How Work-Life Integration Can Help You Have It All

It’s been about forty years since the term work-life balance was first used. Since then, it has been used broadly to refer to everything from the need for more leisure or family time to self-care.

Critics of the term say that it creates an artificial separation between work and life, as if work were not a part of life. Others say it incorrectly implies a zero-sum equation in which life loses out while you’re working, and vice versa.

In response, the concept of work-life integration has become more popular in recent years. But what, exactly, does it mean, and is it a helpful framework to aspire to?

How work-life integration differs from work-life balance

According to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, 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. A practitioner of work-life integration might choose to have breakfast with the family and drop off the kids at school, then work from 9am to noon, then eat lunch and go to the gym, then attend a work meeting in the afternoon, then pick up the kids and make dinner, and respond to emails for a couple hours before bedtime.

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.

Why work-life integration is not a perfect solution

But there can be a slippery slope to work-life integration, especially for entrepreneurs. When your to-do list seems endless, you may be tempted to fill every nook and cranny of life with work without giving your health, community, and family the same level of prioritization.

You could end up integrating work into every area of your life without integrating much of life into your workday. Or you may find yourself constantly thinking about work even when you want to pay attention to others priorities. Why is this the case?

Our work responsibilities tend to feel far more urgent than the everyday needs of our loved ones or ourselves. As Stephen Covey writes in his classic First Things First, “Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy.”

If we are addicted to the urgent, those pressing things will always seize our attention first. We all default to paying attention to our jobs first–unless we intentionally choose to do otherwise.

How to make it work for you

So how can you make work-life integration truly work for you? Here are three simple suggestions:

1. Create a schedule.

To ensure that you are truly reserving time in your day to focus on priorities outside of work, put these things in your calendar. Though it may feel strange to formally schedule activities like “family dinner” or “workout at the gym,” doing so will make it far more likely that these activities actually happen.

2. Coordinate with your significant other and family.

If you have a partner, make sure that your schedule complements his or hers, and that you are prioritizing the greatest needs of your family. Work-life integration should make your family life richer and smoother, not harder.

3. Remain committed to some boundaries.

Even the most practiced integrator of work and life needs time to truly unplug from job responsibilities. Your mind and body need rest from work on a regular basis in order to recharge. Set aside time each day and week to block out thoughts of work and focus exclusively on the people and activities that matter most to you.

We all want our lives to be richly filled with meaningful work and relationships. Work-life integration, just like work-life balance, is a helpful framework to help us do this, but the secret to prioritizing what we value most is in the execution.

None of us will do this perfectly, but with practice, we can get a little closer to trying to have it all.

How Workplace Happy Hours Are Driving Employee Happiness Up 66 Percent

If you have ever seen an episode of the cult TV show Mad Men, you’ll be familiar with this scenario: Don Draper, after a long day (well, sometimes just the morning commute), walking into his office, opening up his bar, and pouring a stiff drink to unwind. In meetings, next to the coffee and pastries would be an array of liquors on offer for anyone who wished to partake. And every lunch and dinner meeting would be punctuated by cocktails and wine.

For some, this scene is something that is a cultural relic — it went out of fashion with bellbottoms and cigarette ads on television. However, in startup culture, whether it is nostalgia or something else, at least part of it is making a comeback.

89 percent of Millennial employees cite workplace happiness as a reason they stay with a job, with 66 percent saying that unique perks like food and beer are what keep them interested.

At my former company, Evernote, we had something we called “Beer Friday.” In all of our offices around the world, we instituted an in-office happy hour where we had craft brews available (many brewed by employees of the company,) and elaborate Charcuterie plates. These gatherings were used as a way to wind down at the end of a busy week, and for people in different departments to mingle with each other.

We kept the keg and tap on site all the time — and at least during my time — there wasn’t anyone who abused the privilege. Other companies, like Yelp and Sendgrid, have keg fridges available all the time, while The Muse goes further and offers Whiskey during their Friday sessions. This has led to some companies like the Arnold Worldwide Ad Agency to install beer vending machines.

