Work life balance of an agile coach

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Ashish Mahajan

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Oct 6, 2011, 9:32:00 AM10/6/11
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Being an agile coach ,demands you to be traveling to different places in the world and interact with different people.It seems exciting . I would like to hear from the group , the disadvantages of having a moving job.

Ashish


Mark Levison

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Oct 6, 2011, 10:44:22 AM10/6/11
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On Thursday, October 6, 2011, Ashish Mahajan wrote:
Being an agile coach ,demands you to be traveling to different places in the world and interact with different people.It seems exciting . I would like to hear from the group , the disadvantages of having a moving job.

Hmmm:
- most of your clients are never in the nice downtown parts of a city - they're often in industrial suburbs
- food and coffee in these suburbs can be lame - especially the coffee
- fitness - I miss a regular fitness schedule and rarely get to my dojo anymore
- time on planes - they're small and cramped
- time away from family - my kids are 4 and 7
- being an independant means you're either swamped or starving/

But aside from these minor details I can't imagine a better job. Seriously people ask for help, are happy to receive your ideas/thoughts and thank you when its over.

Cheers
Mark Levison

MarkMark Levison | Agile Pain Relief Consulting | Certified Scrum Trainer
Agile Editor @ InfoQ | Blog | Twitter | Office: (613) 862-2538
Recent Entries:
Story Slicing How Small is Small Enough, Why use an Agile Coach


Lanette Creamer

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Oct 6, 2011, 11:03:18 AM10/6/11
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Hi Ashish,

As a new coach (I do coaching about testing of all kinds, not agile specifically) I'd say that the time away from family is especially hard on relationships. If you have a spouse or children who expect you home every day, coaching would be difficult. The coaches who are successful long term seem to have worked this out with their partner in advance to some extent, and paid attention so that they know when to revise it.

The other major downside for some independent coaches is the uncertainty of always being in a temporary contract. This means that you need new leads/future contracts while you are working on the old one if you want to work continuously. That may not apply as much for coaches with an agency they work for or for very famous/established coaches.

I've noticed that it can be hard to be healthy when traveling so much. After spending way too much time eating out, and not enough time in gym and pool. I switched to a hotel with a small mini kitchen so that I could cook for myself some. Of course, this will vary from person to person.

Cheers,

Lanette

Peter Green

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Oct 6, 2011, 12:20:10 PM10/6/11
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"If you have a spouse or children who expect you home every day, coaching would be difficult. The coaches who are successful long term seem to have worked this out with their partner in advance to some extent, and paid attention so that they know when to revise it."

+1111 on this. I have a wife and four kids (6-12). When I considered the move into this role, I didn't do it until some heavy discussion with the rest of my family on the pros/cons. Since I am internal coach I do have the option of backing off of my travel schedule when it starts to encroach on my family's sanity whilst still receiving income. That said, there are times when it is tempting to say "Yes" to every request. I (and family) are suffering from the result of this right now where I am in the midst of eight straight weeks of travel, punctuated by a few days home here and there, but including a few stints of 1-3 weeks out of the country. This is hard, and so I have identified what Luke Hohmann refers to as an "entropy reduction sprint", where I will be working a fairly light schedule from late November through the end of the year and spending a large percentage of time with my wife and kids.

I think you can't really make up for the time lost, but as Mark points out, this is the compromise for doing this job that we love, is rewarding, and makes us happier individuals, which has its own benefits for the family as well.

---Peter

Don Gray

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Oct 6, 2011, 4:15:26 PM10/6/11
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+1 to Lanette's comments.

In 2007 I wrote an article for Better Software titled "Skills for
Software Smoke Jumpers". It ends with this:

The Smokejumper’s Life
“You live and learn. Or you don’t live
long.” — Robert Heinlein

The smokejumper’s life consists of:

1. Qualify for smokejumping.
2. Train.
3. Go to the fire.
4. Put out the fire.
5. Go to 2.

Over years of jumping, the training will change as the
jumper becomes more practiced at current skills and learns new
skills. Smokejumpers use all their skills, all the time. Being able
to call on their training when they need to can mean the difference
between an extinguished fire and an unhappy outcome.

