“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”
Kathy asks: My job keeps demanding more and more of me. I’m passionate about my career, but I don’t want it to be my entire life. How can I find work/life balance?
Joel replies: Kathy, you’re in good company—countless employees in the U.S. are working long, hard hours. And that’s not necessarily good for their careers or companies. According to a survey by the Families and Work Institute, overworked employees are more likely to:
– Be stressed and experience more symptoms of clinical depression.
– Report that their health is poorer.
– Neglect caring for themselves.
– Make mistakes at work.
– Feel angry at their employers for expecting them to do so much.
– Resent coworkers who don’t work as hard as they do.
These work/life balance tips will help you enjoy a rewarding life outside of work, while finding greater job satisfaction as well.
- Set Boundaries
Set clear boundaries with yourself first and foremost, so you can communicate them well to others. For example, you might decide that you’ll never stay at work past a certain time, and you’ll never skip lunch. Here are some ways of enforcing your boundaries:
- -Say no more often. Too often, “yes” is the default answer. We allow tasks to fill our schedules without considering whether they benefit our careers or make the best use of our skills. If you’re not required to take on a task and you’re not feeling excited about it, someone else might be a better fit.
-Disconnect from technology at home. Stay away from work-related email and texting at home. If you can, unplug from technology altogether.
-Communicate boundaries to your family. When they know your schedule and needs, they’ll be able to encourage you to uphold the boundaries that you’ve set. If they’re in the dark, they’ll just feel frustrated.
- Make Plans with Family
It might seem a given that you’ll spend time with them after work, but showing you’re excited about that time will make all the difference. This is one of the most important tips for creating work/life balance, because it strengthens your relationships. Plan a fun family evening to kick off the weekend, and make that a regular part of your routine. Do something fun and adventurous every now and then, too, like going on a camping trip.
- Start Under-promising
Always estimate that a project will take a little more time than you think it should. Giving yourself that buffer of time will make you feel less harried, and it will help keep you from working long hours just to meet the deadline you set. If you finish early, great! If not, no sweat.
- Use Your Vacation Time
Did you know that over a third of American workers don’t use their vacation time? Start taking your vacations, and you’ll improve your health and wellbeing dramatically. We all need time to recharge, and vacations are one of the best ways to do that. Here are a few tips for getting the most from your vacation:
– Leave work completely behind. Resist the urge to check in with folks in the office. It’ll be good for them to figure things out on their own—and keeping your hands out of it sets a good example for everyone.
– Plan a relaxing time. Sometimes vacations are jam-packed with experiences, as we feel the need to do everything possible to enjoy the destination and our precious time off. However, that doesn’t necessarily make for the most relaxing trip. Enjoy plenty of downtime so you’ll come back refreshed.
- Get the Sleep You Need
When we don’t sleep enough, we start overreacting to stress, says Harvard Business Review. It makes us more hostile and anxious, causing smaller stressors to feel larger. When we respond to them that way, we create bigger problems. Getting enough sleep can nip this vicious circle in the bud.
- Make Time for Friends
Making time for family can be challenging enough, but don’t ignore your close friends. Make time to catch up in person on a regular basis. If you’re in a relationship, sharing close social connections will bring you closer to one another as well. Invite a few friends over for dinner once a month, or have a game night. People with strong social support cope with stress better, live happier lives, and live longer, studies have found.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be challenging if an employer keeps demanding more of your time. However, we often place many unnecessary demands on ourselves, which these work/life balance tips can help you to overcome. Remember that to get where you want to go in your career, pacing yourself is key. Enjoying a rich life outside of work will give you the fuel you need to get there.
If you or your employees need to immediately get a handle on their work/life balance, email leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for assistance.
“Optimism is the foundation of courage.”
~Nicholas M. Butler~
Sandra sighed in annoyance when Carlos, her coworker, who bounced into the office humming an upbeat tune. Their team had just lost a major client, and he seemed clueless about how that might affect the company.
Over lunch, she vented her frustration to her great mentor—and to her surprise, her mentor told her that Carlos had exactly the right attitude. “Sandra, optimistic people have many life benefits that pessimists just don’t share,” she told her. “You see optimism as naïve. You’re analytical; you don’t want to believe anything that’s not based on solid reasoning. But here’s the thing—optimism is actually the most rational approach. Optimists aren’t just choosing to see things differently; they’re actively creating a better reality for themselves. Trust me, it works.”
