Achieving work-life balance is like walking a tightrope. Luckily, over numerous decades in business I have learned a number of tips on how to find equilibrium. Having put myself at the front and centre of the Virgin Group, the work side of my life has been well-documented publicly, but what exactly does the life side of the equation look like?
I don’t look at work as work and play as play; to me they are the same thing. If a new business opportunity or project doesn’t excite me and if it’s not something with which I can have a lot of seriously creative fun, then I’d rather pass on it and move right along. Life’s too short to waste your time doing things that don’t light your fire.
With this in mind, work for me these days is very different from when I started out with Virgin Records or entered into the airline industry with Virgin Atlantic. There are definitely fewer boardroom meetings and discussions with bankers (other than our own at Virgin Money!). Today, I spend my time on things that I am passionate about; namely looking for new opportunities, working with our staff, our brand and our non-profit foundation, Virgin Unite.
Working for Virgin Unite is one of my chief priorities in life. I spend 80 per cent of my time travelling the world raising awareness and funds for philanthropic causes — most notably ending the war on drugs, abolishing the death penalty,stopping rhino poaching, combatting climate change, and conserving the ocean. By spending my time on topics I am interested in and passionate about, I find I rarely need to unwind, reboot and refocus; instead I feel energised by my work.
And just as I like to incorporate fun and passion into my everyday work, I also like to incorporate work into my everyday fun and passions. I’m always on the look out for business opportunities, whether it’s meeting with fellow kitesurfing enthusiasts or spending downtime with my family. Often the best business ideas spring from unexpected places.
If I do topple off the tightrope, overwhelmed with work, I like to get my head back in the game by going kitesurfing. Secondary to being with my family, I am most happy when I am kitesurfing. Kiting helps me to clear my head. In this state, I can put everything into perspective, and think up new ideas more easily. I’ve even managed to turn it into a business opportunity – the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, a unique kitesurfing festival that brings the community together for a fantastic weekend of kiting, music, fundraising, and record breaking. Plus, each year MaiTai hosts a number of networking events on Necker Island, bringing together kitesurfing entrepreneurs from all over the globe to generate and grow business ideas.
Of course kiting isn’t for everyone, but everyone can enjoy some downtime. I find that one of the best ways to help me unwind and refocus is to take a break and have a cup of tea. Alongside the meetings, appointments, and email replies, it’s important to just be. If you slow down, breathe, and be present in the moment you will find balance more easily. As well as taking tea breaks, I do this by putting time in my diary to exercise and spend time with my loved ones.
By focusing on the things I am passionate about, having fun, enjoying some downtime, and prioritising the things I care about the most (my family and my health), I have been able to avoid having a work-life balance burnout. I feel that is a pretty huge accomplishment having been in business for 50 years. My advice for you is to do the same. I guarantee when you do, you will be much happier, engaged and productive in work and in life.
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