Enter Anheuser Busch. With their new Office Bud-E program, Andrew Green, Head of Innovation hopes to help companies on two fronts. He explains, “A lot of startups and communities are starting to have happy hours in the office, and we thought as Anheuser Busch we can certainly find a way to play in that space and add value.”

Eligible companies get a free wi-fi enabled refrigerator, designed to hold — you guessed it — beer. Office managers purchase beer from local distributors — not from Anheuser Busch directly, at their own pace. There is no subscription required, and there’s no charge for the service.

For this, the data is valuable to Anheuser Busch. They will be able to quantify how much beer is purchased specifically for office usage — something no one has been able (or possibly tried) to measure before. “This also functions as a regular fridge,” added Green. “If someone puts their lunch in there, that’s useful data as well.” He explained that the sensors would be able to measure that something foreign is in the machine, and the rough size and shape.

Currently, they are only in certain test markets on the east coast. However, he mentioned, “We’re now preparing for a national launch in states where our delivery partners operate.” All interested companies are encouraged to apply at the Bud-E website. 

For those considering an office happy hour policy, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Heed your State and Local Laws

While it is generally assumed that adults will act responsibly, especially in an employee setting, 18 states place liability on the host who serves the alcohol – which means your company.

At Yelp, their Kegerator requires people to sign in before using it — giving them detailed records of how much it has been used (and by whom.) Consider the type of policy that is right for you.

2. Make It Optional

Even if your happy hour is taking place during work hours, if there is alcohol being served, there may be employees who cannot attend at all. Allow them a discreet way out.

For those who abstain from drink, ensure there are non-alcoholic refreshments available as well.

3. Encourage Non-Work Conversations

While it may be tempting to chat about the report that is overdue, or the client deadline coming up, a happy hour is a time for relaxing and socializing.

Not great with topic ideas? At Evernote, we created “Evernote University” — a series of extracurricular clubs offered to employees, which helped stir conversation.

4. Let it Go

At some point, your company may outgrow “Beer O’Clock.” This doesn’t preclude teams from going out together, though, so continue to encourage social groups as your company grows.

In all, happy hours are a great way for your employees to break away from their desks and bond with each other. And that, really, is the key to successful employee engagement.

Steph Curry’s Pre-Game Ritual Is a Valuable Lesson in Staying Calm and Present in the Moment

NBA superstar Steph Curry is an elite athlete who inspires with his actions on and off court, most often as a role model athlete under the bright lights. And believe it or not, he can even help crazy-busy entrepreneurs (and all of us) remember how to live in the moment.

How?

His pre-game ritual he shares with his wife–it’s pretty cool.

Steph will motion to his wife Ayesha, flash a tattoo on his arm to her, and then pat it. She has the same tattoo and then returns the gesture. The matching tats are written in Hebrew and translate to “Love never fails.”

The Curry’s explained their routine in an interview with Parents magazine, in which Steph said:

“I have to show it. This signifies that the past is behind us and the future is in front of us, so we stay right in the middle, in the moment. I do a little sign and I smack my tattoo and she does the same right before the game.”

The ritual keeps him grounded and connected to something much more important and as Ayesha added, “It’s a reminder for him to have fun. His job should be fun and I never want him to forget that.”

Wow–so even one of the game’s best players on the best team, who is adored by millions, needs reminders to stay present, connected, and to have fun?

I guess there’s hope for me after all.

The quiet peak behind the Curry-curtain is a great lesson for us all to put in place our own mechanisms for staying present in the moment, no matter what we do for a living. Here are 3 ways to do just that.

1. Accept that multi-tasking is a myth.

We sacrifice our power of full presence when we’re multi-tasking. Forget for a moment that it can be incredibly rude, we’re not actually accomplishing what we think we are–we fool ourselves.

Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

Period.

But what we can do is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.  Says Miller, “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not.”  The brain is forced to switch among multiple cognitive tasks as these tasks use the same part of the brain.

