There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task. This might be especially true if you’re concerned about losing your job due to restructuring, layoffs or other factors. Still, work-life balance isn’t out of reach.
Start by evaluating your relationship to work. Then apply specific strategies to help you strike a healthier balance.
Married to your work? Consider the cost
It can be tempting to rack up hours at work, especially if you’re trying to earn a promotion or manage an ever-increasing workload — or simply keep your head above water. Sometimes overtime might even be required. If you’re spending most of your time working, though, your home life will take a hit.
Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
Fatigue. When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm relationships with your loved ones. It’s also difficult to nurture friendships if you’re always working.
Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you might be given more responsibility — which could lead to additional concerns and challenges.
How to strike a better work-life balance
As long as you’re working, juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. Consider these ideas to find the work-life balance that’s best for you:
Track your time. Pay attention to your daily tasks, including work-related and personal activities. Decide what’s necessary and what satisfies you the most. Cut or delegate activities you don’t enjoy or can’t handle — or share your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others.
Take advantage of your options. Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you’re likely to be.
Learn to say no. Whether it’s a co-worker asking you to spearhead an extra project or your child’s teacher asking you to organize a class party, remember that it’s OK to respectfully say no. When you quit accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll have more time for the activities that are meaningful to you.
Leave work at work. With the technology to connect to anyone at any time from virtually anywhere, there might be no boundary between work and home — unless you create it. Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time. When you’re with your family, for instance, keep your laptop in your briefcase.
Manage your time. Organize household tasks efficiently, such as running errands in batches or doing a load of laundry every day, rather than saving it all for your day off. Put family events on a weekly family calendar and keep a daily to-do list. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
Bolster your support system. At work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for you — and vice versa — when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel.
Nurture yourself. Eat a healthy diet, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.
reposted from the Mayo Clinic Online.
The elusive goal of balance keeps us teetering on a tightrope of insanity as we frantically juggle the plates of our compartmentalized lives.
Balance may be the big buzzword in corporate America, but parceling yourself out in the quest for perfect balance often makes you so worried about the moments you’re missing that you forget how to enjoy the moments you’re actually in.
The problem isn’t lack of balance. It’s that we’ve sub-divided our lives into a series of endless to-dos that hold no meaning for us whatsoever.
The truth is, balance isn’t a strategy; it’s a tactic, and a reactive one at that. And you don’t create success or happiness with tactics. Think about it. Do you know anyone who achieved nirvana by mastering the art of the Franklin Planner?
It’s no coincidence that when people talk about balance they’re usually lamenting their lack of it.
I should spend more time with my kids. I should take more vacations. I should get to the gym more often. I should call my folks. The list is a mile long, and we’re convinced that true happiness will descend upon us when it’s all checked off.
But the real secret of happiness isn’t balance at all; it’s two very simple things: We’re the happiest when we’re connected to others, and we know that what we’re doing with our time makes a difference.
That’s it. Not new cars, not big promotions, not even more sex, the perfect life partner or photogenic kids. It’s been proven time and time again, by everyone from the researchers at Harvard to religious leaders; we human beings need both pleasure and purpose to be happy. And we need to experience them both at the same time.
All the angst around balance is merely masking a larger issue which is lack of purpose and an inability to experience the pleasure of fully engaging in the present moment.
Our culture has perpetuated the myth that our work is over on one side of the equation and fun is on the other, two competing arenas that must be carefully balanced against each other at all times. Spread yourself around in the right proportion, and life will be bliss. But in reality, our challenge isn’t trying to balance out the drudgery with the fun; our challenge is to learn to how enjoy every aspect of our life while we’re actually living it.
Meaningful work – be it parenting, PTA or powering your way to the top of P & G – is the cornerstone of a happy and successful life.
Exhaustion may make you crave more pleasure. However, as the angst ridden botoxed ladies at the country club can attest, you can spend every day of your life at the spa, but unless it’s connected to a larger purpose, at a certain point you’re going to get tired of exfoliating yourself.
On the flip side, you can selflessly spend hours scooping soup for the poor, but until you learn to be fully present and experience the grace while you’re ladling, there won’t be a big serving of joy waiting for you at the bottom of the pot.
We human beings are hard-wired with an innate desire to create meaningful connections while we’re on this planet and to make a contribution that outlasts our stay on it.
