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How do you measure your own success in life or business? Do you look back over the previous month or year to determine where you missed the mark, then make necessary adjustments?

For Bill Gates, success is determined by an “end-of-year assessment” of his personal and work life, and it has nothing to do with how much money he made to increase his billions.

At 64-years young, Gates’ priorities have shifted from his 20s, when an end-of-year assessment meant asking one overarching question: “Is Microsoft software making the personal-computing dream come true?” 

His personal priorities now align with his broader understanding of well-being — his own and that of others by improving the quality of life for future generations through his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

1 simple question to ask

Gates assesses his life now through a different measurement — asking himself a new set of questions about his life that, he says, “would have been laughable to me when I was 25, but as I get older, they are much more meaningful.”

One of those questions? ‘Did I devote enough time to my family?’

Despite the billionaire’s busy schedule, Gates has never lost sight of his role as a family man, even back in his Microsoft days. His wife, Melinda, shared with Business Insider that when Bill was CEO of Microsoft, he spent a few mornings each week driving their oldest daughter, Jennifer, to school.

“Bill and the kids cherished those moments in the car,” she said. “Listening to music together, the conversations over many years that they had — it’s a side of him that they might not have seen otherwise. It would’ve been a missed opportunity.”

The cost of not putting family life first

Scientific analysis of the leading causes of death in the workplace list, among others, “long hours/overtime” and “work-family conflict” as common sources of workplace stress destroying the health of U.S. workers.

To the skeptic not buying into the philosophy of putting family life first, it doesn’t mean sacrificing your work or business or giving up your entrepreneurial dreams. It means giving up an unhealthy view of productivity and employing the good practice of work-life integration. This is a win-win.

Yes, it will take self-discipline; it will also mean having clear boundaries around your professional work life and your family life, so that the two areas don’t overlap and cause imbalance and stress.

This strategy will help you do two things: make you more focused and super productive at work during the time to which you commit (which should not invade family space), and make “family first” a top priority once you commit to shutting it down and unplugging from all your devices at home.

That’s something that billionaire CEOs and the CEO of a 3-person team both can relate to.

Published on: Feb 13, 2020

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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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