I’m a single Dad to two amazing kids. Aside from 2 weekends a month, when they visit their Mom, raising them is all on me.
Added to that, my son, Jackson, has Down syndrome so he requires even more attention than most 9 year old boys.
But I’m also a solopreneur, and that means if I don’t work...the lights don’t stay on and the fridge is empty.
How can I fill the role of Dad & Mom...plus be a successful business owner too?
I used to subscribe to the “work-life balance” approach.
"Work-life balance" came into use in the 1970s and 80s, as stressed baby boomers strove to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives. Then Gen X’ers (like me) enhanced this by embracing remote work trends and using time off to focus on family and work outside the office.
It looks at work as one part of our lives and outside interests such as family, friends, hobbies and health as another. The goal is to ensure work didn't take away too much time from life outside the office, while still ensuring we perform at work at the level we want and need.
For me, work was from 8-5, and everything else when I wasn’t working. It was stressful, and very rigid. While it did give me time to work, and time with kids, I wasn’t healthy or happy.
Recently, I heard about a rising trend called “work-life integration” from business advisor and author of The Quick Start Guide to Conscious Leadership, Tom Eddington.
Eddington advises to let go of the idea of “work-life balance” and to understand instead that work and personal lives are integrally connected.
Basically, “work-life integration” is an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define life: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health. This approach emphasizes gentle pivots rather than hard boundaries between different areas of life.
For professionals who have the ability to shape their own workday, the flexibility offered by work-life integration is ideal. For those who are juggling kids, elderly parents, and other activities, it seems like the best way to have and do it all.
I applied this to my schedule gradually over the last few years. Now, I wake up at 4 AM to reply to work for a few hours, then get kids ready and take them to school. I’m back home and working by 8 AM until about noon.
Then I go to the gym during lunch time and after gym, I’ll schedule a lunch meeting or just eat lunch at my desk.
The school bus drops the kids off about 3:30. I’ll spend 30 minutes talking to them about their day and getting them a snack.
Afterwards, we all sit at the breakfast table, and I do some work while they do homework. We all stop about 5 PM, take a swim in the pool, go on a bike ride, or even just play a board game.
Then we make dinner together, rest, and they are in bed at 8 PM. I’ll read or watch a little Netflix, or if needed work more, before I go to sleep at 10 PM.
“We have a multigenerational, multiethnic workforce. And all of those systems and organizations in society are outdated, outmoded, and collapsing before our very eyes,” he says. “Creating a different kind of organizational culture is part of the solution. But fundamentally changing the systems is a critical piece of what needs to be fixed.”
This starts with leaders changing their approach to life and business. Tom teaches his clients to let go of the idea of “work-life balance” and to understand instead that their work and personal lives are integrally connected.
“I’m there to ensure that my clients are living the life they want to be living and dealing effectively with all of its amazing highs and intense lows,” he says. “I show them how to be calm in the midst of whatever troubles they are facing.”
Eddington, who is one of Silicon Valley’s most renowned business advisors and coaches, works with some of the nation’s most influential CEOs and non-profit leaders, advising them on work/life integration and conscious leadership.
The principles that he teaches to create thriving organizations are not what I’ve read in any other business, leadership, or “how to succeed” articles. Traditional business leadership emphasizes intellect and drive, while Eddington focuses on developing emotional intelligence, body intelligence, and – in Tom’s body of work – a connection to heart and spirit.
“The brain is there to serve, analyze, and interpret what the gut is telling us, and the heart is where the brain and gut meet,” he says. ”The journey I take my clients on is to get them to move from their brains to their gut, and then to integrate their heart, their brain, and their gut.”
This pivot in the way I think, pushed me to redefine my life and work balance. I didn’t feel I had to be strapped to my desk from 8 am to 5 pm, and not touch work after.
Following the old work-life balance best practices left my feeling unfulfilled, and created more stress as they struggled to fill the role of business owner and Daddy. Focusing on the idea of integration helped me identify what's important and then create a unique daily schedule from there.