You know, I think I have a very good work-life balance. I spend enough hours in the office that I think we’re accomplishing things. I do lots of private work-like things (writing here, reading the right blogs and twitter, participating in the online conversation, writing books, and the evening networking schedule) that are in the middle between work and leisure. And I have plenty of free time still to relax at home, or go out.
There is a graduation in my life between what is totally work (the office) and what is totally leisure (blobbing out at home or being with friends).
Having that graduation is a vital determinant of how well I can perform in the workplace.
For example, as an innovator, I really need to know what’s going on in the mobile phone market or what people think the next big trend is going to be. As a manager, I really need to the latest thinking which comes out of various thought leaders. And as someone who is responsible for a technical architecture team, it is important that I have at least a remote clue about what’s going on in that space.
These are all things I get in the in-between that’s in the middle between real work and real leisure. I am in a competition with my peers in each of these areas to know what’s going on, and I can’t have a rational conversation with them unless I am at least as up to date as they are.
Conversely, if they know more than me, is it reasonable I should have any rights to be part of the decision making for which they are clearly more expert?
Being as up to date as possible is table stakes now.
The In-betweeners (a name i just dreamt up, by the way) seem to be way more up to date, and way more able to have a reasonable conversation about the way things are likely to turn out.
But there are lots of people who don’t have an in-between. They do work, and they do leisure. There is no fine graduation between the two. Theirs is the Work-Life balance argument. The moment the office is left, take physical steps to make sure that work can’t interrupt at all. Turn off the devices. Shut down the email. Don’t take a phone call. And under no circumstances read anything at all that might have worky-like overtones.
Let me not for one moment make judgements about that lifestyle choice, which is perfectly valid. I mean, I probably do have fewer family and other commitments than most to which I must assign time. Although, there are some colleagues of mine who have very large families and who still manage to keep up, so I don’t know why I’m making that excuse, actually.
But let us not spend 2010 pretending that there isn’t a difference in performance between those who are up to date and those who aren’t.
2010 is going to be a performance – not an experience – competition. That’s why I said the other day that I think people who are connected are going to get all the rewards this year. It’s going to be about making things happen, and that means you need an in-between.
Because making things happen is not a 9 to 5 job any more. The conversation continues 24 x 7. Some of those conversations have unusual levels of significance.
I think it is possible to find a personally appropriate in-between that lets you participate whilst continuing to live a full life in the outside world. And I also think that those who don’t are going to get marginalised as their peers step up.
Update: Shane Dillon comments on the davepress blog that I “appropriated” the term “In-Betweener”. That made me check Google, and he’s right. The term actually refers to a Marvel Comics superhero. The wiki entry makes interesting reading, and is quite apt given the subject of my post.