- Boosting Your Health
People that are optimistic have healthier hearts, a 2015 study by the University of Illinois found. To double your odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health, become an eternal optimist, according to the authors. Optimists also take more consistent measures to improve their physical health—whether they have a chronic illness or not—thereby improving their outcomes, say Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Charles S. Carver, and Michael F. Scheier in The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Wellbeing. Increased immunity is another benefit of optimism, they add. In other words, optimism can help you live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
- Improving Mental Wellbeing
Because pessimistic people also have an eight times greater risk of depression, optimism can also boost your mental health, says Elsevier in Job Readiness for Health Professionals. Optimism also helps people cope with stress and become less overwhelmed. They tend to head off stressors early on, often keeping them from getting as big, Segerstrom and her coauthors note.
- Viewing Failure as Opportunity
Rather than viewing failure as a catastrophe, people who are optimistic start looking for potential new beginnings right away. They don’t deny that problems exist—they’re proactive about solving them, say Segerstrom and her coauthors. They make creative leaps toward other possible futures, taking calculated risks, and they’re not afraid to move beyond their comfort zone. Their lack of fear makes them excited about possibilities they may not have envisioned, rather than anxious about them. Because they believe solutions are possible, optimists focus relentlessly on achieving them.
- Branding Yourself as Capable
Optimistic people brand themselves as capable and confident. Thus, they’re more likely to be seen as leaders, people whom others trust. Their optimism gives them a natural charisma, causing others to gravitate toward them.
- Building Workplace Morale
Optimism is contagious, as Shawn Murphy says in The Optimistic Workplace. Optimists inspire others to reach toward greater heights, frequently using motivational words. When others witness an optimist achieving seemingly unreachable goals, or staying the course through a difficult time, they’re more likely to act more ambitiously themselves. They also make others feel good about themselves and excited about the future. All this creates a positive feedback loop, as people perform at their best when they’re feeling positive, says Murphy.
- Earning Promotions
Optimists tend to advance further in their careers than pessimists, according to Elsevier. They don’t self-sabotage by placing arbitrary limits on themselves. Plus, all the qualities discussed above give them a definite advantage over their pessimistic counterparts.
- Strengthening Relationships
Optimistic people tend to enjoy stronger relationships with family and friends, say Segerstrom, Carver, and Scheier. They work more effectively at solving relationship challenges, and they maintain social connections through times of stress, the authors explain. Plus, they keep a healthy work/life balance.
Sandra no longer saw Carlos as clueless and naïve. Each morning when she went in to work, she gave herself permission to feel excited about the good things that might happen that day. At their weekly lunch, her mentor would ask her to share all the successes that had happened, both large and small. As a result, Sandra found herself focusing on them. In doing so, she gave them more power than the petty annoyances and perceived roadblocks that had previously dominated her focus.
To improve your quality of life and achieve your work career dreams, cultivate an optimistic mindset, as Sandra’s mentor advised her. Even if you’re a natural pessimist, it’s never too late to start.
Need more support in cultivating an optimistic outlook? Contact Joel for his executive coaching services.
“When you have balance in your life, work becomes an entirely different experience. There is a passion that moves you to a whole new level of fulfillment and gratitude, and that’s when you can do your best… for yourself and for others.”
Mateo asks: My life is out of whack, and my boss seems oblivious about it. Should I just suck it up and keep plugging along, or find a way to deal with the problem?
Joel answers: Join the club. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the American Sociological Review, 7 of 10 workers in America are struggling to find work/life balance. The importance of helping them achieve it cannot be overestimated.
We might take a lesson from Europe—less than 15% of workers in Denmark and Belgium work over 40 hours per week, whereas in the U.S., it’s 70%, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It’s no wonder that U.S. workers suffer from so much overwhelm and burnout.
This kind of imbalance might be par for the course, but you shouldn’t accept it. If you do, no one wins—not your company, and certainly not you.
Symptoms of Imbalance
By educating yourself on the symptoms of imbalance, you’ll be prepared to explain to your boss how important work/life balance is to the company as well as your career. You might be experiencing these symptoms:
- Feeling preoccupied with work while at home, and unable to really feel present with your loved ones.
