ThirdPath

The Art and Science of Systems Thinking

January 15, 2020andyagnewBlog, Uncategorized

A World Increasingly Obsessed with Work

To understand how we became a world so obsessed with work, you have to understand “systems thinking.”  It helps identify the multiple forces that brought us to this present moment, and provides insight into how to make change.

Below are some of the “Laws of Systems Thinking” Peter Senge outlines in his book, The Fifth Discipline.  We’ve taken the liberty of applying them to the issue of finding time for both work and family.

Take a listen to the YouTube recording as well. It’s a great conversation with Peter Senge and two parents whose personal stories demonstrate how we can each do our part to make BIG changes in this complex system.

Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants
It’s hard to develop solutions that take the whole system into account, but unless we do, real change is not possible. When it comes to work and family both sides impact the whole.  To make change, we can’t just focus on changes at work OR home – we can’t cut the elephant in half – we must make changes in both arenas.

Cause and effect may not be closely related in time and space
Systems are very complex, and over time a change in one area may have unintended consequences in another. We can see this from the problem progressive countries faced around gender inequality after implementing long paid parental leaves. Luckily, many of these countries are now addressing this by requiring fathers be the persons who use a certain percent of paid leave time.

Today’s problems come from yesterday’s “solutions”
Assumptions around the need to be physically present to get work done are certainly archaic, but it may have been the only way to get work done during the industrial age. Today, the opportunities and challenges of new technologies and a global economy make it much easier to “blend” work and life. However, read on to see how today’s solution is creating problems for tomorrow.

Photo by Hendrick Cornelissen

The cure can be worse than the disease
Today, for some people, “blending” has literally become never turning off work. We can see this in Shark Tank super-star Kevin O’Leary’s comments, when he said, “I don’t have a division anymore between vacation time and work. It’s always both. I work every day.” And that rule also applies to his employees: “Do I expect my employees to respond to me when they’re on vacation? 100%,” he says. Is “blending” the only option in today’s 24/7 global economy?

Faster is slower
In today’s global economy, some believe the only answer is working harder and faster, but perhaps there is a better way … Instead of prioritizing work over the rest of our lives (and the environment!), we believe we need to develop a new mental model that allows all of us to live life at a more human pace. We at ThirdPath call it “Work-Life Integration” — prioritizing work alongside other life interests — whether it’s caring for our children, our aging loved ones, our communities, or caring for our environment.

Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious
Join us this week when we talk with Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline – one of the most well-known books written about systems thinking.  We promise you will leave with big insights into the “small changes” you can make to find a more satisfying approach to both work and life.

Register to join this week’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar on January 16 with Peter Senge. We’ll be exploring the growing problem of “workism” – the pattern of people seeking validation exclusively through work — and how to fight against it.

Stop! Take A Break!

December 2, 2019andyagnewBlog

Pauses Increase Happiness and Effectiveness

Are you feeling the need for a pause in your life? Luckily, there is a good deal of evidence that shows taking a pause helps us to live happier lives AND become more effective at work.

As Joe Robinson, author of Don’t Miss Your Life, points out… “Satisfying work and a well-lived life are the result of thinking, assessing, and having the attention to create a better pathway forward. Something no one else can do for us. What you want doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen.”

Following are 8 different beneficial pauses, big and small, that Robinson suggests we start implementing in our lives today…

1. Big Picture Pause.
Set aside a chunk of time, say, 30 minutes this week and then once a month, to think about where you’re going at work and life this year and why you’re going there. What are your work goals? Life priorities? What’s missing from the picture? What do you need to change? How can you do that?

2. Work Effectiveness Pause.
Review tasks and identify ones that are frequent bottlenecks and time-wasters. How could they be adjusted for less stress and more effectiveness?

3. Priorities Pause.
Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the workday or at the beginning to map out the top five tasks on your list for today or tomorrow.

man on peer

4. Balance Pause.
Each Friday, take a few minutes to assess the state of your work-life balance. Are you out of whack? What needs to happen to have a better work-life fit?

Read more …
5. Recharge Pauses.
Fatigued brains look like ones that are sound asleep. Pause when the pressure peaks, you’re stuck, concentration fades, the daydreaming begins. Take a walk, listen to music, or plan your weekend to build up energy and cognitive resources again.

6. Free Time Pause.
Take time to put together a free-time log for a week of all your time outside work. Where are the time sinks? Where are the free-time slots you could schedule a new hobby or activity? What would you like to do? Salsa dancing? Cycling?

7. Vacation Pause.
Figure out at the beginning of the year where you want to go on vacation and when you want to go. This makes it easier for coworkers and managers and locks them and you into making the holiday happen at the most opportune time, with plenty of notice to make workflow adjustments.

