Dr. Stewart Friedman on “Time Bind” vs. Psychological Interference and More 46 Comments
Do you want to spend more time with loved ones or friends, but you also have business goals that — under current models or habits — require 80 hours per week or checking e-mail at 20-minute intervals?
This cognitive dissonance leads to failure in both areas, but few people are able to fix the problem.
Dr. Stewart Friedman was recently profiled in the New York Times for his unusual field-testing of “four-way wins,” or goal structuring that integrates four facets of life–work, home, community, and self.
It’s not often that you see the phrase “rock star adoration” in the newspaper of record.
I reached out to Dr. Friedman, founder of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project and former work-family adviser to both Al Gore and Jack Welch, while writing The 4-Hour Workweek. He is absolutely brilliant with micro-testing and fixing two largely unaddressed issues for type-A personalities: psychological interference and conflicting goals…
He has written for publications like the Harvard Business Review, but today marks the publication of his first book containing case studies from people nationwide, Total Leadership. I have a strong quote on the back cover.
Here are a few snippets I thought you’d enjoy.
“Time Bind” vs. Psychological Interference
So what is it about the relationship among the four domains that affects whether you feel satisfied? How you spend your time matters, of course.
But, it turns out that, surprising as it might seem, managing your time is not the major factor. In a study described in Work and Family — “Allies or Enemies?” — Jeff Greenhaus and I found that while the “time bind” so often cited in the literature on work/family conflict is no doubt very real, there is a more subtle and pervasive problem that reduces satisfaction in the different domains of life: psychological interference between them.
That’s when your mind is pulled to somewhere other than where your body is. This happens to all of us. There may even be times when you’ve been reading this and your eyes are on the page but your mind has drifted off. You aren’t focused. Put differently, there are times when you might be physically present but psychologically absent.
If you reduce psychological interference, you increase your ability to focus on what matters when it matters, and you minimize the destructive impact conflicts can cause between, for instance, work and family. A main premise… is that it takes leadership skill to manage the boundaries between the different areas of your life–not just the physical boundaries of time and space, but the psychological boundaries of focus and attention–and to integrate them well for mutual gain.
[True 'leadership' in the sense of being an agent of change] is about having a richer life, but it is not about “work/life balance.” An image of two scales in balance is the wrong metaphor. First, it suggests that we need equal amounts of competing elements to create a constant equilibrium, and for many people, equality in the importance of and attention to the different parts of life makes no sense.
Second, it signifies trade-offs: gaining in one area at the expense of another. Even though it is sometimes unavoidable, thinking about work and the rest of life as a series of trade-offs is fundamentally counterproductive. When the goal is work/life balance, you’re forced to play a zero-sum game.
The quixotic quest for balance restricts many of us. A better metaphor for our quest comes from the jazz quartet: becoming a total leader is analogous to playing richly textured music with the sounds of life’s various instruments. It is not about muting the trumpet so the saxophone can be heard. Unless you seek ways to integrate the four domains of your life and find the potential for each part to help produce success in the others, you cannot then capitalize on synergies in places most of us don’t see or hear.
One Visual Example
The pictures of Victor’s circles, before and after his experiments, show that the work part of his life has changed in two important ways.
He now sees work as a bit more important to him and, after having made some changes by delegating more tasks to others, he feels that the goals he spends time on at work are more aligned with those he pursues in the rest of his life. Also, he’s now involved in a new project in his firm—one that gets him closer to customers—that builds his marketing and sales skills and so fits better with his longer term goal of running his own firm.
Paradoxically, he’s now spending less time at work while feeling more satisfied and performing better. The small changes he made in his experiments resulted in a greater sense of control and coherence among the different parts of his life, and he reports that he could not have succeeded in taking these steps without engaging the key people in his life by helping them to see how they would benefit from these creative moves.
Read and watch more from Dr. Friedman here.
Posted on June 10th, 2008