Yet, despite the lofty yearnings of our souls. we often get ourselves so mired in our own muck that we’re not fully engaged with the people around us, and we completely miss the potentially larger purpose of our daily grind. There aren’t too many world leaders, kindergarten teachers, or jingle writers who create fabulous results by distractedly going through the motions.
Trying to balance out your priorities by employing superb scheduling tactics will always feel like a rat race if you don’t have a meaningful strategy or goal. If your true objective is to become happy, you’re going to have to spend a little time thinking about what that actually means to you.
Whether you know it or not, you do have purpose on this planet – we all do – and I suspect that much of our angst over balance comes from the gnawing knowledge that we’re not fulfilling it. But before you quit your day job, you should know that you don’t have to create world peace to give yourself a reason to get out of bed. Sometimes your life’s purpose is something as simple, elegant and meaningful as being a great friend or boss.
I have no idea what your purpose is; it took me the better part of 44 years just to start getting an inkling of my own. But I do know that the meaning and joy you get out of your life is in direct proportion to the meaning and joy you put into it.
You can’t make good decisions about where to spend your time until you know how you want to share your heart. Guiltily parceling out bits and pieces of yourself in the name of balance never makes you happy; it just makes you tired. So forget balance. Figure out your purpose, get present in the moment and decide to be happy instead.
reblogged from bnetworking.info
When most people talk about “success,” they’re often referring to outer things like money, title, and promotions. But in reality, these outer accomplishments almost never bring a lasting sense of happiness or success. They’re fleeting, and the goalposts are constantly shifting.
Instead, real success is a deeper, more satisfying experience of the heart, mind, and spirit, where the individual has committed to continuous, bold and empowering action that helps him/her feel confident, authoritative, and valuable to others in ways that are personally meaningful.
In over 10 years of working with career professionals, I’ve seen that the majority of people who reach out to me are actually not in a state of readiness for the success they desire. They think they are, but they haven’t taken the right actions or developed appropriate mindsets and behaviors that would help them reach – and sustain — the success they dream of. They’re just not there yet.
There are nine core categories of career success readiness that need to be mastered for professionals to achieve the success and fulfillment they long for (and these applies to any industry, field or function, and any level, for both men and women).
These nine categories of career success readiness are:
Understanding yourself deeply
You can’t achieve success on terms that are personally meaningful to you if you don’t know yourself. Each of us has a distinct set of values, interests, histories, standards of integrity, non-negotiables and preferences that make up our own unique picture of success. If you don’t know yourself intimately, the outcomes you’re focused on won’t end up generating the experience of success you want.
Using your natural talents>/b>
I learned this the hard way, as have many of my clients – just because you’re great at a certain skill set doesn’t mean you enjoy using it in your work. The most successful, fulfilled professionals use talents every day in their work that come naturally to them, that emerged early in their lives and they enjoy immensely. You need to identify those natural talents that you use instinctively, with ease and grace. Those are the talents to focus on in your career if you want a lasting experience of success and happiness.
Engaging with people you respect and admire (including mentors and sponsors)
You can’t create lasting success if you operate alone, in a vacuum, with no one in your corner to support you. If you find yourself isolated, with no role models, mentors, or sponsors, it’s a sign that you’re not ready for the success you dream of. You need fabulous people in your support community to help bolster you to the next level.
Setting goals and making decisions that support you
The type of success most people want isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s not a prize that just falls in your lap. Forget the idea of a tipping point where you suddenly wake up “having it all.” Success requires hard work (often tedious and painstaking) and continued commitment. It also takes effective decision-making and S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goal-setting.
Committing continuously to your growth
A key to helping people grow exponentially is helping them stretch out of their comfort zone and close their “power gaps.” Power gaps are areas where people feel most insecure, vulnerable, and ashamed. When people address, heal or revise those areas, the growth is quick and astounding. What are the areas in your life and work where you feel “less than” and insecure – and what can you do to close those gaps today? Relating in a healthy way to money, and having a keen understanding of financial and business realities Lasting success will elude you if you’re broken down in how you view, and deal with, money. Many of us have a damaged relationship with money, and are forever chasing or resenting it, instead of attracting, embracing, and appreciating it. Money is a form of energy, and if you’re blocked around it, so will be your experience of success. In addition, if you’re running your own business, you need a solid, emotionally-neutral understanding of the financial and business realities you’re facing. A “Build It and They Will Come” mentality without a solid financial and business grounding is a recipe for disaster.