Project smokejumpers follow the same pattern. Somehow,
somewhere, you start solving problems, and then someone asks
you to jump in to help them.

Project smokejumpers need to train continuously. Your technical
skills may get you started. It’s your people skills that help
you solve the problem and keep it solved. In addition to reading
magazines and books, I recommend attending experiential conferences
or training courses where you’ll be able to learn new
skills and practice them in a supportive environment.

Jumping isn’t for everyone. Over the years I’ve missed birthdays
and anniversaries. I once left a weeklong vacation after
only two days to make a jump. Fortunately, my family loves me.
It occasionally gets tense, so a sense of humor works to my advantage.
Being an adrenalin junkie helps too. And it’s all worth
it when a client says:

“You know, Don, a couple years ago I watched you ‘join a
team’ and help them work together better when your charter
was actually to get something shipped. You weren’t there to ‘fix
them.’ But, you ended up helping that team and another team be
better together.”

That still gives me goose bumps. {end}

--
Don Gray (336)414-4645
http://www.donaldegray.com

Education is the best provision for the journey to old age.
Aristotle

Learn something new at the AYE Conference
AYE: Exploring Human Systems in Action http://www.AYEconference.com
Oct 30 - Nov 3, 2011

Christopher Avery

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Oct 6, 2011, 5:10:43 PM10/6/11
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What a great bunch of responses to a wonderful question.

I was traveling when I met Amy. I met her because I traveled. I continue to travel after 26 years together and two boys now teenagers. If I'm home for longer than a couple of weeks they eventually ask me if I don't have someplace to go. Why? Because we also have a family routine that works when I'm not physically there.

Here's what makes it work.

1. I do not use travel as an excuse for anything.

Period. I maintain sustainable pace, fitness, nutrition, health, diet, and relationships. Travel schedule may be a constraint and a reason for some choices, but never an excuse. That means I must be an expert traveler. I won't try to be a road warrior (i.e., work a 9 hour day then go to the airport and travel to another city for an 8AM meeting, or better yet, overseas in coach for an 8AM meeting). I make time for travel and get a lot of reading and work done on airplanes and in airports. I actually check bags. I develop loyalty partnerships so I can upgrade. I use my points for my family to travel with me to great cities all over the world.

This required some discipline on my part. Long ago I seemed to think that when I traveled I "had to" burn the candle at both ends, abusing alcohol, food, and sleep. Then a coach taught me her Diana Ross principle. It goes like this. My coach was on an international flight with Diana Ross who boarded looking elegant, then a few hours later had changed into sweets and was doing yoga in her seat and isle. My coach asked her to reveal her strategy. Diana said something to the effect of this: "Honey, when I decided to have this life I lead, I decided that the universe was my home, and that means I maintain my life and my discipline whenever and wherever I am."

2. I office at home and see my family more than most people who go to an office.

This too requires discipline and operating agreements with those I love.

3. I only take work that interests me a great deal.

When I travel out of obligation to pay the bills, I get depressed fast and I don't enjoy the travel. Amazingly, when I'm doing interesting work I enjoy the travel. This challenges me to find a way to get paid for what interests me -- and I believe that is one useful strategy for generating a unique niche and value.

Thanks for the opportunity to bring this out. Good luck choosing.

My very best,
Christopher

My profiles: Facebook LinkedIn Twitter
Contact me: Skype ChristopherAvery

April Johnson

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Oct 6, 2011, 6:05:44 PM10/6/11
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I like this thread! 

+1 to Chris's point about seeing work travel as a part of your routine, not a reason to break from the rituals that support your health and relationships. I have an advantage in my current role that, while I travel almost every week I'm working, I return to the same place for a few months at a time... that repetition makes it easy to find a dojo, a dance class, healthy restaurants I like, etc. I also take along my partner fairly often.

Travel can also help you prepare for work, both by exercising your curiosity (most coaches I know are pretty excited about learning and discovery, and learning a new place is another way to generate energy for yourself) and by giving you thinking time on planes and trains.  

