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Building Work-Life Balance: Lessons from a Week in Lisbon

You can have work life balance.

I recently spent a week in Lisbon with my wife enjoying an amazing weekend of sight seeing (and wine) followed by a very busy few days at a conference I was speaking at. Now, normally a busy conference halfway around the world isn't the greatest idea for rest and relaxation - at least not for me. However, this time, I brought my bride and we were really intentional about creating balance so we could do both work and play really well.

Here's a few things that helped.

  1. Set Clear Expectations (for work & play) We knew this trip was going to be a blend of busy days, networking dinners and demanding schedules mixed with wandering through Lisbon’s gorgeous streets in a search for delicious Portuguese food and wine. So, we got our game plan ready early. We decided exactly when we'd be in 'work mode' and when it was time to switch off and enjoy ourselves. This made it way easier to enjoy the moment, regardless of what was on the schedule.

  2. Be Present As my mentor used to say, "be where you are". Whether I was speaking at the conference or we were toasting to another beautiful sunset, being fully engaged in the moment made everything so much richer. I got to really enjoy the conference experience because I wasn't half-thinking about what my wife was up to, and vice versa. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy things when you're, well, actually enjoying them.

  3. Set A No-Guilt Policy We made a pact—no feeling bad, period. I wouldn’t feel guilty about diving into my conference while she had her solo adventures, and she wouldn’t feel bad about relaxing without me. This ‘no guilt policy’ really helped us make the most of our time, without any of those nagging thoughts that usually sneak in when you try to balance work and fun. And the same rules apply when I tag along to her next conference!

Balance Is Not Binary

This trip was a good reminder that you don't have to pick between being "good" at work or play. Our experience in Lisbon showed us that with clear expectations, a focus on the present, and freedom from guilt, it is entirely possible to excel at both. Work-life balance should not be about compromising one for the other but about integrating both seamlessly into our lives. It’s all about being smart with your time, setting clear expectations and not feeling bad about taking a moment for yourself (or your partner), whether it’s for kicking back or gearing up.

From enjoying local wines to networking with leaders from around the world, we managed to fit it all in without dropping the ball on either front. It turns out, with a little planning and the right mindset, you really can have the best of both worlds! So, next time you’re planning a work trip, think about how you can sprinkle some fun in there, too.

Trust me, you can do it - and you'll be glad you did.


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