The catch here is that this task-switching, despite how fast it occurs, is incredibly unproductive in reality–I mean like social networking unproductive. In fact, estimates range as high as saying that up to 40 percent of productivity could be lost due to task-switching.  It actually takes more time to complete the tasks you’re switching between and you make more errors than when you focus on doing one task at a time in order.

The key is to accept the fundamental fact that multi-tasking produces the illusion of productivity.  

2. Catch the drift.

I don’t mean make sure you understand, although that’s always good. I mean make a point to notice when your attention is drifting. Excuse yourself and admit where you are mentally if you have to–faking it is frustrating and people will see through it.

Write yourself simple reminders to stay present like “Don’t zone out, zone in”, or “Be mindful, not mind full”, or “Run your mind, don’t let it run you”. Anytime you catch yourself drifting, ask yourself, “What has my attention right now?” (This one works wonders for me personally)

3. When frazzled, freeze.

It’s so easy to zone out when you’re tired, like when you’re running into your sixth back-to-back meeting. If you find yourself in this spot, don’t let that next meeting get started without freezing for a moment.

Ask for a pause, go get a drink of water and clear your head or go check your lotto numbers for that matter. Assuming you didn’t win, you’re then ready to return to work–armed with a little mental stamina boost.

End the previous meeting a bit early to allow space for this if you’re starting to feel burned out. If you don’t, once that next meeting starts, you’ll quickly fall behind, and it’s hard to catch up without alerting everyone to the fact that you haven’t been paying attention.

You can also plan for these breathers by putting space on your calendar in between meetings. The space between your ears will be more engaged in the long run, as I discovered.

So, yes, we all need reminders to “stay in the game” every now and then. It means your presence will be more of a present.

7 Things You Must Do Every Morning If You Want to Be Successful

It can take months for a new habit to stick, making it difficult to trade your old bad behaviors in for new, healthier ones. But if you shift that new habit to first thing in the morning, you may speed up that process. In fact, one study found that new morning habits would stick 50 days sooner than nighttime behaviors.

Even if you aren’t a morning person, you can squeeze a few things in after the alarm goes off.

Here are seven new habits you should try if you want to kick your day off the right way.

Wake Up Your Mind

Even if you’re one of many people who do your best work later in the day, you can still make the most of those early-morning hours. Find those few things that wake you up every morning, whether it’s a cold shower, a healthy breakfast, a brisk walk, or some other energy booster. 

Go for a Walk

After four experiments, Doctors Marily Opezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz found a distinct connection between walking and creative thinking. promoting new connections between brain cells and giving us the time and space we need to think. Try to resist the temptation to check email, chat on the phone, or listen to audiobooks while you walk, simply letting your mind wander to the day ahead. Chances are, you’ll show up at your desk with a head full of great ideas.

Plan Your Day

As you’re sipping coffee, take a look at your calendar and think through the day ahead. Make a list of items you want to accomplish over the course of the day and prioritize them. If you can, try to resist the urge to check your email until you’ve planned your day and prepared your mind and body to tackle the tasks ahead. Once you leap into your inbox, you can find you quickly lose control of your day.

Write in a Journal

Some of the best minds of all time credit journaling as the secret to their success. Take a note from their playbook and sit down every morning with pen and paper in hand. If you prefer, you can type your journal or speak into a recorder. The goal, though, is to unplug and spend time with just yourself and your thoughts, so resist the urge to check email and hang out on social media during your journaling time.

Meditate

As a busy professional, it can seem like setting time aside to do nothing is a waste. But in actuality, those precious minutes could make a big difference in your productivity throughout the day. So take a few minutes soon after the alarm goes off to sit quietly and shed all thoughts. A team of psychologists reviewed multiple studies and found that meditation improves decision-making abilities. I’ve personally found that it helps me see stress differently. To some degree it’s our choice how much we want to buy into anxious thoughts, whether they are about work, relationships, or something else.

