Finding your work-life balance
The true secret to success and enjoyment in your career & life
By Dan Moran
Do these scenarios sound familiar?
• You look up at the clock and realize that everyone has left the office—you missed them leaving because you were so buried that you lost track of time.
• On the way out to your child’s game you have a pang of guilt because you left work early.
• Your blackberry or cell phone is constantly with you always commanding your attention even when it’s family time.
If you have experienced these feelings then your work-life is likely out of balance, which is quite common. A recent study quoted by Randall Hansen, PhD on www.quintcareers.com reported that two of every five workers out of 50,000 were dissatisfied with their work-life balance. They quote long hours, lack of boundaries between work and home and increased work pressure.
How to get it under control?
The first step is admitting that your balance is out of whack and giving yourself “permission” to take action. I often find that acceptance is the needed first step before you can take action to solve the issue. Many are paralyzed by fear – fear of failure, of taking a step backward or simply fear itself. I always find that this type of fear is not rooted in any fact, but a fear of what could happen, not what will. If there is a burning desire in your heart to change, you will find success.
With your new “permission” follow these steps:
Pinpoint the problem(s)
At first glance, most look to their job as the root cause of work-life imbalance. In many cases, this isn’t true. Oftentimes, the issues driving this imbalance are in the home or outside activities. The best way to identify where the real problem persists is to take an inventory of your activities and schedule over a five-day period. Write down what you did, your work hours, meetings at work, time checking your email, your home tasks, events, etc. Be very detailed—you only need to do this once.
At the end of the week, look at your list and assign each activity or action you listed to:
As you look at the list you will see where the imbalance is being fueled and this should be your focus to change.
Another key step is to prioritize what is important to you and let go what is not. You might find that a time-consuming activity you engage in may not be as important as you thought nor does it deliver value to you. You might also find that some priorities in work that at first glance look to be very important, aren’t. You will also be forced to prioritize your work and personal life and determine what is most important. That may be hard and eye-opening, but is part of the process.
With a better understanding of what is causing your imbalance, you are ready to plan and put change in action.
At home: Get help. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your family responsibilities, find a sitter for your children, explore options for aging parents and seek counseling for yourself. Also, ask your family or partner to share the load and take some responsibilities off your shoulders. Simplify your life, learn to say no, de-clutter your home and your mind and don’t sweat the small stuff.
At work: Make changes. The good news is that employers recognize the importance of employees who are balanced in their work and life. Many options exist that you can negotiate with your employer including:
• Flexible work schedules. You choose your start time, finish time and lunch hour; and they can vary from day to day. Typically, the times are within certain parameters to be established by your employer and are usually fine as long as you put in your eight hours. Talk to your supervisor of human resources to see what can be worked out.
• Compensatory time. When you work overtime, you can take an equal amount of time off on another day, or spread the time to more than one day. Please know that in some cases, due to labor laws, this may not be possible especially if you are paid by the hour.
• Telecommuting. Technology has made it easy to work from home using your computer and phone to stay connected.
• Compressed working hours. This concept allows you to work your total number of weekly hours over fewer days. For example, one person may work a four-day week, while another may work nine days over a two-week period.
• Annualized hours. Your total working hours are calculated over a year instead of a week. You work according to the peaks and valleys of activity over a year’s time. Not as common, but quite possible.
• Your current job or career: Maybe it’s time for a change. Some careers are simply more stressful and time-consuming than others. Or, maybe it is just where you work and the job you are in. Rather than a career change, perhaps you simply need to take a less stressful position within your chosen career.
This change may involve working with your current employer to identify a new position, it may involve a full job search, or it may involve securing temporary employment, becoming a consultant or starting a home-based business.
At the end of the day, employers want employees who have life-work balance; business owners need this to survive. Stressed out, unfocused and tired employees do not serve a business well. And for you, it just isn’t good for your health. Commit to finding your balance!
Dan Moran is president & founder of Next-Act, a career management & transition firm located in Colonie. He specializes in helping people make career choices and seek new jobs. He is also a Certified Facilitator for Get Hired Now! and Get Clients Now! Programs, which help those in career transition and companies get results. He mentors managers & executives as they navigate their careers and achievements. You can reach him at 641.8968 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.next-act.com.