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The Balance Monster

Is your pace sustainable?

05/12/2015 by Lizzy Morris

I recently read a great article by Brian of Braintrust, which he posted to LinkedIn. I began to write a comment that turned into this -- so thanks for the inspiration, B!

I am convinced of this truth: Continuous improvement isn't a target but a journey.

One of the areas I have personally committed to improve on is my work-life balance. I spent years as an admitted workaholic who was, in fact, not considering a recovery program of any kind. It was working for me; there was no need to change. Then 2012 hit and I went through life-threatening health issues that my workaholic tendencies didn't help. It made me take a hard look at what was important to me. I vowed to change. I realized change isn't a one-step wonder; it is like a monster!

As my health got better and I got stronger, however, my old habits started to creep back in. So I went through a deep retrospective again toward the end of 2014, because I wanted to improve. I needed to improve. I made a decision to address my working schedule with the goal of putting an end to the defective behavior that had started to sneak back into my life.

My action plan started with a decision to keep two separate backlogs: one for my business and one for my family life. When talking to other Agile females (and, to be fair, I feel we women tend to have to balance a lot more), I realized a key point: timeboxes. Of course! I had failed to respect them in my personal life. Prioritization is moot without it, because my actions begin to send the message that everything is a must-do. I should know better -- everything can't be number one -- yet I was struggling. I shared with one of my daughters that I wanted to be able to have more time to just read. Her response went like this: "Mum, just take one hour out and put it aside just for you to read, and don't let anything else take that time away." Here I am the coach, being coached by my daughter on prioritization and timeboxes!

As I was discussing the challenges of work-life balance on the phone with one of my mentors, she said, teasing me a bit, "Lizzy, I use Scrum." (I told her I was throwing a virtual pillow straight at her head.) It just proves the point that we can all neglect daily application of the fundamentals, so we have to apply the basic pillars as a checkpoint. Staying open and transparent allows others to inspect us, not from a point of criticism but rather collaboration. It provides us with much-needed feedback. The choice then lies with us to have the courage to admit when we missed it and take the opportunity to apply the necessary adaptation. Living and breathing Agile is a series of daily adaptations on the road of commitment to continuous improvement.

I have definitely improved -- most Fridays are now just for me to be mum and companion. When I am the passenger in the car with my other half, I work at not checking emails and texting. Realized value: I feel a lot more peace and less guilt.

However, I will always be a work in progress. My ultimate goal is to respect my timeboxes so that I can make work-life balance a reality for me, my family, and my business. As I continue to improve, the key is to remember that it's not a destination, but rather a lifelong journey.