Work/life harmony is not just about being present. (It's also about strategic interruptibility.)

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Work/life harmony is not just about being present

I learned something interesting about work/life balance in a recent conversation with Tim Goree, a mentor for IT leaders.

Conventional and cultural wisdom about how to find harmony between work and home life doesn’t lead to the most success in technology organizations.

What is that conventional wisdom? It’s that balance or harmony comes from being fully present at work when you’re at work, and fully present at home when you’re at home.

I’m still convinced that there’s a lot of value in having your mind fully engaged in whatever your current task is. Paying full attention can be crucial whether you’re writing code, troubleshooting a misbehaving server, or having a conversation with a family member.

But the research Tim shared with me showed that there’s an even more significant indicator of success when it comes to managing the tension between the demands of work and home.

I call that indicator “strategic interruptibility.” It looks like this.

A successful technical leader will recognize the axes of urgency and importance that occur both at home and at work. They will be perfectly willing to leave the office mid-afternoon to take a family member to a doctor’s appointment or ball game. They’ll also be perfectly willing to give up an evening to bring an errant system back online when the business needs demand it.

As you consider your own tension between responsibilities at work and at home, consider whether your workplace culture gives you and your team members the flexibility to practice strategic interruptibility. And if not, ask yourself what you might do to influence that culture to make it possible.

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