Balancing and integrating life and work (and dealing effectively with stress)
I know so many people who’ve achieved outer “success,” only to have sacrificed everything in the process. They wake up, often in midlife, to the horrible realization that they’ve given up everything that matters to them, just to rise to the top of the heap in their field. If you aren’t able to integrate or balance successfully your work endeavors with your identity as an individual outside of the work you do, you’ll suffer. And if the stress and strain of your work is making you sick and sad every day, it’s time to rethink your definition of success.
Being of use in the world
Thousands of people hit midlife and suddenly feel an aching disappointment – they realize that what they’ve been clamoring for in their 20s and 30s now feels empty and meaningless. Perhaps it’s seeing the world through older, wiser eyes, or experiencing the mortality of their parents and friends that awakens people to wanting to do something more purposeful in the world. (This was me, and here’s a brief video of my story.) Whatever the cause, midlife professionals often wake up to the desire to build a new legacy that they can be proud of. In the end, you won’t feel successful if your work is meaningless to you.
Marketing yourself in a compelling way
Finally, in today’s times, because of the global competition we all face, if you can’t market yourself and communicate powerfully about your great talents, you won’t succeed in the way you hope. Gone are the days in which you could leave marketing to someone else. You have to know how you’re special and amazing, and how you stand apart from the best of the best in your field, and share that openly and confidently. You need to be your own best advocate, and you can do it without being a braggart. You just have to learn how.
Ditch the guilt and self-blame—and change the conversation about work and life, says the author of MAXED OUT. A new dialogue starts here…
Q: Most working moms feel maxed out. Yet we rarely say more than, “I’m tired” or “What a week!” What are we NOT saying to our friends, family, each other?
A: I hear from a lot of women who say they have the life they always wanted (kids, career) . . . and it’s killing them. They feel like they’re always letting people down, like it’s somehow their fault that they can’t be all things to all people.
My message to them is: You’re not alone, and it’s not your fault.
Society and the workplace have not caught up to the fact that most mothers today are in the workforce. We’re expected to give 100% to our jobs, and then somehow simultaneously give 100% to our families. But of course, we can’t. No one can. We can’t be in two places at once, and we only have so much energy.
Where to start?
The cold economic reality is that most families need two incomes today just to live a basic middle class life. About 70% of American kids are growing up in households where all adults work.
So parents today are doing double duty, trying to work full time and somehow take care of all the things parents do—take kids to the doctor, do the parent-teacher conferences, show up for the play, etc. Yet schools still get out at 3pm (or earlier) and take summers off. Parents are lucky if they get two weeks of vacation a year. These things are incompatible. So it’s vital to recognize the flaw in the way our roles as working parents have evolved—while schools and most employers have not—and begin to communicate more about those realities, not getting stuck repeating messages of self-blame and guilt.
Q: How can we change the way we talk about the overwhelm so that people will listen and respond?
A: We have to stop treating this overwork issue as a personal choice—something we’re doing to ourselves—and communicate that it’s a societal problem. It’s a public health problem. Companies are burning out their workers, and it’s costing them hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity. So it’s even a business problem.
When we see the problem for what it is, that’s when we’ll get serious about solving it. We need better government policies (like paid parental leave), true. But there’s a lot we can do in the workplace, too, that would address this issue. By having forthright discussions about the competing demands of modern life, we can change the conversation around flexible schedules, telecommuting, job shares, and other changes in work culture.
Rather than being apologetic, it’s reasonable to request policies that empower employees to get their work done when and how they can best do it. These are the kinds of things we should be talking about.
Q. How do can women talk about these problems in a new way, so the conversation shifts from “What I’m doing wrong” to “Let’s improve the situation for everyone”?
A: The most lasting way to change the conversation is to change our actions, to show that we really are all in this together. At the end of my book, I list 10 things each of us can do to address this “maxed out” problem, here are a few:
1. Practice saying no—Working moms have to find ways to say no. It’s not about letting other people down; saying no to others is about saying yes to yourself.
2. Tell your partner what you need—Communicate with your partner about how to make your roles as egalitarian as possible (and see #1 above!).
3. Be an ally to other women—We’ve all felt judged at one time or another about our choices as mothers. Remember the cultural and institutional forces that make working and parenting difficult, and cut other women slack.