That said, the act of travel itself does take a toll, physically and mentally. I feel I have to do more to stay healthy - vitamins, hydration, exercise, etc. - as a road warrior than I did staying in one place. Regular air travel wrecks havoc on bodies in a lot of ways. Beyond the routine, I keep pretty strong boundaries between work and play times. 

I'm not a fully independent consultant (I'm with ThoughtWorks), so I don't experience the cycles of business quite so strongly as some others have talked about. That has pros, obviously, but also some cons that I'm not 100% choosing the work I do. 

April 

Yves Hanoulle

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Oct 6, 2011, 6:20:04 PM10/6/11
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Thanks for these wonderful examples.

I'm a person that struggle a lot with sustainable pace and the balance between my different roles. 

One thing that my partner and I agreed on a few years ago was to have a fix day of the week to go out eating together.  
That got dropped while I was traveling and to my shame we have not picked it up again.

My kids are younger (4,6,9) and my partner works halftime.

Will you say something about how your work influences your partner routines?

Yves

2011/10/6 Christopher Avery <cave...@gmail.com>

Don Gray

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Oct 7, 2011, 8:45:55 AM10/7/11
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Yves,

Some context:

- Self-employed since 1984
- Children 35, 30 and 27
- Karol (partner) worked full time teaching Algebra and Calculus in high
school (?gymnasium?). Now retired
- I have a home office.

> Will you say something about how your work influences your partner routines?

We had a "level" relationship. When something needed to be done, whoever
had time did the work. As such when home, I did a lot of the cooking,
most of the doctor/dentist appointments, and some of the cleaning. (She
and I still different values for "clean" ;{)>)

When I'd come home my job became blending into the established routine
and pick up with the necessary duties.

I feel lucky. Overall I spent more time with our children than many of
my contemporaries did with their children. I coached little league
basketball and baseball. We could take extra long weekends. We traveled
a lot.

And now, it keeps getting better. Children out and have their own
children. Karol travels with me when she wants to.

+1 to Christopher's comments.

The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond
them into the impossible.
Arthur C. Clarke

Discover new possibilities at the AYE Conference

Mark Kilby

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Oct 10, 2011, 5:46:09 AM10/10/11
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I'll add to this and +1 to all the prior comments.

On work-life balance and the partners' routine:
  • I have kids that are 7,10, & 12.
  • I worked as an internal coach for 5 years and a coach at Rally for 3.5 years
  • I have worked in professional services firms since 2000 and have been on travel schedules where I travel once every 2-3 weeks (I will call this Level C travel) to traveling 3 weeks a month (Level B travel) to travel for 3 months at a time (Level A travel).

What I've learned for work life balance and partners:
  • Agile values, principles and practices apply: especially the value of Respect and the practice of Sustainable Pace
  • Don't compromise on quality of life (This is my interpretation of what Christopher said).
  • You also have to prioritize your personal and family backlog regularly
  • For the adults in the family, anyone should be able to "pull a task" off the backlog.  My wife and I often switch
  • Be willing to experiment with different ways of travel and different working agreements.  I personally found Level A travel to be unsustainable, but I tried it once.  Result was some professional relationships that still prove valuable from that trip.  For now, a mix of Level B and C travel seems to work well for the family and our routines.
  • You have to take responsibility for knowing what important things are happening for your family.  Know your family members' calendars and backlogs.  I carry my "family calendar" with me so I know the events important to them and I usually sync up with their paper calendars every 3-5 days (found that to be the best rhythm).  When I'm home, I help with homework.  I also help the kids track their big projects and show them ways to work through it.  Have not got any of them interested in Scrum or Kanban, but I keep trying. ;)
  • Travel - my kids love to travel as does my wife.  They travel with me in the summer as we have them in school the rest of the year.  We discussed home schooling, but it was not for us.
  • Inspect and adapt with your family.  Talk about what's working and what's not working for them and for you often.
  • To paraphrase one well-known Beatles song, when all else fails, "All you need is love."  You can love what you do and still be with the ones you love.  Always find ways to make that journey with them.
Hope this helps.

