Wouldn’t it be great if work-life balance just happened? You could just wake up one day and suddenly feel like you loved your work, loved your family, and loved your life — your time and energy perfectly and magically distributed among all the important domains of your life, giving you simultaneously the satisfaction of being a great parent, an excellent professional, and a luxuriating person of leisure.
Yep, that would be great. But it’s not gonna happen. Work-life balance is a verb, not a noun. It’s something you do, not something you acquire. It requires planning, action, discipline, and follow-through. It ain’t easy, but you can do it. By focusing on the wildly important things in your life, acting on leading measures (instead of lagging ones), keeping score, and sticking to a rhythm of accountability, you greatly improve your chances. Let’s talk about that third discipline: keeping score.
Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series of articles that adapts the 4 Disciplines of Execution to your quest for work-life balance. If you missed the previous three, get the introductory overview with “How to Get Important Stuff Done When Everything Is Urgent.” Next, read “4 Disciplines of Work-Life Balance.” Finally, you’ll be caught up after you read “The Second Discipline of Work-Life Balance.” You’ll be glad you go the background info before you read on with this installment.
A Framework for Work-Life Balancing
In the book 4 Disciplines of Execution, authors Covey, McChesney, and Huling outline four key activities organizations can use to actually make progress on strategic goals, while still staying on top of the whirlwind of busyness that happens in in every organization. As it turns out, our individual lives are not much different from the lives of organizations, and we can benefit from applying the same four disciplines to our work-life balancing. Those four disciplines, in sequential order, are:
- Focus on the wildly important. What’s the one priority you want to significantly effect in the next year? Set a wildly important goal (WIG) to express your commitment.
- Act on the lead measures. What will tell you if you’re making a difference on your wildly important goal while you’re working on it? Find the measures that are predictive of success on your WIG and that you can directly influence with your actions, and track those instead of just praying for progress on the ultimate outcome of your lag measure.
- Create a compelling scoreboard. How can you make your progress clearly visible? Make a visual representation of your lead and lag measures that is easy to update and tells you at a glance whether you’re on track to achieve your WIG or not.
- Create a cadence of accountability. How will you keep yourself honest and focused on your WIG? Establish a weekly rhythm of noting your accomplishments, committing to actions for the following week, and keeping your scoreboard up-to-date.
The Power of a Simple Scoreboard
In every sport, there are dozens — and even hundreds — of measures that matter. I know absolutely nothing about sports, but I know that in football, for example, turnovers, pass completions, first downs, third-down conversions, and yards rushing are just some of the many metrics that folks keep track of, in addition to the lag measure, which is the actual score of the game.
But what shows up on the scoreboard at a football game? Just a few things: the score, who has possession, the down, yards left to a first down, and maybe timeouts remaining. At a glance, all the players and everyone watching the game can tell who is winning, who has the ball, and something about the likelihood that someone is going to score.
That’s the kind of scoreboard you need to help you achieve your wildly important goal.
Before You Set Up Your Scoreboard
Let’s say your theme for the year is to spend more time with your family. Accordingly, you’ve established a wildly important goal (WIG) that looks something like this:
Increase amount of time spent with family from 8 hours a week to 12 hours a week by December 13, 2016
Nice job making your goal specific and time-focused, with a “from what” and “to what” that makes the finish line crystal clear. You’ll know you’ve been successful when you look at your lag measure (weekly hours spent with family) on December 13th and see a 12. Congratulations on getting through Discipline #1!
But you’ve realized that simply focusing on that lagging measure is not going to get you there. It’s like driving by only looking in the rearview mirror. So you’ve looked at all the possible daily activities that are predictive of success and that you can influence, and you’ve chosen just a couple or three leading measures to act on. Maybe they’re “putting the kids to bed” and “leaving work by 5:30.”
Awesome! You’ve worked your way through Discipline #2, and you now have your lag measure (hours per week spent with family) and your lead measures. Your next step is to put those on a scoreboard.
Setting Up Your Work-Life Balance Scoreboard
So you know your lagging measure — that ultimate outcome you’re looking for — and your two or three key leading measures — those things that are predictive of WIG success and that you can influence with daily behavior. But the trouble is this: life happens.
The truth is that you won’t be able to focus exclusively on this goal and only this goal. All kinds of live priorities and events will require your attention, time, and energy. In your efforts to focus on the wildly important, you’ll constantly be buffeted by the tyranny of the urgent.
But a compelling scoreboard will keep you coming back to the thing that’s most important. The secret to creating a compelling scoreboard comes down to just a few important tips:
- Keep it simple. Whether it’s a whiteboard in your home office or a scrap of paper tacked on the refrigerator door, make your scoreboard easy to read, easy to update, and easy to bump into every day.
- Include both leading and lagging measures. Show yourself both how disciplined you are with the daily activities (the leading measures) AND the progress you’re making on the WIG (the lagging measure). This will keep you motivated, knowing you’re making a difference.
- Make it easy to tell if you’re winning or losing. Use colors, draw little graphs, create emojis — whatever it takes to tell you at a glance how you’re doing. You shouldn’t have to scrutinize your scoreboard with a magnifiying glass to tell what’s going on.
- Make it public. Place your scoreboard somewhere visible to everyone who might have a stake in the achievement of your WIG. If it’s about spending time with family, put it where your spose and kids can see it. If it’s about achieving something at work, display it prominently in your office or cubicle. Sharing our goals and our progress with others who care increases the odds that they’ll support us AND sets us up for the fourth discipline, which is all about accountability.
- Update it at least weekly.
Don’t Just Read This — Do Something!
Are you ready to set up your work-life balance scoreboard? If not, what’s holding you back?
If you’re like most people I know, most of my clients, or even like me, you’ve probably read this series of articles, enjoyed the content, and done nothing with it. It’s time to take action. This should not take more than 15 minutes of focused time. Block some time on your calendar THIS WEEK and do the following:
- Figure out what’s wildly important to you — the one thing about your life you want to change in the next year.
- Write a goal that clearly states what success will look like and what your deadline is.
- Figure out the daily actions you can take and track that will move you toward that goal.
- Work up a simple, visual, public scoreboard for tracking your progress.
Seriously, how long will that take you? And what are the odds that the time invested will significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll finally achieve that goal? Take action, and let me know how it’s going.
P.S. Interested, but don’t have time to read The 4 Disciplines of Execution? No sweat. I created a mindmap summary of it for you to download. I hope you’re able to put it to use, both at work and at home.