You have a house full of people, wife and six kids — I have just one daughter and she is a very lovely distraction, but I sometimes struggle to get anything done because of her (or thanks to her :) If you write from home, how do you manage to get stuff done and separate family life and professional life?
Leo: Waking early is the first thing I do — I let my wife and kids sleep in and that allows me to get my most important work done while the house is still quiet. When the house is noisier, I do things that don’t require as much concentration, such as email or Twitter. I’m also good at getting into a zone and tuning out the noises. Also, I’m lucky to have a wife who is very good at helping me to focus by getting the kids to quiet down or play or do schoolwork in their rooms.
Finally, I like to get out of the house, if not every day then several times a week, by walking to a coffee shop and really allowing myself to focus on writing for a couple hours.
Apart from a successful career, do you have a family or significant other? How do you manage to keep a healthy family life with your highly successful career?
Stever: I do! We’ve been together for several years and have been fortunate to have very prolific brothers and sisters, so we get our kid-time through our six nieces and nephews. We try to spend at least an hour together before bed, have one date night each week, and take a weeklong trip or two during the year. And hug. Lots of hugs. We both work from home, so we see each other a lot.
I’m also a big opponent of business travel. I’m very, very clear on why I do what I do (I read chapter 1 and built my Life Map, which I use regularly to keep my life aligned around my priorities) and where it fits in my life. Business travel must bring a lot of money, connections, or passion into my life in order for me to be willing to take it on.
I also try to take 100% responsibility for my own actions and for making the relationship work. (If you each take 100% responsibility, then pretty much everything will get handled, with a big percent left over to spare!) Along with my productivity tools, I’ve experimented with many self-help tools. The one that produces the fastest, best results for me is The Work of Byron Katie, which helps me calm down around conflict and be willing to consider both sides of every issue.
How do you combine your personal life with your busy, busy business life? You have 5 daughters, you have a wife and I know from your blog that they are very important to you. So how do you make these things connect?
Michael: Well they are important. I think it is very difficult for people to create some kind of work-life balance, but it is entirely necessary, because if you give all of your time to your work your family eventually blows up and it has negative impact on your work. If on the other hand, you give all your time to your family you don’t work. That’s not so good for your carrier either and eventually impacts your family life. So somehow we have to maintain these things in balance. And I try to give a lot of latitude to my employees but also give hard boundaries to myself.
I didn’t often do this well, but for years now I’ve made a rule where I finish my work day at 6 o'clock in the evening and I leave. I leave because I want to have a dinner with my family, and I want to spend the evening with my family. Now I may get back on the computer later on in the evening but I always make that time for them, and then on the weekends as well.
You just have to have a sustainable lifestyle. And it is not sustainable to be working 120 hours a week, every week and not give time to your own personal health, which is very important. I think your own personal intellectual state, you know, feeding yourself intellectually and spiritually and emotionally and then giving yourself to your family; I think all of this is necessary in order to have sustainability in all these different aspects of our lives.
I wanted to ask you about the work-life balance, for example with your family. How do you balance that?
Jason: I’m not very good at it. That’s the truth, but I’ve gotten a bit better at it lately. I just used to like work a lot, not that we had a lot to do, but I just really loved it. I still do, but I have to make time for people.
You do have to be careful about this, especially when you love business. You can love people and you can love business. And if you are in love with two things it is hard to sort of figure out what gets what. And in many ways it is sort of easier to love a business, because business isn’t emotional, business doesn’t have its own needs or desires… so it is easier to love business and to not focus enough on people. It’s tough and I’m just getting better at it.
Tell me, how is your work-life balance? I mean, you have three kids and a husband, how did you manage to run a successful company for so many years and then have it work with you and the family?
Laura: Again it comes down to really understanding what am I trying to create in whole context of where I spend my time. The biggest thing in my life to me is to be a mother and a wife and if I fail there I fail everywhere. My kids are 10, 11, and 16, and I’m just like everyone else, trying to run a house and I’m married and I’m in business. For example at the beginning of each year I block out 4 weeks of vacation on the calendar and it’s non-negotiable. It’s hard if you don’t create the boundaries for yourself first. You know, people just say “I just don’t have time”, well nobody really has time. You have to make time. Fortunately, we also work from home, and my husband works for the company as well, so he’s here when I’m on the road.
You’ve been in business for so many years and still 24 hours is 24 hours. I mean there is no way to bend it.
Laura: It doesn’t change and for me productivity is all about love. It’s figuring out how to love your work, your family, and to get it all done. And I think you can have it all, just not all at the same time. I really try to force myself as much as possible to compartmentalize while the kids are home, because I see a lot of parents sort of half way paying attention to their children, still really working, or they slip back into the office a little bit. So again, these are personal boundaries that we have to decide what they are for ourselves and then choose not to break them. And that comes down to discipline.
This problem is especially difficult for us, because we love our work so much, that we have to really set up our boundaries for ourselves.
Laura: My husband and I, for example, have a date night. We try to go out every Saturday night, and grandma comes over or my daughter, who is 16, can babysit, but it is on the schedule. See, if your workout time isn’t on the schedule, your date time isn’t on the schedule, your Sunday with the family isn’t on the schedule, you allow your life to evolve kind of willy-nilly and you don’t get all those elements in. It took me 255 pages in the book SuperCompetent to explain these very easy 6 things, but that’s fundamentally what we have to do.
I fly over 100,000 miles a year. It’s a job hazard of a professional speaker: I do travel. I try to be careful about being home at night. You know, fly out, spend a night, wake up, give a presentation in the morning, and fly home.
When you are so busy and you have so many things to do, how do you balance your family life? How do you find time for the ones you love?
Seth: You know it is funny. People never say “how do find time to have lunch or dinner?” or “how do you find time to sleep?” We are not talking of life-lunch balance. So I’m not sure I’m interested in conversation about life-work balance. I think you have to have the discipline to have the life you want to have. And if you are stealing from one part of your life in order to make the other part work, you are going to pay for it.
When you start something new it takes lots of energy from you because you love it so much and there is so much passion behind it. So how do you balance your family life…
Jason: Absolutely. Thanks goodness for what I call “team Jason”. Team Jason is this small cadre of people who get me, understand me, they support me, but I think most importantly they push me. What I have done, I have surrounded myself by people who understand that I’m here for a big purpose and they don’t give me a hard time.
What I mean by that is when I tell some people about how much I do and what I do, one of the 1st things some people say is: “oh my goodness when do you relax, or don’t you ever do nothing?”, because of that question I’m writing a manifesto, about the difference between doing nothing and doing one thing. And it is very subtle when you change those letters around, but doing one thing is like doing nothing to me.
Other things that I do to keep myself engaged, I was doing triathlon during the summer, I train 10 months a year with a plan and then October and November each year are my off months. But that always gives me something to perform towards and I would encourage anybody: because I race every month from April until September, every 30 days I have a race, I always have a next thing to train towards. And I think that is significant, especially, with those of us who have jobs or careers or lives that are always on.
I work with parents and spouses and they are going to be a parent for the rest of their life. So being able to chunk that down and say here is the next milestone, an achievement, call it a goal, but by having that next thing in sight … not long time away… but in sight, I think it is critical to high performance and productivity.
Photo: Flickr / y-cart CC BY-NC-SA 2.0