Mark Kilby
If your message is urgent, please contact me here:
http colon // awayfind dot com / markkilby

Ashish Mahajan

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Oct 10, 2011, 10:41:46 AM10/10/11
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Thanks all for wondeful replies.
I am a beginner in agile coaching , and your answers have definately helped me a lot to decide on my next step.
By the way, I got married two years back, no kids, and my wife really loves travelling.

Ashish

Mark Kilby

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Oct 11, 2011, 5:07:12 AM10/11/11
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Wishing you well in all your journeys Ashish... coaching, marriage, and beyond.

Mark Kilby
If your message is urgent, please contact me here:
http colon // awayfind dot com / markkilby


Nimesh Soni

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Oct 25, 2011, 7:29:03 PM10/25/11
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Chris,
Nicely to put. I like the way you put it, though, I could not imagine travelling a lot. My excuse for not travelling, my young kids! I want to spend as much time with them as I can (before they turn into teenagers and don't want to see you any more).
 
But, I do agree with you when you say that you have to have a decipline and not use travel as an execuse for not completing your routine.
 
Nimesh Soni 
skype: nimesh0308 | twitter: @beyondCSM | GTalk: soni.nimesh
Author: "Agile Release Planning" Book: get it from Amazon | iTunes | Google 

Christopher Avery

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Oct 26, 2011, 7:24:59 AM10/26/11
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Thanks Nimesh,

I doubt you will ever regret choosing to be with your children instead of planes and hotel rooms. If you do regret it, then take massive intelligent action to have what you want and have it work for your family. Remember the reason it has worked for me and my family is that I office at home and we home school so I see my family and am part of the daily routine when I am home, and 2 or 3 times a year they travel with me to great city somewhere.

My very best,

Christopher Avery, Ph.D.
+1 830-609-8955

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Tim Ottinger

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Oct 26, 2011, 8:58:49 AM10/26/11
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I've not been weighing in on this topic because it's so close to me.

Life is wonderful, challenging, and difficult. In order to have a great career with any kind of consulting, you end up traveling quite a bit to find those people who are good candidates for your message and also who will improve you as a consultant.  Agile coaching is no different. 

But life happens at its own pace. You can't plan the baby's first steps, or the loved-one's disease that changes everything, or the teen driver's first accident or car date. The basement floods, the roof leaks, the dog is run over, your aged parent has a stroke. These are not under your control. You are agreeing to trade some of your availability to your family in exchange for learning, teaching, growing your reputation. The family accepts this because they believe you're making something of yourself and working to provide for the group.

Balance is euphemistic. It's all varying degrees of imbalance and brinkmanship. 

The big things are not to use your time away to become an alcoholic or a philanderer or an egotist or a self-pitying person. These things claim too many of our brother and sister consultants. Manage yourself as a steward of the person your family loves.

I find my established brother consultants have taken to limiting their time on the road, avoiding "staff augmentation" jobs, and using their semi-celebrity status to be more choosy in general about where they go and why.

I work for a company that is interested in building products that help us shorten the consulting engagement. I still over-volunteer sometimes (mea culpa) and I am reprimanded for overwork by Joshua. This is another way IL is good for me. 

Just know that you will come begging to the market at first (poor conditions, lower pay) but if you establish yourself you will have options to manage your time better. If you can establish yourself locally, you have a real advantage (see Brandon Carlson, Iowan "celebrity agilist").

With "sustainable pace" we say that working long tonight will leave us impaired tomorrow, so the question is whether tomorrow is the right day to be impaired. Similarly, is today the right time to trade your home time to establish your reputation? 

--
Tim Ottinger, Sr. Consultant, Industrial Logic
-------------------------------------
http://www.industriallogic.com/
http://agileinaflash.com/
http://agileotter.blogspot.com/

Christopher Avery

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Oct 26, 2011, 1:55:51 PM10/26/11
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Beautiful Tim.
Thanks,
Christopher

Dave Updike

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Oct 26, 2011, 5:09:54 PM10/26/11
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Tim,

This could not have been state more eloquently. Well done.