8. Life List Pause.
Take some time to think about what you’d like to do on this planet for the experience of it. What’s on your Life List? Sail the South Seas? Learn guitar? Keep a rotating list of five experiences and start jotting down steps to make them happen.

To hear more about taking a break, check out our “Finding Your Sweet Spot” webinar where we talked with Christine Carter, happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, about her book, The Sweet Spot, How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. In it she draws on the latest scientific research on positivity, productivity, and performance to demonstrate that by doing less we can actually accomplish more.

OR: Join our December 12th Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to learn more about why turning off work on vacation is good for you AND good for your organization.

Here’s the schedule of our upcoming webinars. Or download the latest recordings on iTunes.

The Importance of Hope

October 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Creating Culture Change Requires Courage and Hope

A guest post from Jessica DeGroot, ThirdPath’s founder and president.

What keeps the ThirdPath community moving forward? Learning from and being inspired by the amazing moms, dads and leaders who have gone ahead and asked for change – even when they’ve had to be the first to do so. Since founding ThirdPath I’ve learned that connecting to this courageous community has made us smarter, it’s also fostered my sense of hope. What derails the progress we are all working towards? Losing hope, and losing courage.

Why do I know this? Change is hard. It requires overcoming many obstacles, But here are a few things that help us stay the course:

  • Previous positive experiences around work-life integration – so even if you are failing at the moment – you stay motivated to keep making changes to achieve integration once again
  • Strong support at home, including someone who keeps encouraging you to reach for an integrated solution, even if it means leaving an unsupportive workplace
  • Seeking out role models who inspire you that integration can be achieved
  • Taking time to recharge and replenish your energy so you can overcome the next obstacle

As Peter Senge taught us long ago (see info graphic on right), when people maintain hope around what’s possible, it helps them avoid lowering their goals, it also helps them discover new and more creative solutions.

Why do I know this better today? Because of how personally challenging this past year has been.

I have always believed there is a “win-win” answer around work-life integration. However, this year, as I balanced my leadership role at ThirdPath with the unexpected and all-consuming demands of elder care, it taught me that some years we will fall short of this goal. Sometimes life will demand more of us, and work will need to take a back seat.

If you think it’s gotten easier for leaders to integrate work and life since ThirdPath was founded, think again. Here’s why:


  • Creating a high performing team that supports everyone’s work-life integration goals is the best way a leader can achieve work-life integration themselves
  • Creating a team like this is harder than you think, especially in a chronically overworked workplace
  • Unpredictability – like what I experienced around elder care – makes planning much more challenging
  • When leaders don’t have time to think and plan, they give up on improving their own work-life integration, as well as their drive to think more creatively with their teams around these issues
Read more …
In fact, unpredictability and lack of time for thinking and planning is probably one of the most significant factors that contributes to chronically overworked workplaces

Given these truths, should we be surprised that so many leaders give up hope, lower their goals, and let work take over their nights, weekends and even vacations?

I know there is a better way. I know supporting leaders to model integrated lives is key to change. However, this past year also taught me how hopelessness might be an unexpected obstacle to change.

How do you renew hope? Find support. Take time to recharge. Recommit to your goals … AND listen to the amazing conversation I had with Brigid Schulte about this exact issue. I promise it will renew your hope that change is possible.

Another option? Join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.

Time for Work and Family

September 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

The Many Gifts of Shared Care

Bryan and his wife both worked a four-day work week when their son was born. Now they are “empty nesters” and can quickly see how the “gifts” from adopting this approach just keep on coming. Read on to learn what Bryan gained from sharing care with his wife. Or watch the YouTube recording of our Thursday Webinar where Bryan and another dad explore the benefits of adopting this approach for themselves and their organizations.

Here’s what Bryan learned: I always knew I wanted to be a very involved Dad but until the time comes when the baby is born and real, it can be difficult to know exactly what that means. As it turns out, Shared Care has been an ideal way of being intimately involved in the day-to-day care of my son. By spending the first few months at home with my son and wife and then caring for my son one day during the work week (known to him as Daddy Day, Mommy also has her own day during the work week), I was able to develop the kind of relationship with my son that I had always hoped for.

Being able to truly share in the care of my son with my wife has been a true gift, some of the benefits anticipated, others quite a surprise.

As anticipated, the greatest benefit of Shared Care has been to share many more of the ‘little moments’ with my son so that I felt as though I witnessed his growing up first hand. I knew his favorite books and his favorite playgrounds, the stories he made up while playing with his trains, and how he liked his grilled cheese sandwich cooked at lunch.