Eat Breakfast

If you typically rush out the door each morning, chances are breakfast is something you reserve for weekends. But some of the most successful leaders cite a healthy morning meal as part of their daily routine. Many of these breakfasts include a healthy protein such as eggs. If you don’t have time to sit down to a home-cooked meal, try to keep foods around that you can grab on the go, such as protein shakes and bars. I like to have nuts, seeds, almond butter and blueberries, with milk.

Network Over Coffee

Now that the American Heart Association has told us that a morning cup of coffee is good for us, why not combine it with another positive activity? Spend your coffee (or tea) time networking, whether by reaching out to colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter or through scheduling meetings with potential business partners. You’ll get your morning “pick me up” while also expanding your network.

However you choose to kick off your day, make sure it starts things off the right way. Even a quiet commute to work can help get your mind going rather than cluttering it with morning talk shows and news updates.

7 Things You Must Do Every Morning If You Want to Be Successful

It can take months for a new habit to stick, making it difficult to trade your old bad behaviors in for new, healthier ones. But if you shift that new habit to first thing in the morning, you may speed up that process. In fact, one study found that new morning habits would stick 50 days sooner than nighttime behaviors.

Even if you aren’t a morning person, you can squeeze a few things in after the alarm goes off.

Here are seven new habits you should try if you want to kick your day off the right way.

Wake Up Your Mind

Even if you’re one of many people who do your best work later in the day, you can still make the most of those early-morning hours. Find those few things that wake you up every morning, whether it’s a cold shower, a healthy breakfast, a brisk walk, or some other energy booster. 

Go for a Walk

After four experiments, Doctors Marily Opezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz found a distinct connection between walking and creative thinking. promoting new connections between brain cells and giving us the time and space we need to think. Try to resist the temptation to check email, chat on the phone, or listen to audiobooks while you walk, simply letting your mind wander to the day ahead. Chances are, you’ll show up at your desk with a head full of great ideas.

Plan Your Day

As you’re sipping coffee, take a look at your calendar and think through the day ahead. Make a list of items you want to accomplish over the course of the day and prioritize them. If you can, try to resist the urge to check your email until you’ve planned your day and prepared your mind and body to tackle the tasks ahead. Once you leap into your inbox, you can find you quickly lose control of your day.

Write in a Journal

Some of the best minds of all time credit journaling as the secret to their success. Take a note from their playbook and sit down every morning with pen and paper in hand. If you prefer, you can type your journal or speak into a recorder. The goal, though, is to unplug and spend time with just yourself and your thoughts, so resist the urge to check email and hang out on social media during your journaling time.

Meditate

As a busy professional, it can seem like setting time aside to do nothing is a waste. But in actuality, those precious minutes could make a big difference in your productivity throughout the day. So take a few minutes soon after the alarm goes off to sit quietly and shed all thoughts. A team of psychologists reviewed multiple studies and found that meditation improves decision-making abilities. I’ve personally found that it helps me see stress differently. To some degree it’s our choice how much we want to buy into anxious thoughts, whether they are about work, relationships, or something else.

Eat Breakfast

If you typically rush out the door each morning, chances are breakfast is something you reserve for weekends. But some of the most successful leaders cite a healthy morning meal as part of their daily routine. Many of these breakfasts include a healthy protein such as eggs. If you don’t have time to sit down to a home-cooked meal, try to keep foods around that you can grab on the go, such as protein shakes and bars. I like to have nuts, seeds, almond butter and blueberries, with milk.

Network Over Coffee

Now that the American Heart Association has told us that a morning cup of coffee is good for us, why not combine it with another positive activity? Spend your coffee (or tea) time networking, whether by reaching out to colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter or through scheduling meetings with potential business partners. You’ll get your morning “pick me up” while also expanding your network.

However you choose to kick off your day, make sure it starts things off the right way. Even a quiet commute to work can help get your mind going rather than cluttering it with morning talk shows and news updates.

12 Simple Habits That Will Make Your Professional Life and Personal Life Better

I’d be the first to admit that as a young entrepreneur, I was in it for myself. Credit? Yep, I’ll take some. Money? I could always use more of that. Attention? Sure, put the camera on me.