- Inability to do your best work. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
- A skyrocketing level of stress, and accompanying physical and mental systems like depression, tension in the body, or health problems.
- Lack of time to reflect on career goals and personal milestones, or plan for the future.
- Inability to fully enjoy your personal time or relax while at home.
- Lack of satisfaction with your job, which may be coupled with a sense of resentment.
Steps Toward Finding Balance
Remember, you need to be your own greatest advocate in achieving balance. Here’s how to begin.
- Set reasonable goals. The saying “Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” ignores how we actually feel when we don’t achieve that overly ambitious goal—or when we work overtime every night trying to get there. Set goals that stretch your abilities but aren’t unreachable.
- Communicate your needs. This may mean being more selective about projects you take on.
- Set strict hours. Vow not to work outside of particular hours anymore, and follow through.
- Find something that is calming to you, whether it’s a breathing exercise or taking a walk, and do it when you feel super stressed. You’ll work more efficiently when you’re thinking clearly.
- Make time just for you. To reflect on your goals, career trajectory, and other important life plans, you need quiet time to hear your own thoughts. Do something that gets the juices flowing, whether it’s journaling or going for a hike.
- Use your vacation time. It exists for a reason.
Helping Employees Find Balance
If you supervise others, help them find work/life balance. Make it part of company culture by checking in on them, asking if they’re feeling swamped or overwhelmed. Here are a few options your company could implement to foster work/life balance:
- Fair parental leave policies.
- Flexible working hours, or the option to telecommute.
- Workshops on stress reduction and time management.
- On-site childcare.
- Eldercare support (which may consist of a caregiver leave policy and/or support in finding caregiver resources).
You’re probably not the only one in your office experiencing these issues. One subtle way to shift the culture is to ask coworkers what they do to achieve work/life balance. They might be caught off guard, but it opens the conversation and positions work/life balance as a priority. Remember, work/life balance is hugely important to everyone, whether they’re thinking about it or not. Get the conversation started, and you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Contact Joel for his Executive Coaching Services so you can immediately begin improving your work/life balance before it’s too late.
“Phrases like ‘overworked and underpaid’ perpetuate that feeling.” ~ Lena Bottos ~
Steven put in extra-long hours on the project at work. It was highly technical and exceptionally difficult. When he was done, his boss offered no praise and Steven found himself feeling totally underappreciated.
He felt upset and bitter. How could they not appreciate all the work he was doing? He fumed for a few days. Then he stopped to figure out how he could get back on even keel. He really liked the kind work he was doing. He needed to find ways to be happy again.
Steven started working on a list. What could he control?
- Enjoyment of work. Steven decided he could focus on his enjoyment of the work and the satisfaction it brought him. He could savor the tough solution to the problem and acknowledge that he did a great job. Even if others didn’t see it, it didn’t diminish his work.
- Praise yourself. Write down what you accomplished each day. Tell yourself you did a good job. Even say it out loud, “That was GOOD work!”
- Reward yourself. Steven decided that after each project he accomplished, he would reward himself with a nice dinner out or an extra round of golf.
- Expect less. In truth, people seldom get praised for doing the job they are supposed to do. Bosses are busy. Getting paid and lack of criticism are implicit signs you are doing a good job.
As Steven worked on these tasks, it seemed to help a little, but he still felt overworked and underappreciated at work.
He talked to a friend to get more suggestions. His mentor asked a deep question. “How long have you felt this way? Is it the job, or have you felt undervalued for a long time?” Steven through back to the last jobs he’d had. Yes, it was a common problem.
His friend suggested this deep-seeded feeling could come from childhood rejection or lack of validation long ago. The friend suggested journaling to reveal the source and work to overcome it. Steven also considered counseling to quickly overcome this and move forward.
The counselor talked about “love languages” and suggested there are “appreciation languages” as well. “What does appreciation look like to you?” he asked. The boss may send a “Good job” email, but if you expect a promotion or public accolades, you may still feel underappreciated.
Steven decided to talk to his boss about the kind of validation he was looking for. At the same time, he worked to make it clearer to his boss exactly what he was doing. He realized the boss could not show appreciation if he didn’t understand exactly what Steven was doing.
