I do believe personal fitness is important). What I am trying to understand for myself and communicate to you is that attempting to lead two lives is impossible. The point is that if you take some time and think about any aspect of your personal or professional life, you will likely be able to make your own story about how the two impact each other. I believe it is important that we recognize that the lines between personal and professional are blurred. Instead of compartmentalizing, we should see interdependent parts of the same system that make up the entirety of our lives. Instead of seeking to divide and balance we should strive to unify and optimize. By doing so, I believe we can become better team leaders and product managers at the same.
In the next post we will explore how to prioritize those tasks directly associated with our professional work.
I’m going to go for a run.
What do you think? Should a distinction be made between our personal and professional lives? Let me know in the comments below.