The Art of “Life Integration”
October 22, 2021
So what do you do?
It’s a common life question that pops up at social gatherings. My usual response is to state my profession, which consumes most of my waking hours.
Lately, I’ve started rethinking my answer. Is that all I do? Perhaps it’s the blurring of the lines between work and personal time, especially since most of us still work from home, that inspired me to dig deeper and reckon with the different life aspects that motivate me to do what I do.
Work, community, family, and the private self—I feel like I’m more in touch with each facet now. Like different ingredients in a recipe, each facet brings a unique flavour to life. It’s easy to fall into a traditional way of thinking, where each facet is kept neatly separated. But the truth is life isn’t a binary of work and play. It is actually the intersection and interaction of ingredients, all integrating together to elevate the overall taste of life.
Trust is the most essential ingredient to make any kind of “life integration” work. Taking myself out of the equation and focusing on my children’s needs as they grow up has helped me become a better manager and leader for my work team.
As a mother of two who works full-time on both her career and her family life, finding ways to successfully integrate and harmoniously develop every part of my life is truly what I do 24/7. We are essentially all integrators of life.
People matter more than tactics
The word “integration” gets thrown around a lot in the communications industry, particularly in public relations. Is this, at a fundamental level, a cry for help from a field that’s grown entrenched and specialised in its practices, tools, and channels of outreach? Is it a reaction to a shrinking media value chain that we desire a bigger slice of the pie?
On the flipside, PR’s younger, hipper and more data-advanced sibling, digital marketing, is trying hard to mature and find its voice in a “more is more” world of data and platforms. As a landscape, it’s like the new Wild West, sparking both excitement and bewilderment at once, even for marketers.
In our quest to define “integration” and bring it to life, we must not forget that we’re in this to help people. An integrated approach to communication is about adopting a broader view of communication channels, whether those channels are new or established. Adopting a channel-agnostic approach and focusing on what the end-goal means for our target audience is essential to any marketing communications plan.
Success rests on growth, not perfection
Last year, my son sat for his first national school-leaving exam, which would move him from primary to secondary school. He went through three distinct phases in the process of his preparations—avoidance at first, panic with three months out from the exam, and then calm determination throughout the final concerted push for the line.
The avoidance and panic that he felt were due to his predilection for perfection (inherited from me, unfortunately) and the feeling that he was far from the lofty mark he’d set for himself in terms of preparation, time management, and goals.
The turning point came when he learnt to let go of his quest for perfection and stopped fretting about the lack of time. Instead, he made the most of the time that he had left, taking it one subject at a time and sticking to his study plan, while allowing himself to veer and refocus when needed.
Similarly, evolving to an integrated communications approach is not a study in perfection but a constant work in progress. There will always be more data that we could acquire and newer, better platforms we could take advantage of to perfect that marketing communications plan we needed to implement yesterday.
Just as it was for my son, our ultimate measures of success at work should include not only where we hoped to go in our last campaign—but also how agile our teams and partnerships are to face the challenges ahead of us tomorrow.
Suppose integration is the ability to stretch and revalue the different facets of our life. In that case, longevity is also about finding new definitions of success when the best-laid plans don’t work out. Just as life’s setbacks make us stronger as people, turbulent times in business can make our teams and partnerships even more match-fit—so long as our leaders roll with the times, too.
Again, as a leader or a parent, that’s the promise of integration. My son is now a different person for the experience: having learnt to trust the relationship between his effort and the returns he gained, he now embraces his new school’s journey more whole-heartedly, and has grown as a result. When we acknowledge the importance of every experience, then truly are we able to integrate them into this grander experience called “life” and through it, we can find a recipe for success to call our own.