Work-Life Integration, Not Work-Life Balance

A possible answer to the question that divides entrepreneurs

The idea of work-life balance has been on my mind for the better part of the last 6 years.

Why 6 years? Well, my wife and I got married 6 years ago. That’s when we started to think about kids and more specifically when I started to ask myself how I could be a great father while also running a business (BigCommerce) which at the time had over 200 employees (450+ today).

Fast forward to 2016 and we have two beautiful little girls aged 3 years and 6 months old. I’m running 3 companies and also advise and have invested in another 15 companies.

And I found that work-life balance isn’t the goal, but instead it’s all about work-life integration. Let me explain.

Work-life balance seems to revolve around the idea that you “balance” your time between your business (or job) and your family/friends/etc. You carve out dedicated time for work then dedicated time for family, typically working in the day and family at night.

While that’s great in theory, if you’re a passionate entrepreneur, your business will ALWAYS DEMAND A NEVER-ENDING AMOUNT OF YOUR TIME. In other words, you’re never “done” with your business.

So if you’re never done with your business, then the idea of work-life balance doesn’t apply — unless you want to build a lifestyle business (which is completely fine, by the way. Do what makes you happy).

If you want to build something important that impacts a lot of people and makes a difference, work-life integration is a better approach. At least based on my experience.

How do you do it? Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Schedule your important family events in your calendar. As recurring events that are always there every week, month, etc.
  • Treat those personal events in your calendar the same way you would a meeting with a client or employee, i.e. you can’t delete them, you need to turn up on time and they are non-negotiable.
  • Mix up your day with a combo of work and personal activities such as meetings, thinking time, planning, creative work, gym, kids events, date night, etc.
  • Don’t confine yourself to rules around “work time” and “personal time”. For example, start every day at 7am and end at 10pm, but as above, mix in work and personal events.
  • Explain the idea of work-life integration to your partner and kids and ask them to respect the time when you’re working — because you’ve made your best effort to allocate enough time for them as a result of your new style of doing things, they should never feel neglected or left out.
  • Take your kids to work events where possible — you get time with them, they can see what you do and you can teach them about your industry.
  • Do this for 30 days then step back and assess what’s working, what’s not and why — and then tweak and optimize until you’re happy with it.

Caveat: This applies to entrepreneurs and freelancers/contractors running their own companies only. I understand that as an employee you may not be able to control your time like I’ve outlined above.

I’ve used these tips to integrate my business and personal lives for the last few years — and I’ve been teaching these same simple strategies to the smart founders who are part of my Inner Circle.

It works and it’s simple — and that’s why it’s sustainable. Try it out and let me know how you go. But forget the idea of work-life balance and integrate them instead.

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About Mitchell Harper

Mitch is a 7x company founder, advisor and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of BigCommerce. His companies have generated over $200,000,000 in total revenue and he is currently building an online education company and a SaaS company.

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