It’s sad and strange to think about now. Over time, I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with people who value building real relationships — relationships that are mutually beneficial, that improve the lives of those involved in them. Not only has that attitude been inspiring, but it’s also been some of the best education I’ve ever received.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a business leader, middle manager, or someone just starting out, you get to choose the habits you create. Those habits affect you, the brand you build for yourself, and the people you work with, too, so think hard about who and what you want to be. To help you, here are 12 habits I’ve found to be valuable that could make a difference for you, too:

1. Listen to people and help when you can.

As you listen to people, pay close attention to what they say they value. Maybe it’s an introduction or some simple advice. End every conversation with the words “How can I be helpful to you?” and you’ll find out. Sometimes it’s easy to connect the dots for another person — but you can only do that if you listen.

2. Write down opportunities to help when you hear them.

When you take notes upon hearing somebody’s need, that information starts moving from your short-term to your long-term memory. By making it a habit to write things down, it becomes much easier to act because everything you need to know to be helpful is easily accessible at the top of your mind.

3. Embrace haters.

Sarah Silverman gave us all a great example of this recently by simply responding with compassion and kindness to a hater on Twitter. Making it a habit to avoid jumping to anger and instead responding thoughtfully almost always results in better outcomes for everyone.

4. Stay in touch with the people who matter most to you.

I recently sent out a survey to 20 different people in my network about what they value most in a business relationship, and 19 out of 20 said that staying in touch was the best thing their contacts had done to create a lasting, meaningful connection. Sometimes a simple “Hey, how are you doing?” at the right time can go a long way.

5. Follow through with your commitments.

I delivered a keynote at an event where organizers were convinced they were out a speaker because of a crazy snowstorm. I told them they could count on me, so I landed in a different city and drove the rest of the way to make it on time. If you can avoid backing out of your commitments at the last minute, you’ll preserve trust, and your relationships will be stronger.

6. Extend thoughtfulness to others in your contacts’ lives, too.

It doesn’t matter how thoughtful you are toward someone if you’ve treated everyone else in his or her network poorly. All of your contacts have people in their lives who support, work alongside, and love them: secretaries, administrators, spouses. Don’t give into selfishness and ignore these individuals simply because you’re after something from your contact.

7. Be OK with not getting the credit.

If you want to improve your business and your life, you’re going to have to let go of needing credit and praise for everything. Credit honestly shouldn’t be the motivating factor behind all your good deeds, anyway. When you constantly yearn for credit, it not only defeats the purpose of genuine helpfulness, but it also can set a bad example for others around you.

8. Use words of affirmation.

The easiest thing to do when you notice someone being helpful is to say “That was really nice of you” or “I’m sure they appreciated what you did.” Acknowledging others for their work is the right thing to do, and sometimes that’s all it takes to increase the chances of that person scaling that habit.

9. Don’t give gifts just to give them.

Last year, I received 10 Starbucks gift cards from people, and I don’t even like coffee. Don’t get in the habit of just checking the box when you send a gift. Instead, when you give gifts, think through what the recipient will actually enjoy, find valuable, or appreciate.

10. Advocate consistently.

Too often, we complain about things and forget to be champions of good service. Take a step back, think about the products and people that have helped you, and advocate for them. Doing so not only sends a well-deserved reward, but it also increases the chances that the person will feel more connected to you, too.

11. Remember important events.

He’s got a birthday or anniversary coming up, she just got a promotion, his kid is about to have surgery — whatever it is, take the time to send a note on these important events in people’s lives. A simple card, text, call, or email at the right time can transform a traditional business relationship into a genuine friendship between business professionals.

12. Apply positive habits across the board.

Each of these habits will serve you well in business, but you that doesn’t mean you should turn them off when it comes to your personal life. Friends, family, spouses, etc. all need the love, too. By applying these habits across your life, they’ll become second nature to you.