Finally, Steven decided that if he valued appreciation he should extend it to others as well. He made a plan to praise his co-workers for the good work they were doing. Then, he decided even those below him and his boss were pretty overworked and deserved praise as well.
He found that when he praised others he felt better. He also noticed they seemed quicker to offer affirmation to the work he was doing. Three months later Steven looked back. He realized he no longer felt overworked and underappreciated at work. These seven solutions had helped him feel more valued and more included. His enjoyment at work had increased.
If you are struggling with feelings of overwork or being underappreciated contact Joel for executive coaching. He can guide you in further ways to get the recognition you deserve.
What have you done when you’ve felt over worked and underappreciated?
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
Simon wanted to have an extremely productive upcoming year. He reached out for executive coaching so he could take the necessary steps to help him improve his work performance. With advanced planning, he knew he would be prepared to start the New Year with a significant advantage.
This is the plan that I completed with Simon and other clients over the years.
STEP 1 – CLOSE OUT THE OLD YEAR. Close out the year in an effective way so you are ready to charge forward in the New Year.
1. Wrap up loose ends. Close out those small nagging projects you’ve been meaning to do. Make the phone calls, answer those emails, and turn in expense reports. Essentially you want to clear out dated projects so you can start fresh.
2. Organize your work area. Clean up your desk, put away old papers, toss dated files and generally straighten your physical area. Then you’ll come back to a clean organized office for less stress.
3. List your accomplishments for the year. Take the time to review your accomplishments. Quantify all that you can. How did it benefit the company? What value have you brought? Keep this in a file for your next review.
4. Keep in contact. Before you leave for vacation turn on voice mail and email autoresponders with a message you are away. Make sure the office has a contact for you in case of urgent matters. You don’t want to return from vacation to unpleasant surprises.
5. Check employee benefits. Businesses often have changes to their employee benefits that happen with the changing year. Take a look. Do they affect you? Or have your circumstances changed and you need to update beneficiaries, withholding amounts, or providers?
STEP 2 – TAKE A YEAR-END BREAK. Be sure to take a well-deserved year end break. This is a time for relaxation and renewal. You will return to work more vitalized and energized than if you just keep on working without a break.
6. Unplug. Disconnecting from typical social media and technology gives your brain a chance to recharge. It calls on new neuron paths and creates new ways of thinking. When you return to work, your performance will improve.
7. Connect with family and friends. Personal interaction is another way to recharge your life. Pick up hobbies and activities. Have fun. Enjoy.
8. Strengthen your network. The holidays are a great time to send greetings to those you want to keep in your network.
9. Gratitude. Life feels fuller and more enjoyable when we have gratitude. Take time to thank others and express appreciation. Be grateful for what you have.
10. Reflect on your personal and professional life. What changes do you want to make to have a more fulfilling life?
STEP 3 – PREPARE FOR A FRESH START. As you start 2017 you will be prepared for a fresh start. Think of it as a new beginning. The old is behind you and the New Year is a blank page for you to write on. Jump in with enthusiasm.
11. Goal Set. Take stock of where you are and where you want to go. Are there projects or tasks you want to be a part of? Do you want to join a class or professional association? What steps do you need to take to get there? Write down the process and calendar it.
12. Update LinkedIn profile. Review it for needed changes. Use your goals to focus the content and attract the connections that will help you achieve them.
13. Organize your priorities. What is most important? Why? How will you keep that in focus? Learn how to use your time in the most productive way possible.
14. Choose your attitude. Make the New Year one of optimism, gratitude, focus, energy. Use this to create a brand and an expectation that you will produce great work.
15. Focus on the positive. Look at each negative with “What can I learn from this that will make me sharper, stronger, more resilient?” Don’t drag others down, lift them.
16. Capture your 2017 accomplishments. Going forward, track your successes. Make an email folder to hold records of your accomplishments. Quantify them and remember how they added value to the company.
When you apply these 16 principles, you’ll find that you naturally improve your work performance. You’re focused, organized, refreshed and connected. You know where you’ve been and where you want to go. Get set for a rewarding 2017!
Need help rejuvenating, organizing, or planning for your future? An executive coach can cut through the fog to clear answers.
What have you done to launch the next year ready to increase your performance? How effective do you think these tips will be for you?