Making work effortless By Tara Wood, founder of

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To me, work-life balance is about how to wield forces greater than your own.

I started out thinking that my own force was the only force available to me. My allotted 24 hours in a day, my ‘fighting spirit’ tank, the number of books my one brain could remember.

I worked like this for years – putting in great effort to make my business a functional entity; while around me rivers flowed smoothly, puppies bounded up hills, trees breathed.

How to harness some of that graceful organic energy?

I achieved so much more when I stopped working so much

When I tried this for the first time – anxiously, heavily tentative like a paused avalanche; I thought: Will the world be ok? Will everything fall apart unless I hold it together? One by one I came across some powerful allies. These were my top three:

  1. Kairos – defined as: ‘a propitious moment for decision or action’.

This ancient Greek word points mostly to the art of prioritization, using common sense, patience and intuition. I use Kairos particularly in deciding when to reply to an email. I wait until I am excited about replying (unless it is urgent!). I wait for as long as I can (without pissing people off), and often something happens that gives me the information I need to make my reply impactful.

Likewise, when I don’t need an urgent reply I encourage the art of Kairos by signing beneath my email: ‘Reply when you feel like it and when it feels fun – that’s when the best emails are written and I’m in no rush’.

  1. Presence and empathy

At my busiest, my greatest poverty was not being able to be fully present (or sometimes even partially) when talking to people. I had to clear space in my life so that when I was with people – business or non-business – I could really listen to them and respond from a fresh and real place.

I’d say that my biggest breaks have come from connecting with people properly, not knowing what would come of the connection. From selling my company, to getting customers or vital information – it’s emerged from meetings with people who I was able to really connect with. There is no equivalent in ‘hours worked’ grinding at the desk.

  1. Relying on other people

Once I couldn’t walk and had to be bed-bound for a month after a kite surfing accident. My business ran beautifully, perhaps even better than if I had been there.

John Mackey (CEO of Wholefoods) says that there is nothing more powerful than an alive, switched on human being. Getting other people to truly contribute and share your load is probably the greatest turbo boost I’ve had.

I’m still on the look-out for more ‘helping forces’ that take away the need for effort. I know there are lots: taking risks, having sound intentions, being organized, articulating a clear vision and many more. I’d love to hear if you have any secret forces to share with me? Please drop in a comment…

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