Dave

George Dinwiddie

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Oct 31, 2011, 6:13:39 AM10/31/11
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On 10/26/11 8:58 AM, Tim Ottinger wrote:
> Balance is euphemistic. It's all varying degrees of imbalance and
> brinkmanship.

Another way to look at this is that balance is dynamic. It's never
something you can set and forget.

- George (catching up after the AgileDC Conference)

--
----------------------------------------------------------------------
* George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Christopher Avery

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Oct 31, 2011, 10:41:56 AM10/31/11
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and yet another way to look at it is to replace the balance metaphor with integration. I find the concept of life balance totally unsatisfying as it keeps the compartments/departments of my life in competition with each other for my time and attention. That's stressful, annoying, and for me, unsustainable. Integration calls for me to integrate each of the parts of my life with the others so I feel integrated, whole, and at ease, and can be just one person in all my roles.

I realize this is brief. I can add more if you are interested.

My Best,
Christopher

ashishm...@gmail.com

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Oct 31, 2011, 11:35:43 AM10/31/11
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Thanks christopher for a different way of looking to it. Some more of your thoughts will be appreciated
Sent from BlackBerry®

From: Christopher Avery <cave...@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 09:41:56 -0500
Subject: Re: [ACS] Work life balance of an agile coach

Yves Hanoulle

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Oct 31, 2011, 1:12:43 PM10/31/11
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I have been reading this thread with lots of interest. 
Christopher, this is one of the few moments I disagree with you.
(wahoo)
I don't want to replace balance with integration. I need both.

yes integration is great when you can (and want) to do it.
Yes for me work and life is one.
yes I try to bring my kids to conferences when I can.

Balance for me is about the moments i's not possible or desirable.
F ex: bringing my family kids to a conference in the US would costs me at least 5000 euro for flights. (not taking about hotel costs etc)
We can do much better things with that money then bringing them. 

which also means I need to find a balance between going to the US and being with my family.

And yes their is competition between my worklife, my wife's worklife and my kids life.

The balance I am looking for is not so much between the different roles. It's more about the different times and commitments that we all have.

Does that make any sense?

Yves

2011/10/31 Christopher Avery <cave...@gmail.com>

Dale Emery

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Oct 31, 2011, 2:04:26 PM10/31/11
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Hi Yves and all,

Whenever people have trouble finding balance, I think part of the problem is that they're seeking balance. The idea of balance presumes there's a balance point that will satisfy over time, and that we can know ahead of time what balance point will satisfy us in the future. Sometimes those presumptions are reasonable. Other times they break down.

And when the presumptions break down, it doesn't work so well to try to find balance. Conversely: When we're having trouble finding balance, it's likely that one of the presumptions isn't true (enough). People seek balance only when they're out of balance.

I hear questions of balance all the time time in the "how much" questions people ask in classes: How much testing should we do? How much detail should I put in a design document? In these cases I advise people to switch from balance to selection—from "how much" to "which." Which tests should we run? Which details in the design document? That leads to consideration of why you'd want to run each test, or to include each detail, in the first place. And that's how you resolve those questions.

There's a similar (if subtler) kind of selection for life-size "balance" questions: Choice. What do I choose, here and now, given what I want, and given the outcomes I expect from the options I perceive?

Seeking "balance" is an attempt to make those choices ahead of time. I think balance is in the moment, and it depends on the situation. Trying to determine balance ahead of time is like deciding ahead of time how you will remain physically balanced in a wrestling match, or in a dance, or in an earthquake, or in a space flight.

I don't think the idea of balance can ever relieve us from the difficulty of choice. I have a "policy" to work out of town no more than two weeks per month. That's an attempt at balance, a choice made in advance. But when I'm presented with an unusually interesting gig, or when my bank account is lower than I'd like, then I don't always accept the judgment of that policy. And sometimes I turn down work because I just want to be home with my family, even though my policy "assumed" that two and a half weeks would be enough. That policy represents a judgment I made in the past, when I didn't know as much as I do now about my current needs.

