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The importance of work-life balance

I've written before about the importance of maintaining work-life balance, but with the holidays upon us, I thought the topic was worth revisiting.

Jim Collins has a great quote about work-life balance in an interview, Good to Great Expectations. We all make a choice on our own work-life balance, and how to maintain it. I especially loved this quote:

Q: You've got to admit, though, that technology has made it [life-work balance] harder today.

A: I don't think it's obviously harder today at all. Technology helps, not hurts, as long as you have the discipline to turn these things off. You don't report to your BlackBerry.

"You don't report to your BlackBerry" is a great quote to keep in mind. It applies equally well to any method of accessing email. Too often, I see evidence of people doing work email late into the evening. (I'm guilty of this sometimes, myself.) We need to manage our email, not let our email manage us, or we won't have a life-work balance, and we'll eventually burn out.

If we take the opportunity to "unplug" from our work routine, to completely relax, we can return to work refreshed and ready to tackle the big issues.

As an example, several weeks ago, my wife and I spent the weekends with friends at their lakeside cabin. I felt I had some things I needed to "get done" before Monday, so I brought my laptop with me. I turned it on, and tried to write a strategy document for maybe 5 minutes. Then I realized I was wasting this rare opportunity to relax. The laptop stayed turned off the rest of the weekend.

When I returned to the office, I noticed I was able to focus on topics more effectively, and quickly got caught up on projects - including that strategic positioning document. It was a great reminder on the importance of maintaining a work-life balance.

This holiday season, I intend to remain unplugged from work. Sure, I'll keep my cell phone at hand in case of issues, so staff can reach me. But no email, no documents. What's your commitment to work-life balance for this holiday break?