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Why It Is Possible To Achieve Work-Life Balance

Why It Is Possible To Achieve Work-Life Balance

Neil Pasricha shares recent breakthroughs in the study of happiness and inspires audiences to hit their full potential. A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil is “a pied piper of happiness” (The Star) who dazzles audiences with ideas and frameworks that launch happiness into the stratosphere. Neil’s newest book, The Happiness Equation, has recently been released, and Forbes talked to him about achieving work-life balance and happiness:

Neil Pasricha is the New York Times–bestselling author of the Book of Awesomeseries, which has been published in 10 countries, spent more than five years on various bestseller lists, and sold more than a million copies. Pasricha is a Harvard MBA, one of the most popular TED speakers of all time, and founder of the Institute for Global Happiness. He has dedicated the past 15 years of his life to developing leaders—creating global programs inside the world’s largest companies and speaking to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. His latest book is called The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, which started as a letter to his unborn child on how to live a happy life, after his wife told him she was pregnant on the flight home from their honeymoon.

Dan Schawbel: How do you best manage your time to ensure maximum happiness?

Neil Pasricha: 147, 150 and 295. These are the three numbers that scare me every morning when it comes to time. 147 is the average number of emails a person receives a day. 150 is the number of times we check our phone a day. And 295 is an average number of decisions we make a day. How exhausting! Our brains are too busy, too wired and too stressed out to often focus on the decisions that matter. What do I recommend? I recommend chopping three things: choice, time and access. Let me explain:

1. Choice: This is how you make every decision at twice the speed. Simply put, drastically chop the amount of choice you have in your daily decisions. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg only wears one kind of T-shirt, why filling out your wedding registry leads to adding $300 ice buckets and why P&G found that reducing the number of shampoos on the shelf spikes sales. We have decision fatigue in every part of our life. I share a new 2×2 matrix to help you file your decisions based on time and importance and then automate, regulate and effectuate them away. Automate how you get to work. Regulate emails or chores. Effectuate picking the kids up from daycare. What’s that lead to? It allows you to debate the high time, high importance decisions that matter.

2. Time: What’s the counterintuitive way to have more time? Chopping time. What do I mean? Leverage Parkinson’s Law — that work rises to fill the time available for its completion — and moving deadlines up earlier. Much earlier! From the end of the weekend to Friday night. From a month-long design schedule to getting it all done in one day without a single email or meeting. Since work rises to fill the time available for its completion, space can be created just over the horizon of the deadline we set. In this Secret No. 6 of The Happiness Equation, I show exactly how to do it.

3. Access: Chopping access is how you can add another hour to the day with only one small change. At work the average person has six ways people can communicate with them. Emails, phone calls, text messages, office communicator, social media, in-person, etc. And, every time you move between them your brain has to Bookmark, Prioritize and Switch. Psychologist David Myer of Michigan has done work showing how much time we’re wasting on switching costs. So what’s the solution? Reducing all your access points to one to drive productivity up. Delete access points helps you get your job done in half the time and creates space when you get your job done at 4 p.m. There are a number of tools in The Happiness Equation that show you how to do this — step by step.

Schawbel: Is it possible to have work-life balance? Why or why not?

Pasricha: Yes. Here’s how. Every single person has 168 hours in a week. You, me, Buffett, Oprah, Zuckerberg. Think about work life balance in terms of three buckets of 56, 56 and 56.

You have a bucket for sleep (8 hours a night), a bucket for work (8 hours a day) and then a bucket for anything you like. This is your going-out-for-dinner bucket. Your spending-time-with-friends bucket. This is the bucket where you watch movies with your kids, play in your soccer league, go for jogs and lift weights, phone friends or call your parents, coach your kid’s baseball team, write your dream novel in coffee shops, listen to music, stay out late and make love.

Our work bucket earns us our third bucket. By structuring our time so that we’re focused and investing our energy in a productive way, we earn and justify all the fun we have in our third bucket. Work provides this structure. Work pays for this structure!

For the past five years, I’ve spent my third bucket outside of my role as Director of Leadership Development at Walmart writing an award-winning blog, publishing five books and giving speeches around the world about positivity. Now that I’m a father I’ve left my job at Walmart and spend my third bucket cooking dinners, giving baths and reading books to my kids before bed.

The question isn’t “How do you achieving work/life balance?” For me it’s “What are your spending your third bucket on?” Make sure it’s something you love.

Schawbel: What are some ways to being happier and developing better relationships at work?

Pasricha: The research suggests that investing in our happiness at work is the No. 1 way we can drive our well-being and healthier relationships at work. A 20-minute investment in one of five simple happiness activities can drive your productivity up 31%, sales up 37% and creativity up three times. I believe in this concept so deeply that I even made a free workshop with all the slides and handouts on doing this at work. What are the five activities? You just need to pick one of these:

1. Three walks: A brisk 20-minute walk three times a week.

2. The 20-Minute Replay: Journaling for 20-minutes about one positive experience.

3. Five Random Acts: Commit one small random act of kindness each day such as buying a co-worker a coffee.

4. Meditation: Close your eyes and focus on taking deep breaths for.

5. Five Gratitudes: Write down five things you’re grateful for.

Schawbel: What are our top three pieces of career advice?


1. Be Happy First: Invest in your happiness with one of the “20 mins a day” happiness exercises to be a stronger employee every day

2. Do It For You: Remember your intrinsic motivating reasons for doing what you do. Once you scrape away all extrinsic motivators — salary, performance reviews, stat counters — make sure you’re doing something you love.

3. Never Retire: Retirement was invented in the late 1800s in Germany when retirement age and average lifespan were identical. The concept is broken and it’s a mental trap. Instead, value the 4 S’s of meaningful work — Social (having friends), Structure (having a reason to get up), Stimulation (always learning) and Story (being part of something bigger than yourself.) If you have those, you’ll always love what you do.

Dan Schawbel/Forbes/April, 2016