So the effect of the policy is to remind me about my priorities. That sometimes makes deciding faster, and therefore less painful. But it's only a reminder of my past priorities, which may not be the same as my current ones.

Dale

--
Dale Emery
Consultant to software teams and leaders
http://dhemery.com

George Dinwiddie

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Oct 31, 2011, 3:25:07 PM10/31/11
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Dale, et al,

On 10/31/11 2:04 PM, Dale Emery wrote:
> Hi Yves and all,
>
> Whenever people have trouble finding balance, I think part of the
> problem is that they're seeking balance. The idea of balance presumes
> there's a balance point that will satisfy over time, and that we can
> know ahead of time what balance point will satisfy us in the future.

This doesn't ring quite true, for me. The seeking balance does, but not
the point that will satisfy over time. Instead, I find that I seek
balance when I notice I'm out of balance. This is, of course, after the
fact, but I then look for ways to increase my balance for the immediate
future. I don't necessarily set policy for maintaining that balance.

For longer term, I try to be more cognizant of my current balance. When
I do this successfully, I can make smaller corrections, sooner. This
gives me more balance over time without making a prediction of what will
satisfy over time.

> Sometimes those presumptions are reasonable. Other times they break down.
>
> And when the presumptions break down, it doesn't work so well to try to
> find balance. Conversely: When we're having trouble finding balance,
> it's likely that one of the presumptions isn't true (enough). People
> seek balance only when they're out of balance.
>
> I hear questions of balance all the time time in the "how much"
> questions people ask in classes: How much testing should we do? How much
> detail should I put in a design document? In these cases I advise people
> to switch from balance to selection—from "how much" to "which." Which
> tests should we run? Which details in the design document? That leads to
> consideration of why you'd want to run each test, or to include each
> detail, in the first place. And that's how you resolve those questions.

That's a nice reframe. I also like to invoke double-loop learning. How
can I tell that I'm doing enough, or the right, testing? How can I tell
if I've got enough (or the right) details? How can I tell if I've got
too much (or the wrong) details?

> There's a similar (if subtler) kind of selection for life-size "balance"
> questions: Choice. What do I choose, here and now, given what I want,
> and given the outcomes I expect from the options I perceive?
>
> Seeking "balance" is an attempt to make those choices ahead of time. I
> think balance is in the moment, and it depends on the situation. Trying
> to determine balance ahead of time is like deciding ahead of time how
> you will remain physically balanced in a wrestling match, or in a dance,
> or in an earthquake, or in a space flight.
>
> I don't think the idea of balance can ever relieve us from the
> difficulty of choice. I have a "policy" to work out of town no more than
> two weeks per month. That's an attempt at balance, a choice made in
> advance. But when I'm presented with an unusually interesting gig, or
> when my bank account is lower than I'd like, then I don't always accept
> the judgment of that policy. And sometimes I turn down work because I
> just want to be home with my family, even though my policy "assumed"
> that two and a half weeks would be enough. That policy represents a
> judgment I made in the past, when I didn't know as much as I do now
> about my current needs.
>
> So the effect of the policy is to remind me about my priorities. That
> sometimes makes deciding faster, and therefore less painful. But it's
> only a reminder of my past priorities, which may not be the same as my
> current ones.

Good stuff! I've recently made a "policy" to focus on scheduling things
at home in the same manner that I schedule work. In other words, I'm
putting these on equal footing rather than trying to fit home life into
"spare" time when I'm not traveling. It's a subtle shift of focus, but
makes me more aware of my current balance and seems to be helping.

- George

Dale Emery

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Oct 31, 2011, 3:38:21 PM10/31/11
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Hi George,

>> Whenever people have trouble finding balance, I think part of the problem is that they're seeking balance. The idea of balance presumes there's a balance point that will satisfy over time, and that we can know ahead of time what balance point will satisfy us in the future.
>
> This doesn't ring quite true, for me. The seeking balance does, but not the point that will satisfy over time. Instead, I find that I seek balance when I notice I'm out of balance. This is, of course, after the fact, but I then look for ways to increase my balance for the immediate future. I don't necessarily set policy for maintaining that balance.

