There is more to life than just work.  Over the course of my military career, Sarah and I have spent many years living in Europe.  It is interesting to note that in Europe, folks work to live.  In America, we tend to live to work.  Think about it.  There is a distinct difference.

One of my leadership principles from my book is achieve a work-life balance.  Leaders must demonstrate that it is OK to work hard, and play hard.  They must highlight the fact that they have a Family and friends that are as important to them as their work.  And always remember, your effectiveness as a leader is measured in deeds, not words.  You can’t just say that your Family is important to you, and then make work your priority.

It is important to have priorities in life.  You must look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what are the most important things to you, and then ensure that you allocate time for those things.  My priorities in life have always been first my relationship with God, then my Family, and then my profession.  Those priorities have served me well.

I use the story of walnuts and rice to emphasize the point of prioritization.  The story goes like this.  If you have a task to fill a vase with walnuts and rice, you have a choice.  If you put the rice in first, the walnuts won’t fit.  However, if you put in a couple of walnuts, then sprinkle in some rice, then put in a few more walnuts and sprinkle in some more rice, before you know it they all fit.

The analogy to life is the walnuts represent those things that are most important to you, and the rice represents those things that must do to sustain yourself (like work).  The key is knowing what are your walnuts, and what is your rice.  Sarah and I spend a lot of time reminding our selves what our walnuts are, and working to ensure we are spending time on them.

I recommend you take time to have a Family meeting, and determine what are your walnuts.   What are those things that are most important to you?  Then, place them on your calendar, and do them. You’ll be glad you did.

It is possible to achieve a work-life balance.  You can have a very productive professional career, and have a wonderful personal life as well.  The key is time management.  Make a conscious decision to focus on what is important.  Manage your days, weeks and months to ensure you are making time for it all.  It can be done.