This is the first in an ongoing series exploring ways for busy travel agents to improve their work-life balance.
A life full of achievement but little enjoyment is no life at all. But finding the balance is a struggle for busy travel sellers.
Jim Bird, founder and CEO of WorkLifeBalance.com, has a solution: Make a conscious decision to put enjoyment at the top of your priority list, right up there next to achievement.
“If someone asks me, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ I’d say, ‘I just want to achieve something today and I want to enjoy something today.’ If I do both of those, I’m going to have a pretty good day.
“And if I do both of those things every day for the rest of my life, I’m going to have a pretty good life,” said Bird, whose company has trained employees at Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and HP, among others.
Travel Market Report asked Bird to give travel agents practical tactics that will help them achieve a more fulfilling work-life balance.
What does work-life balance mean in today’s world?
Bird: It is almost better to start with what it is not. Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance. You’re not trying to create an equivalency between work and personal life.
You talk about four areas of life in your approach to work-life balance.
Bird: There are four quadrants of life that relationships are broken down into – work relationships; family relationships; friends and community, and the fourth, your own physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
But you’re not trying to allot 25% of your time to each of those areas, or even to say I want to do 50/50 personal/professional – that’s unrealistic and unrewarding.
Life is and should be much more dynamic than that.
Does work-life balance work the same for everyone?
Bird: No. It’s critical to recognize that work-life balance at its core is an individual thing. No one size fits all.
And this is even more important – the best work-life balance for you is going to change all the time.
In the broad perspective, the best balance for you when you’re single is different than when you get married, when you have children. It’s different when you start your career than when you’re looking to retire.
So, it’s not a 50/50 split, and it’s not the same for everyone? Is there anything that work-life balance is?
Bird: There are two essential needs at the core of good work-life balance. They are achievement and enjoyment.
Achievement doesn’t mean just achieving at work. It means achieving something that was meaningful with and for a friend, a child, a family member. There are all kinds of achievements that are personal. If you exercise today, that’s a personal achievement.
What’s your concept of enjoyment?
Bird: Enjoyment certainly means ha-ha happiness – did you hear a good joke today? But enjoyment also means pride in doing a good job, a sense of satisfaction, well-being, love, affection – all the things in life that make your heart beat.
Does either one – achievement or enjoyment –outweigh the other?
Bird: I talk about achievement and enjoyment as opposite of sides of a coin – achievement is one side and enjoyment is the other.
A lot folks try and go through life with just one side of the coin or the other. If you go through life saying achievement, achievement, achievement, without the enjoyment, the value of life goes away.
And if you go through life just goofing off all the time, never achieving anything, poof! the value of life disappears. You’ve got to have both to create value and balance in life.
How can you find enjoyment in a day given over to achievement?
Bird: Enjoyment is smiles, celebrations, pats on the back. A lot of times we get so wrapped up in work and the ‘get it done’ that we don’t pause, and at the end of the day we don’t say, ‘I did good.’
Even if it was one of those days when all you can say is it was an awful day, pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I got through it.’ Just thinking about it makes you feel better.
So those kinds of enjoyments – congratulations, pride, satisfaction and sense of well-being, as well as laughter and goof-off happiness – are part of that enjoyment equation.
How do the four quadrants of life fit into the achievement-enjoyment balance?
Bird: It’s not, ‘I’ll achieve at work and I’ll go enjoy somewhere else.’
You should achieve and enjoy in every one of those four quadrants. What did I enjoy at work today? Did I achieve and enjoy something with somebody in my family today? When’s the last time I achieved and enjoyed with a friend? Or when was the last time I achieved and enjoyed something just for me?
If you do that achievement and enjoyment on a regular basis, maybe not every day in all four areas, but once a week, then you’re having a pretty balanced life.
What do you need to do mentally to achieve this balance every day?
Bird: People are very focused on the achievement side of life. Every day they get up and have a plan, with achievement goals for the day.
But did you get up with an enjoyment goal in mind? What am I going to enjoy today? Most people don’t, and that’s why this distinction is so important.
Unless you have enjoyment at the forefront of your brain, in your working memory, as something you want to accomplish today, it’s not going to happen any more automatically than achievements.
What’s the first step toward a more balanced life?
Bird: The first thing to do is get it up there as a way-of-life goal. My way-of-life goal is to achieve and enjoy everyday; that’s my goal every day. That’s my big picture goal.
If I’m going through a day where I’m getting all tensed up, I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, let me go and enjoy something.’ So before you leave work, ask, ‘Did I enjoy something today? Did I celebrate a success? Tell somebody a joke?’ If you did, just dwell on it a little bit – that was a really nice conversation or I really enjoyed going out to dinner.
We don’t dwell on the joys that come along during the course of our every day. If something great happened, take 15 or 20 seconds and let it sink in to where it actually becomes part of who you are versus something great that happened, but you move on and it didn’t register with your soul.