I can see that, especially in the physical world: We notice we're off balance, and we rebalance ourselves, but that doesn't mean we're hoping or predicting to maintain that particular balance over time.

In the "work/life balance" realm, when I hear people talking about finding a balance, they are (as far as I can tell) almost always seeking not just a momentary rebalancing, but a balance point that will serve well into the future.

So maybe it's not wanting balance per se that's problematic, but wanting to set a balance point for the future.

> For longer term, I try to be more cognizant of my current balance. When I do this successfully, I can make smaller corrections, sooner. This gives me more balance over time without making a prediction of what will satisfy over time.

I really like that. It seems likely that if you find yourself out of balance in a "life choices" sense, you've probably been neglecting balance month-to-month, or week-to-week, or day-to-day.

This will help me in the future when people want help with life choice balance. First: rebalance in the moment. Then: learn to be mindful of balance over time.

Thank you!

Tim Ottinger

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Oct 31, 2011, 5:28:33 PM10/31/11
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The OP's question was asked in advance of considering becoming an itenerant coach. My comments were in this context.

Maybe the OP has a balance that works and worries that it will be harmed. It surely will be changed. My other note has all I know to say about it, but I thought a refocus would be helpful as we the context has wandered.

Yves Hanoulle

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Oct 31, 2011, 8:38:13 PM10/31/11
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2011/10/31 Dale Emery <da...@dhemery.com>

Hi Yves and all,

Whenever people have trouble finding balance, I think part of the problem is that they're seeking balance. The idea of balance presumes there's a balance point that will satisfy over time, and that we can know ahead of time what balance point will satisfy us in the future. Sometimes those presumptions are reasonable. Other times they break down.

And when the presumptions break down, it doesn't work so well to try to find balance. Conversely: When we're having trouble finding balance, it's likely that one of the presumptions isn't true (enough). People seek balance only when they're out of balance.

yes and no. for me balance is a proces not a state.
like when you hold up a tennisracket on a finger and try to keep it in balance, there is not single moment when it is in balance.
yet their are moments when it is totally out of balance.

so yes, when I seek more balance it's because it feels like my live is totally out of balance.
Do I seek the perfect balance? No.
Do I seek the perfect way to stay in balance? No.

Does your answer help me? Yes.
It made me realize that my partners view on balance, might be different, then mine.
  

I hear questions of balance all the time time in the "how much" questions people ask in classes: How much testing should we do? How much detail should I put in a design document? In these cases I advise people to switch from balance to selection—from "how much" to "which." Which tests should we run? Which details in the design document? That leads to consideration of why you'd want to run each test, or to include each detail, in the first place. And that's how you resolve those questions.

There's a similar (if subtler) kind of selection for life-size "balance" questions: Choice. What do I choose, here and now, given what I want, and given the outcomes I expect from the options I perceive?

Seeking "balance" is an attempt to make those choices ahead of time. I think balance is in the moment, and it depends on the situation. Trying to determine balance ahead of time is like deciding ahead of time how you will remain physically balanced in a wrestling match, or in a dance, or in an earthquake, or in a space flight.

I don't think the idea of balance can ever relieve us from the difficulty of choice. I have a "policy" to work out of town no more than two weeks per month. That's an attempt at balance, a choice made in advance. But when I'm presented with an unusually interesting gig, or when my bank account is lower than I'd like, then I don't always accept the judgment of that policy. And sometimes I turn down work because I just want to be home with my family, even though my policy "assumed" that two and a half weeks would be enough. That policy represents a judgment I made in the past, when I didn't know as much as I do now about my current needs.

So the effect of the policy is to remind me about my priorities. That sometimes makes deciding faster, and therefore less painful. But it's only a reminder of my past priorities, which may not be the same as my current ones.

I would say that knowing these priorities, might help to know when are the moments we need to talk/renegotiate with ourself/our partner/kids/business partners etc..
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