4. Sign up for MomsRising—10 percent of the proceeds of Maxed Out will be donated to this leading advocacy organization for moms and the people who love them. They lobby for parental leave, flexible work, other policies that improve the lives of families.
5. Let your HR manager know about ROWE—A management strategy gaining traction in corporate America, Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE) emphasizes employee results over traditional measures like the number of hours worked. Companies are finding that it actually saves them money and boosts productivity.
5. Actually use your homespace and workspace.
Only one thing now remains: time in the saddle. The more time you spend doing only homey things in your homespace and only worky things in your workspace, the more you’ll develop the state-dependent memory that will trigger the associations you want in either place. When you enter your homespace, you’ll automatically relax, effortlessly dropping effort and negative office juju. (If the urge to think or talk about work arises, note it, then picture it evaporating like steam.) And when it’s time to work, the genuine R&R you’ve enjoyed will help everything you do feel more like flow.
6. Watch the Zen master in you emerge.
If you don’t find this exercise helpful, you’re certainly free to keep day-trading while nursing your twins, or stacking paperwork on every surface in your home, including the oven racks. But I think if you experiment with the methods I’ve described, you’ll come to appreciate them. One definition of Zen is simply “doing one thing at a time”—which goes a long way toward explaining why Zen masters look so calm and live so long. I want you to love going to work, and to love being home. Just not at the same time.
4. Separate your homespace from your workspace.
Once you’ve assembled a bunch of homey things in your homiest possible place, and a bunch of worky things in your workiest possible place, separate them like a Puritan chaperone dividing teenagers. Even if your office is 90 miles away from your house, some worky things will inevitably infiltrate your home—your job is to keep them out of your designated homespace. If you work in your house or apartment, you’ll need to be extra vigilant. When you’re not working, put all work-related things out of sight. Cover them with a sheet, if necessary.
By the same token, don’t bring a lot of homey things into your workspace. Doing so will distract and confuse you. There’s a reason service dogs mustn’t be petted or played with when they’re wearing their work vests: They need to be clear that they’re on the job. But when the vests come off, service-dog owners must play with their animals in order to keep them from becoming exhausted and depressed. You’re the same way: Having clear boundaries will help you work enthusiastically, then truly rest.
3. Use your mental states to create physical spaces.
The next step in keeping your work and home lives healthy and pristine is creating physical environments that support each side. Let’s start with your homespace. Find the spot in your current domicile that best matches the feeling of your mental home state—a room, a corner, the box your refrigerator came in. Bring into this space any objects or beings that make it feel even homier. These may include your kids, your parakeet, your softest quilt, and your dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (just not at the same time).
Next, use the same strategy to create a workspace, whether you’re a full-time parent or a merchant marine. Find a space that—no pun intended—works for you, and bring in the people and things that make you feel productive: a fresh notebook, a team of coworkers, a mule. I myself am motivated by high-quality tools (anything from a fancy-schmancy computer to a hammer), absolute solitude, and of course my writing chair, writing glasses, and writing gum—the combination makes me itch to work. Whatever places, people, and things support your internal work state, gather them!
2. Establish a productive inner “state of work.”
If you’re lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it’s the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.
Most of my clients, however, are work Nazis. They think they should force themselves to do things they loathe. If this is your mental “state of work,” it’s also the way you’ll feel about your job, and it will follow you home—likely in the form of depression or rage. You absolutely must create a mental work state more like what psychologists call flow, the total absorption that comes from doing something that interests you at the upper edge of your ability level.
Even if your current job feels more like imprisonment than flow, you can still create a productive mental work state. Start by remembering any kind of effort that absorbed you enough to make time disappear. If after racking your brain nothing comes to mind, periods of interested problem solving will do nearly as well, and moments of productive effort will suffice in a pinch. Tedious repetition is as low as you want to go here (if your job is so awful that it doesn’t yield even an hour of tolerable slog, it’s time to hire a life coach). Now focus on the three best work activities you can remember, smoosh them together in your head, and silently repeat, “Work. Work. Work.”
The time has come to write. I feel this on an almost cellular level. Why? Because I’m sitting in my writing chair, wearing my writing glasses, chewing my writing gum. Now, I could sit in this chair, wear these glasses, and chew this gum while knitting tea cozies, juggling jelly beans, and husking corn (just not at the same time). But I wouldn’t. See, I write at home, and I’ve learned the hard way that unless I strictly divide my writing time from everything else, my work bleeds into my home life. Then I can never relax, because, just like an ax murderer in a horror movie, my work is always lurking.