These habits have resulted in long-time client, partner, and employee relationships that have dramatically affected my company’s bottom line. When looking at the relationships that really moved the needle in my business and personal life, they were improved by one or more of the habits above. I hope they work as well for you, too.

Don’t Pursue Work-Life Balance (it’s a Fallacy)

On March 9th through 10th, thousands of Americans will do the near impossible: put their smart phones away and unplug for 24 hours. This National Day of Unplugging invites people to take a breather from technology from sundown today to sundown tomorrow so they can focus on connecting with friends, families and neighbors in real life.

There’s no question that we spend entirely too much time on our devices, which can get in the way of our ability to enjoy experiences fully. Our always-on culture makes it challenging to create boundaries; a recent study from Ernst & Young shows for instance that 1 in 3 global employees believe it’s gotten tougher in recent years to keep work and life in balance.

That statistic may sound problematic, but I actually see it as an opportunity to reimagine the way we think about work (and life). While a 24-hour respite from technology would probably do us all good, the reality is that most of our lives and jobs now require us to be “on” much of the time. The whole idea of achieving work-life balance today is a bit of a fallacy.

And that’s OK. We spend so much time thinking about how we can better unplug from work and create clearer boundaries. What if we shifted our thinking from work-life balance to work-life integration? That shift has been key to my happiness, both professionally and personally. Rather than try to separate the two, I’m always thinking about how my life experiences relate to and fuel my work experiences — and vice versa — and how I can create a workplace culture that effectively fuses work and life.

Technology makes integration possible  

The beautiful thing about technology is the way it enables us to do our jobs and live our lives at the same time (as long as company policy allows for it and bosses don’t exploit it). Being able to work from home — or anywhere — when needed means we can travel more, spend time with the people we love and easily tend to personal matters. It also means we can stay in touch with our family and friends when we’re away from work. FaceTime changed my life because it truly makes me feel like I can be with my family when I’m traveling for work.

Living the life — at work  

On the flipside, work-life integration also means creating workspaces that promote health, happiness and freedom. This is part of the reason why we’re seeing so many companies follow Google and Facebook’s lead and invest in spaces and experiences that allow employees to enrich their lives while they’re at the office. From on-site barbers to extracurricular woodshop classes to yoga studios to rooftop patios complete with grills, these types of perks are indicative of a new norm where employees are encouraged to bring their full selves to work. This type of culture helps promote freedom, happiness and creativity, which generally leads to higher quality work and deeper employee engagement and connection with peers.

Life experiences fuel work

One of the most important and overlooked aspects of work-life integration is the value of experiences outside the office. Some of my best work-related ideas have come to me while watching a basketball game, visiting a museum, seeing a play or meeting someone new during vacation. If you want to stay on your toes as a leader and feel a greater sense of purpose in your work, you have to get out of the office and seek new avenues for inspiration. If you only think about work when you’re at work, you limit your ability to spot solutions to problems, invent and innovate.   

Although it’s certainly important to unplug from work once in a while, it’s more important to evaluate whether your career allows you to successfully integrate your work and life with integrity, and enjoy both to the fullest. Spending energy trying to build and maintain a firewall between the two isn’t just futile in today’s environment – I think it signals that you’re not in the right role. If your main focus is creating separation, there’s a good chance you may feel happier doing something else.

While technology has its challenges, I for one am grateful for the way it has blurred boundaries, ultimately helping me and my team feel more connected and inspired in both our work and our lives.

Of course if you need a short term timeout from tech, I’m a huge advocate of adventure travel to recalibrate your senses and renew your spirit. Whether you take yourself offshore to explore foreign coastlines by catamaran, or lace up your hiking boots to discover the wonders of trekking in Nature far from the nearest cell signal, there is nothing quite like disconnecting from the everyday and forming new connections outside your comfort zone to refill your energy reserves. Thirty years of wandering into new communities and living (even briefly) like a local have taught me that the awesome power of travel for energy and learning is endless.

So, integrate and explore more, and I’ll bet you won’t feel quite so desperate to draw a line between what fuels you and what feeds your wallet and your family.