Work-Life Balance: A How-to Guide by Larry Sharpe
Ambitious and entrepreneurial people often throw themselves into their work. It’s how they make money and friends and it’s a huge part of their lives. It’s hard to integrate family, friends, and intimate partners into an all-consuming enterprise, and they can end up being taken for granted. You may say things like, “Oh I don’t have to worry about them, they understand,” but this can be a huge mistake. According to Larry Sharpe, if you take the most important people in your life for granted it will create problems, and eventually, they will leave.
Larry Sharpe, the founder of The Sharpe Way, has experienced the challenges of balancing work with family life. As a serial entrepreneur and personal success trainer, he has spent his career travelling and working long days, yet he still manages to make time for his family, with a simple yet effective technique.
According to Larry, spending time with your family can make you feel like you’re missing out on important work. It’s hard for ambitious people to unplug and enjoy quality time when there are dollars and contracts slipping away.
He shared an anecdote with us about his own family. When his wife expressed concern that their family-time and work were out of balance, Larry decided to treat his family like a client. They were not just any client; they were his number-one client, and he scheduled his time with them in the same way that one might schedule meetings with colleagues and sales prospects. At first, Larry’s wife was upset, as if she were being demoted from her matriarchal position to that of a coworker, but eventually she came to appreciate her status as Larry’s top “client.”
Make Your Family a Priority!
You may not want to tell your partner they are your customer, but if your work gives you purpose, then you may benefit from thinking about them that way. If you eat, drink, and sleep your job, then Larry suggests that your family needs to be incorporated into your “work” paradigm. Without actively scheduling family-time, Larry believes that things won’t work out for most people.
Many divorced persons have good things to say about their ex-partner and talk about how they are a good parent or a good provider, but being good in those roles is not how you keep a relationship healthy. Larry says that you maintain a relationship when you are a good partner, and when you consider your relationship with your partner is one of the most important keys to personal happiness.
Work is often important, and relatively easy for ambitious people to prioritize. Patience is the key, whether it’s used in your professional, or personal life. One of Larry’s metaphors is to imagine having a patience gas tank. If you spend all your patience on one set of people, the other people in your life are going to pay. Use it all at home, the people you work with will pay the price. Use it all at work, people at home pay the price, and whomever you skimp on will end up feeling unappreciated, and either your work or your family will end up at risk.
Show Your Value
The best way to maintain all of your relationships is to show them your value. Different people will value you for different reasons, so you have to make sure you don’t get them mixed up, and remind them often, and one way to do that is constant demonstration.
William Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the Soul of Wit.” What that means is, “Don’t waste my time.” Junior people at a company want to be entertained and they will perceive you as valuable if you can make them laugh. According to Larry, senior members of a company and owners value time more than money because it is much more limited, so if you don’t consistently demonstrate your value they won’t give you their time. In fact, they will often assume you’re just wasting their time so you need to be assertive and clear about why they need to give you some of their most precious resources.
If you use phrases like “just checking in”, “just wanted to say hi,” or other phrases that don’t carry a lot of weight, Larry suggests that senior-level people will deprioritize you as a waste of time.
Instead of ‘just checking in’ say ‘did you get the contract signed?’ or reference the reason for contacting them. You need to be polite and nice but also direct and to the point.
Every interaction should be valuable. Show them the value upfront and you will get their time.
Polite Persistence Pays Off
Seniors don’t mind polite persistence. They are overwhelmed with demands on their time, so polite persistence is often appreciated. Sometimes you should contact them every week or month or quarter, depending on the nature of the relationship. Larry shared an anecdote about a major deal that he closed through polite persistence. He emailed a potential customer once every 3 months, and after 18 months he got a response, not for a meeting but to close a deal immediately.
Family is no different, although you use different techniques.
Children see you as a senior and getting time is seen as a bonus. While your spouse may not like being treated like a client, most kids get a special thrill if you put them on your schedule and make an appointment. It makes them feel important and responsible. Children love it when you spend time with them, and the more official you make it the more important they will feel.
Larry says that your time with your kids needs to be all about them so they know they are the most important thing in the world to you. Your time is also vital for their healthy development and future success, so turn off your phone like nobody else in the world exists and give them everything. Be there and they will respond.
Cousins and less intimate family members are second or even third tier. Be nice but, sorry, Larry says they’re just not top level. They need your time and attention, too, but are likely to be more understanding if you can’t drop everything when they want to get together at the last minute or if they have to wait for your schedule to open up. Some family members will only get to see you at funerals and weddings, and for many people, this is the right amount of time. Your mileage may vary, but treat them according to the amount of closeness you want and can afford. And as always, if you show you have something of value for them they will make time.
Partners Are Equals
Even if one of you has more responsibility in certain areas, your relationship with your partner needs to be as near to equal as possible. Instead of whipping out your calendar and treating them like a client, it’s likely better if you discuss the best ways to schedule your time in ways that work well for both of you.
If you’re not careful, they may even think they’re not really a priority and you are attempting to pacify them. They may test you with half-truths, so you need to be politely persistent, just like with senior clients. Your partner is your most senior client! With your partner, your persistence should usually manifest as flirting. People like to be chased. It tells them you find them valuable enough to be vulnerable and put your own ego at risk. If they say they don’t have time they might be testing or teasing you to make sure you’re serious. They care about you and want you to be happy, and they may not know the best way to go about doing it, so communication (and persistence) are key.
To learn more and find out how Larry deals with other problems, watch the full video, here.