Mar 10, 2013

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management.

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.
- Betsy Jacobson, actress, author

It's been a few months since I last updated this blog but it hasn't been for lack of meeting incredible, inspiring and interesting people... It also hasn't been for lack of climbing-themed adventures - both on the mountain and in the office.

After returning from Makalu and Ama Dablam in November, I took some time out to reflect on how my love for the mountains fits into my career as a management consultant for one of the 'Big 4'... I'm not your typical 'climber' and I'm not your typical 'consultant' either... I like my 'creature comforts' but there are more than a few days when I'd quite happily swap a pair of Jimmy Choo's for a pair of Millet Everest boots and a Burberry trench for a Sherpa soft-shell... a Birkin bag <swoon!> for a Berghaus... (I could go on and on...)  I love and completely, thorougly, 120% appreciate, embrace, and soak-up every moment I spend in the mountains HOWEVER I also love the time I spend in the office, drawing insights and inspiration from my colleagues, clients and helping individuals and teams to reach both short and long-term goals.

I feel that the contrast between these two environments has helped to shape the way I approach challenges, make decisions, manage risk and manage my time.

High Performing Teams - Achieving & Maintaining a 'Life Balance'
One of the highlights of the past few months has been presenting at one of our internal work events - an  offsite on the theme of 'High Performing Teams' (pictured above with guest speaker, double Olympic medalist, rower Greg Searle). I co-presented an afternoon session on the theme of 'life balance' which really highlighted for me personally what I have learned 'beyond the mountains' through the delicate balance of working and climbing and trying to manage everything in between..!

My colleague who has two beautiful daughters and I discussed 'life balance' from two very different perspectives. My personal case study focused on how I managed to take chunks of time off at a time, employing techniques such as careful stakeholder management (managing expectations from the outset), project management (being strict with time), 'non-negotiables' (Wednesdays I leave at 5pm for PT), formal HR-tools (unpaid leave), and creative boundary-management such as presenting at work events on the 'Basecamp to Boardroom' and leadership themes. My colleague talked about her passion - her children and the joys received from picking up her children from school, having evenings and weekends to spend with her children, and how to manage expectations around time commitments (both internal and external) with key stakeholders from the outset. She shared personal examples of times when she had to be more flexible with her time and when saying 'no' was the right thing to do. Among the themes that we had in common was the importance of boundary management (e.g. leaving work at work) and the importance of being organised and maximising project management skills in all aspects of life.

Simple steps you can take to achieve a life balance...
What I personally most enjoyed about our presentation was the follow up discussions in the group breakout sessions. Having head some of the ways in which we manage our work-life balance to fulfil our passions outside of work we asked participants to break out into table groups to make a list of things that they will change next week to introduce more balance into their lives. A quiet, very focused group of consultants soon opened up and began to share their passions - family life, running marathons, yoga, sailing... As they spoke and shared their stories their eyes began to sparkle and I felt as though I saw a whole new side to them.  In 15 minutes participants came up with their own plans to achieve a better balance - this included speaking to their managers about being 'life-balance champions' on their project teams, introducing 'non-negotiables', setting up support-networks when working on long-projects off-site, joining gyms closer to client sites, setting up running-clubs and yoga-clubs, working from home on Fridays... one colleague even decided to revisit a lifelong dream he had about sailing across the Atlantic - a personal ambition he put on hold because he didn't think it would be possible in the perceived confines of employment.

It was hugely rewarding to see people leave the session with a sense of control over their own destinies - and a renewed focus on loving what you do and doing what you love.

It also reminded me how fortunate I have been to have found an employer with the time and interest in helping me to 'unlock' this realisation and inspire others to do the same...!

Onwards and upwards.


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