Friday, January 17, 2014

How Do You Achieve a Work-Life Balance and Still Be Successful?

Earlier this week, I wrote about feeling overwhelmed lately at work and my decision to try and “uninstall stress.” Life can be hard, especially when you’re trying to cultivate a successful career. And as much as I would love to believe that things would get easier as time goes on (and some things would), the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to just stay where I am. I want to move up and be more successful through the years. That means a LOT of extra work on my part. That means that most likely, I will always have to battle stress—so I’d better get used to it.

"Jump in water over your head," advises  Keith Krach, DocuSign's CEO.  Image: Shutterstock
"Jump in water over your head," advises
Keith Krach, DocuSign's CEO.
Image: Shutterstock
The good news for me—and for anyone else in a similar situation—is that there are plenty of good examples to follow. I don’t believe that any one person will have all the answers I need (we’re all individuals with different needs and abilities), but I do believe that I can learn a little something from everyone.

I read a fantastic article the other day that really opened my eyes to just how differently high-powered individuals around the country handle their massive responsibilities. I’m not planning on becoming a CEO anytime soon, but there’s some great advice here. 

Moving up in my career always feels a little like almost drowning. I get completely inundated by new responsibilities and the pressure to perform kicks in. Usually that comes with a bit of panic, but it also kicks my determination drive up a notch. Keith Krach, DocuSign’s CEO, has some great advice that really hits home for me:

“Jump in water over your head. When you see an opportunity, take the risk and jump. It’s scary, and there will be times you’ll get burned, but the overall payoff can be tremendous,” he said in an interview with Fortune. I have found that living that way gets addictive. The rush of pushing yourself, betting on yourself, and learning from the good, bad, ugly, and epic cannot be matched—that, to me, is really living.”

In other words, you’ll never learn how to swim if you don’t go in water that’s a little too deep.

This next quote comes from Andrew Wilkinson, founder of MetaLab. And I have found it to be incredibly true over the past year:

“You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.”

One of the biggest things I see in myself and others is not taking the time to really look inside ourselves and figure out what we want, need, love, or hate. Marissa Mayer’s advice:
“Burnout is about resentment. [Preventing it is] about knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.”

An underlying theme I see in many top executives’ advice is this: work more efficiently, not just more. Find the easiest solution to a problem. Organize your work life in a way that allows you to get everything done while still being able to take time for play. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s also not impossible.