“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 the new year 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 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 new year!
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?
“Sometimes “No” is the kindest word.”
~ Vironika Tugaleva ~
Ginger feels as though she is drowning in a tsunami. Her inbox is piled high with projects, some of which are way past due. Her email is full of unanswered questions and her text message “ding” is ringing in her ears about every 60 seconds. If she doesn’t do something soon, her work life is going to spin completely out of control. Not to mention she’s losing sleep and shortchanging personal relationships, just to keep her head above water.
Since she’s already heavily involved in market research, Ginger decides to use her extraordinary research skills to come up with a plan for stopping the impending disaster. After scanning a number of relevant books and articles, Ginger comes up with a four-point plan for minimizing her stress overload. Primarily, she realizes that she needs to start saying “no,” a lot.
Step 1: Find out why
Step 2: Find a new pattern
Step 3: Find the “off” button
Step 4: Find support
Ginger figures that 30 days is time enough to get her new plan into place. Just deciding to take action has already made her feel less stressed.
1. Find out why. Ginger’s research introduces her to a new acronym—FOMO. In this day of information overload, lots of people suffer from this condition: Fear Of Missing Out. What if you say no to your boss when he asks you to resolve the next department crisis? He’ll think less of you, he’ll never ask you for help again. You won’t get promoted, and ultimately you’ll be laid off. That’s exactly what FOMO will do to you. What if you don’t read and answer every email the minute it comes in? You’ll soon be ignored by your colleagues and you might miss out on an important new assignment you’ve been craving. Getting rid of FOMO is the first step toward work balance.
2. Find a new pattern. We are all, to one extent or another, people-pleasers. We want our coworkers to like us, not to mention our bosses. We want to be seen as team players, major contributors. The old adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” gets a lot of us trapped on an endless treadmill of tasks and projects, some of which may be virtually meaningless when it comes to career advancement. So the new pattern goes like this: next time someone asks you to take on a new project or step into an emergency situation, you take a step back. Ask why. Get more information about the situation. Take time to think it over and see if it fits your own agenda, goals, and responsibilities. Then make the person who asked feel good about hearing your “no.” We are all too afraid of disappointing someone. The truth is, they will move on. A simple, “I’d love to say yes, Randy, but if I do, I’ll shortchange the projects I’m already working on. You wouldn’t want me to do that to you, and I don’t want to do it to anyone else either. I can’t give you my best right now, but ask me another time, and let’s see if we can get to a yes.” This lets the other person know that you’re doing him or her a favor by not taking on something you can’t do well. And next time might be different.
3. Find the “off” button. This is where technology becomes your friend. Turn off the signals that tell you every time an email lands in your inbox, or a text message arrives on your cell phone. Check these on a regular basis, of course, but don’t put yourself at their mercy. Program your email to sort your incoming messages—important clients in one folder, your boss in another. You might even go so far as to get two email addresses—one for people who need to reach you immediately, and one for everybody else.
4. Find support. It’s a good idea to talk over your strategy with your boss, of course. Take the approach that you know you’re doing less than your best and you want to create space to improve your performance. Depending on your situation, you might ask to be dropped from certain projects or committees, or you might ask for short term help to clear out the backlog.
Ginger was lucky that she recognized her problem before it caused her serious trouble. Long term work and communications overload can damage your health, your relationships, and your work performance. Ginger took steps to resolve her situation, and over time she learned to say “no” in a way that made others feel she was doing them a favor.
Are you facing a personal tsunami at work? Email Joel and get some tips on how you can avoid the oncoming disaster.
Talkback: What’s your strategy for saying no? Have you successfully conquered FOMO? Share your experience here.
Image courtesy of Pixabay/ pixabay.com
“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”
~ Alice Kahn ~
Client Rob Asks: The last time we talked, we discussed my urgent need to plan a vacation and I’ve been working on that. However, you also mentioned “unplugging,” getting completely away from my laptop, cell phone etc. I’m just not sure I can do that. Even though I’m on vacation, I owe it to my team to be available if an emergency comes up.
Coach Joel Answers: Rob, you have FOMO. It’s a common condition in our technological society. FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s a real addiction, according to a recent article in World of Psychology. Their definition is: the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what you’re currently doing.
FOMO is why teens text while driving, while having dinner with their parents, and probably while sleeping. Heaven forbid that a friend might be going to a party, a movie, or the mall—and they missed it. You have the same attitude toward your work. You truly believe your job, your boss, and your co-workers can’t get along without you.
The secret, even before you leave on that vacation we discussed, is to practice unplugging. Disconnect, disengage, catch your breath. Some people can do this cold turkey. Others have to take a more measured approach. Start on the weekend. Try to go for 24 hours without answering your phone, checking email, looking at Facebook, or even turning on the TV or the radio. If you can’t take it for 24 hours, start with four and work up from there.
Then when it’s time to actually take that vacation you’re planning, you will be able to unplug completely. A vacation is about rest, relaxation, recovery. It’s a time to recharge your creative batteries. Get completely away from the business with no interruptions. No cell phone, computer, or email. You may be so addicted to being plugged in right now that you can’t go 15 minutes without checking your e-mail. This is neither healthy nor productive. Make sure your boss and your team members understand that you will not be reachable during your time off.
Somewhere along the line you’ve started to believe that you need to be available 24/7 to your boss, your co-workers, probably even your neighbors and friends–because, you know, someone might need something from you and being needed makes you feel important and valued. Unfortunately, technology makes that 24/7 access not only possible to achieve, but almost impossible to escape. It’s time to cut the cord—literally.
Think you might have FOMO? Write down a plan today to begin disengaging from technology. Do what works for you, whether it’s an hour at a time or cold turkey. It will improve both your mental and physical health.
Talkback: Have you unplugged successfully? How did you do it? Share your story here.
Image courtesy of imtmphoto / fotolia.com