Shared Care brought my wife and I closer together as we felt like ‘true partners’ in this whole business of raising a family.

We shared our lives on several fronts – the ups and downs of clients and projects and deadlines and co-workers and the ups and downs of playtime and napping and discipline and mealtime. Shared Care has helped to foster a wonderful closeness with my wife and as a family.

Shared Care helped me become a better employee as well as a more productive one.

Because I knew my time at work was limited, when working, I found myself very focused. I became better at prioritizing and retaining a perspective on what part of my contribution was the most valuable both to the company and to clients. My company also recognized my contributions both verbally and monetarily regardless of the truth that I continued to prioritize family alongside work.


Read more …

Another benefit of Shared Care was learning how to create self-time.

Both my wife and I learned how to structure our lives so that we both had a certain amount of private time in any week to ‘do our own thing’ and recharge. We’ve been able to create windows of time where each of us has the night off, or a morning off, where we can pursue our own interests apart from work and children. This time has always been precious to me.

One of the many benefits of ThirdPath and its mission of teaching couples about Shared Care is that it helps to create a vision of a new family structure where men and women contribute in significant ways both in the raising of children and in the generation of income.

It can be easy to feel isolated at times on this new path, especially when I was the the only father on the playground on a Thursday morning, or the only male senior technical person who worked a reduced schedule. But to my mind I have the best of all worlds. I developed a depth of connection with my sons that I never had with my own father, have done work I love and moved ahead in my career, all while also creating a lifelong bond with my wife. I may be biased but looking back, it sure feels like Shared Care has been a better way to combine work and family.

Thanks for being such a pioneer Bryan! We are confidant that forging this path for all of these years has made it easier for others to follow in your foot steps.

5 Mandates for Change

August 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Making the Impossible Possible

When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” went viral in 2012, we immediately recognized adding “men and women” to each of her 5 mandates summarized ThirdPath’s mission. These mandates are also at the root of making “the impossible possible” – supporting a new appraoch to careers and family that doesn’t force people to choose between the two.

During our 2018-2019 Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar season we explored each mandate. We also added a sixth mandate – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries. Check out the May and June webinars, they also demonstrate how this is a key ingredient for supporting men and women to share things at home.

Anne-Marie Slaughter makes the case in her book Unfinished Business, “Most of the pervasive gender inequalities in our society – for both men and women – cannot be fixed unless men have the same range of choices with respect to mixing caregiving and breadwinning that women do.”

She also argues, “It’s time for CEO’s, supervisors, and team leaders to assume that the experience of caregiving… helps people become more efficient, and develop knowledge, patience, adaptability to different rhythms, honesty, courage, trust, humility, and hope.”

To learn more about her revolutionary vision, listen to our YouTube recording of the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar with her.

We’ve also included a recap of the mandates below. Reading them, you’ll quickly see why putting these mandates into action helps make the impossible possible.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Mandates for Change:
Redefining Work, Careers and Family


Read more …
Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time – This is at the root of ThirdPath’s work; encouraging men and women – at any point in their careers – to look for the unique flexibility in their jobs. Not every job can be flexed in the same way, but there is a flexible solution for every job.

NEW – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries – Following an integrated approach to work and life means learning how to set win-win boundaries, otherwise flex becomes working days, nights, weekends and vacations. However, doing this requires making choices – both at work and at home – so we have the time and energy we need for what’s most important.

Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of our work with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders – the male and female senior leaders we work with who all “walk the talk.” Whether on our bi-monthly leadership calls, or at our Pioneering Leaders Summit, together we are exploring the opportunities and barriers of creating workplaces that support an integrated approach from entry level to executive level.

Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – That’s what we’ve been doing since launching ThirdPath, including our ground breaking work supporting Shared Care families. We help both mothers and fathers redesign work (and careers!) so they can stay actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for children. We’ve also learned this approach is key to balancing work and elder care.

Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy of an amazing vacation, making the most of summers, becoming an active volunteer, or a hobby enthusiast, this mandate gets right at the heart of our work. Most importantly – following a “third path” can continue all the way through phasing into retirement.

Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Lotte Bailyn discovered this in her pioneering work around the “dual agenda” where she designed solutions that were good for business and employees’ personal lives. Over and again, our amazing ThirdPath community has taught us, when you encourage employees to prioritize work alongside life – men and women, parents, single persons and grandparents – they will also find a way to improve how they work.

Listen to this year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars – each episode will show you how to put these ideas into action.

Our join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.

Our Mission

Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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P.O. Box 9275, Philadelphia PA 19139
Phone: 215.747.8790
Email: time4life (at) thirdpath.org