Time is a scarce resource, and not only in corporate management. A fulfilling private life requires time and mindfulness too. Reconciling professional and private life is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s executives, since the two zones are merging more and more in the face of digitalisation and perpetual availability, making strict separation seem impossible. Employers and employees alike are seeking new solutions to counter the growing demands of business and work.
The solution to the problem: self-management for successful work-life integration
A coherent concept for solving this problem comes in the shape of self-management and the new idea of work-life integration. Self-management means exercising leadership over your own person with the aim of strengthening your personality through the intelligent management of yourself. What’s important in achieving good self-management in everyday work is achieving as much self-organisation, autonomy and self-guidance as possible. Work-life integration means achieving a flexible, dynamic interaction between different areas of life and work. In other words: self-management for successful work-life integration involves much more than just worrying about too very distinct sides of the scales containing ‘work’ and ‘private life’. The idea of work-life balance assumes that it is possible to balance out both areas of life harmoniously. But in today’s working environment it is becoming increasingly clear that it is difficult, if not impossible, to strike a true balance between work and private life.
Goodbye, work-life balance. The idea of an often tenuous balance between work and private life is being displaced by a new concept of successful work-life integration. This requires more self-management when juggling areas of modern living, and there are five new action areas to focus on.
Time management: work-life balance – an increasingly frustrating idea.
Managers at SMEs especially are confronted today by a host of challenges and roles, professional and private – and time management is a constantly recurring theme in everyday work. Our jobs generally place enormous demands on our time and performance, and then there’s the pressure and to-do lists that never go away. Most people need their scarce free time to recover from the stresses of work, and this is not always appreciated at home. In the real world, the desire for a harmonious balance between professional and private life essentially seems out of reach to many men and women. This situation cannot be solved by time management alone, and in the long run it drives people to frustration.
Work-life integration: five action areas for good self-organisation
The new work-life integration concept is much more flexible. Work-life integration involves active exchange and interaction between different areas of work and life. The following five areas, which mutually overlap, illustrate some of the things that managers should pay close attention to if they want to achieve successful work-life integration.
Action Area 1. Business / work / career
This area is about managing business and taking care of your own career. However, it’s important to recognise the responsibilities you have as an executive and the stresses that go with them, and to reduce these burdens yourself before they threaten your own health and / or mental wellbeing. Time management, time planning and workflow also belong in this area. You will find advice, methods of effective working and lots of relevant suggestions in an article entitled ‘Work Clean – working like a star chef’.
Action Area 2. Home / partner / family
Executive or private individual, nowadays almost everyone is available everywhere, any time, so it’s virtually impossible to separate your professional and private life properly. There are constant overlaps: we quickly check our emails in the evening and maybe even answer them, then browse a few important facts online. To be an intelligent self-manager it’s important to make sure that the benefits of this new flexibility are not enjoyed only in our professional lives, but that private life and the other action areas benefit from them too.
Action Area 3. Networking / connecting to community
Whether social media, industry networking or working in associations, today’s executives have to be well-networked and part of a community. It’s one of the new challenges they face. The latest knowledge, exchanges of experience and mutual inspiration are required and help you keep up to date. One aspect of this is a new corporate trend, ‘Microlearning: amassing digital knowledge titbits’. It’s important to remember as part of self-management that these activities themselves require time, space and energy. The time you invest pays off: even contacts you make in relatively loose networks can lead to new and interesting offers and jobs. Networks can also offer good support and an interesting and inspiring source of new ideas and ways of acting.
Action Area 4. Health / physical wellbeing
Digitalisation is exercising an increasing influence on our health and physical wellbeing. Sufficient sleep is key – six hours is the minimum. Perhaps you’ve noticed how often you yawn? Frequent yawning can of course be an indicator of sleep deprivation. It’s also important to pursue a relaxing counterweight to work, such as a hobby, exercise or sport – especially during stressful project phases. There are various apps that can help promote health-conscious behaviour, but when it comes to self-management, it’s really a question of becoming your own health manager and not handing over the responsibility to your partner or family.
Action Area 5. Personal development / mental wellbeing
Mental wellbeing, the mood at your workplace, success and efficiency are all interconnected, and they too are being taken more and more seriously in an age of innovative wearables and artificial intelligence. Products are already being developed to give you a ‘Mood barometer on your wrist’, which could, for instance, measure your stress levels during meetings. As an executive, especially if you don’t work in a team but steer a company yourself – it’s especially important to take care of your own mental wellbeing. As well as avoiding stress and overwork, the opposite can also become a challenge: making sure you don’t get bogged down in the routine of your own managerial responsibilities, and instead granting yourself the time and attention needed to keep developing personally, professionally and as a human being. Coaching and further training for managers – on subjects such as feedback and self-management – can provide important new impetus and a major step towards successful work-life integration.
Interesting question: how much time do I spend in each Action Area?
To finish off with, you might ask yourself the following questions as a first encounter with work-life integration:
- How much time do I spend in each Action Area?
- How satisfied am I with each?
- How autonomous do I feel in each Action Area?
- What aims do I want to set myself in each area?
- How and at what intervals can I evaluate my progress?