“You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life”
~ Heather Schuck ~
Client Karen Asks: I feel like I’m being pulled in all directions at once. My boss wants higher productivity, my family wants more time with me. Is balancing work and a personal life hard to do for most people?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s becoming an increasingly common problem in today’s hyper-competitive world. In a survey conducted by Strategy One, a global research and consulting firm they found that 89% of 1,043 Americans they surveyed state that work/life balance is a problem for them.
If you’re feeling out of balance right now, I recommend you shift your mindset with these ideas:
- Accept that you can’t please everyone. If you try, the only person who ends up not being pleased is you!
- Remember that you and your needs are important. Ask yourself: where do I need to be in order to get my needs met right now?
- Set boundaries and stick to them. Your boundaries will protect you when work becomes challenging.
- Keep your expectations of yourself realistic. One of the great myths of all time is that “You can have it all.”
- Underpromising will help you take off some of the pressure. Don’t try to be a hero or a superstar. Stop trying to look better than your colleagues.
Obviously, you have a challenging career. That makes it almost inevitable that you’ll find yourself consumed in work. There are several ways you can prevent this from getting out of control.
- Set goals and priorities for both your personal and professional life. This will help you decide how to dedicate time and energy to both sides of your existence.
- Develop some new and exciting personal interests.
- Determine what situations at work or at home you can and cannot control.
- We’ve already mentioned boundaries. Learn to say “No” when requests go beyond your boundaries or don’t fit with your goals and priorities.
- When you feel like your work/life balance is getting out of control, talk to your boss and discuss ways you can regain balance. Most companies realize that a happy employee is a more productive employee.
Very few companies expect their employees to have no life outside of work. Those that do find themselves with a high frequency of burnout, increased health care costs due to stress, and excessive turnover. Having a perfect work and life balance is seldom possible. But making thoughtful adjustments along the way can help you achieve a reasonable compromise.
Read through the lists in this article again and write down five things you’re not doing now that would help bring more balance to your life. Implement at least one of these a week for the next five weeks and the reevaluate how you feel.
Talkback: Do you feel in balance more than out of balance? What are your strategies for creating and maintaining work-life balance?
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“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”
~ Earl Wilson ~
Rob’s world seems to be spinning out of control. His desk is piled high with stacks of project data. His email inbox keeps sending him overload messages. He’s often talking on his mobile phone and his office phone at the same time. He’s exhausted during the day but he can’t sleep at night. Why? Rob hasn’t taken a real vacation in more than three years.
Rob oversees a team of 25 people, with four direct reports. He consistently works 60-65 hour weeks. He’s very hesitant to even cut back on his hours because he doesn’t know how he’ll get it all done and still meet his bottom line numbers. A vacation seems like a distant dream. Besides, if he is gone even for a few days, his boss might figure out he’s not indispensable.
One day, over coffee, Rob’s co-worker, Janene, shares an article about how vacations from work improve productivity. The article says:
If you don’t use your vacation days
- Relationships suffer
- Health deteriorates
- Enthusiasm disappears
- Productivity goes down
- Burnout and depression result
- Life balance ceases to exist
Rob realizes that every one of those factors is true for him. The article goes on to discuss the true value of vacations:
A vacation benefits you because
- It improves job satisfaction by minimizing burnout
- Relationships with co-workers and family improve
- Your morale turns positive
- Productivity and creativity increase
Rob is still floundering in his mountain of paperwork when he realizes it’s time for his monthly call with his business coach. He hasn’t met any of his coaching benchmarks for the month so he decides to throw the whole vacation issue in his coach’s lap and ask for advice. If you see yourself in this picture, here are four of the coach’s tips to help you get off the treadmill and reclaim your life and your sanity.
1. Ask for time off when there aren’t any major projects or deadlines.
Yes, it would be great if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, but that’s not meeting either the company’s needs or your best interests. Instead, start your own mental vacation by planning. Where would you like to go? Are you an active vacationer—hiking, whitewater rafting, sailing? Or would you rather spend time at a spa or a retreat? Start to collect brochures and trip information. Pick three or four dates that might be possible.
2. Look at your current workload and choose a time off after a major project is complete.
You don’t want to just drop everything and go, leaving pieces behind for your co-workers or your boss to pick up. Determine a completion date for your most critical project and develop a plan to delegate other responsibilities to your direct reports. As a negotiating point when talking to your boss (see below) offer to work ahead on your part of a project so others can fill in around you while you’re away.
3. Give plenty of notice
The more lead time you provide, the more prepared your boss can be. What’s realistic depends a lot on your own workload, your team situation, and your company’s culture and guidelines about taking time off. Have three or four possible dates in mind so your boss can have some alternatives to think about.
4. Request the time off in-person
Never request vacation time in an email. Talk to your boss in person and do it when he or she is in a good mood and less likely to be stressed or overwhelmed. This could be on a Friday afternoon, but definitely not first thing Monday morning!
Need more ammunition? There’s plenty of research, old and new, to support the time-off concept. A study done over 100 years ago by Dr. Ernst Abbe, a German researcher, evaluated work schedules at Zeiss Optical Works and found that reducing hours by more than 10 percent actually increased worker output. In 1914, Henry Ford appalled his peers by moving production from a six-day to a five-day week. Output increased, while production costs decreased.
There’s a lesson here. Time off is an important part of your work life. You’ve earned it—now take it.
This week, make a list of five dream vacations. Research online, get brochures from a travel agent, and write down some potential dates. Write down a target date to talk to your boss.
Talkback: When was your last vacation? How did you discuss your plans with your boss and ask for time off? Share your story here.
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“The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.”
~ Stephen Covey ~
Recently a client, Jillian, confessed to me, “I find myself working 60 or more hours each week. I have no time or energy for anything other than work. I don’t see my family, I don’t have time for friends or hobbies and I feel completely overwhelmed. I want more time and fulfillment in my life. I would rather divide my time between work, nature, people in my life and travel as opposed to oozing out meager samplings of these between work.”
This is a common concern. People are working more hours than ever. They make a good income and are able to afford more material possessions, but at the expense of their happiness and satisfaction. The balance they seek is difficult to achieve.
As Jillian stated, she’s unhappy, exhausted and creatively starved.
What can be done? Here are six tips:
1. Begin by simplifying your life.
Look at all of the things that you tolerate that only serve to limit you and drain your energy. Make a goal to systematically eliminate them all from your life.
2. Make an appointment with yourself.
This week make an appointment by marking your calendar and keeping the appointment with yourself as you would an appointment with your most important client.
3. Examine what you want from your life and what is standing in your way.
Look at what unwanted energy drains you need to remove from your life to make this happen. Do you need to pay off credit cards? Do you need to simplify your living situation? Can you incorporate a more flexible schedule so that you can have more time for fulfillment? Can you take a time management or organizing seminar so that you use your time more effectively? Brainstorm and see what comes to mind. Make a plan with concrete action steps with deadlines and follow through.
4. Get support.
Talk to friends and colleagues to see if they are going through the same situation and help each other brainstorm solutions. Enlist the support of a coach to help you set and achieve practical goals and regain balance.
5. Celebrate even the small triumphs of your life.
We often become so absorbed in accomplishing tasks or to-do lists that we overlook opportunities to experience joy and satisfaction.
6. Notice where you focus your attention.
Carlos Castaneda once said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Take this quote to heart. Write is down and tape it to your computer screen or bathroom mirror.
Then, every morning, ask yourself: “What am I going to emphasize today?”
Why be miserable, when you can make yourself strong!
Talkback: Are you sacrificing your home life to get ahead at work? What challenges do you face trying to find the right balance?
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