These days almost all of us work at home to some extent. Maybe you spend evenings brooding over spreadsheets from the office. Maybe you’re in the house all day doing the hardest work imaginable: caring for the young, the old, or the ill. Or maybe, like me, you have a job—sort of—but no official physical workplace. All of which is to say that when I talk about “home” versus “work,” I mean the activities that replenish your energy versus the ones that drain it. In an age when bleed-through is the new normal, it’s more crucial than ever to separate the two. Here are some strategies that help me.
1. Establish a replenishing inner “state of home.”
Some people spend years in an office cubicle without ever feeling the energetic involvement of real work; others do brilliant, inspired work without ever leaving their bed. This is because both work and home are first and foremost states of mind. So to begin separating your work life and home life, we’ll concentrate on creating a mental “state of home” inside your head.
To do this, focus on memories that feel relaxing, nourishing, replenishing—in a word, homey. Remember baking with your grandmother, or talking with your sister, or snuggling in bed with a loved one (fabulous sex is an excellent way to feel at home, as is cuddling with your beloved collie—just not at the same time).
If you don’t have many homey memories, your mental state of home may feel tepid at first. Persist! Remember the most comforting times and places you can: the branches of the tall tree where bullies couldn’t reach you, Uncle Joe’s bomb shelter, the warmest corner of the prison yard. (Ideally, you’re looking for a sense of joyful replenishment, but happy relaxation is nearly as good, pleasant neutrality will do, familiar boredom is better than nothing, and defensible concealment—well, you get the idea.)
Once you come up with three memories that qualify, hold in mind the feelings they bring, while silently repeating, “Home. Home. Home.”
Read step two in tomorrow’s!
Sometimes, busy workdays can feel like a marathon with the finish line still miles away. You enter your office early to find a mountain of work waiting for you, a full inbox, and a calendar blocked out with meetings. It’s no wonder so many of us have grown accustomed to working later and later hours.
In a recent study by Accenture, work-life balance — ahead of money, recognition, and autonomy — was the key determinant for more than half of men and women in regards to whether or not they have a successful career. And if you’re regularly working late or not giving yourself days off, your work-life balance is at stake.
I firmly believe in breaking the time clock to do away with the traditional “9-to-5,” but spending every evening knocking out work can be hazardous. Completing your work during designated business hours isn’t just possible, it’s also necessary for staying on top of your career.
If your 40-hour week has transformed into something a bit closer to a 60-hour week, you owe it to yourself to review the issue. Get to the bottom of where the majority of your time is being spent during your work day to allow for increased time management and productivity. If you find yourself wasting the majority of your time managing your inbox or in meetings, it may be time for some restructuring.
Knockout big tasks first
Rearrange your schedule to ensure you hit the ground running every day by tackling bigger projects as soon as you get to the office. You’re actually at peak performance earlier in the day, so taking on big tasks earlier in the day means you’ll be likely to achieve more. Move your less important tasks to be taken care of after lunch.
Create a schedule
Don’t just put together a half-hearted to-do list, go a step further and establish a schedule for your workday. For example, if you’re planning on working for eight hours, allot an estimated time for each project or task — even the big projects — you’ve got on your to-do list. Avoid falling into the time-wasting trap of replying to emails and returning phone calls. Instead, allot 30 minutes a day to take care of all of your follow-ups instead of regularly staring at your phone and inbox.
Become militant about creating a distraction-free workspace. Close out all unnecessary tabs on your browser, silence your phone, and put your headphones in if it’ll help you work.
Turn off autopilot
Sometimes when you’re racing to finish your to-do list, it’s easy to go into autopilot mode until you complete your work. Taking a few breaks will actually help you work more efficiently and effectively. Once you’ve completed a big task, get up from your desk to stretch, grab something to drink, and just refresh your brain before moving onto the next thing.
Learn the power of saying “no”
You have a busy day ahead of you, and yet you still accepted that conference-call invitation. Sometimes we forget how important it is to say “no” when we’re busy. While it isn’t always possible to turn down every meeting invitation, try your best to make a case when you’re especially busy. For example, you can ask to leave early or have someone share meeting notes with you.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and end up turning your to-do list into far more than it really is. Simply focus on meeting the deadlines. If you find yourself anxious about your schedule for the next day or week ahead of you — which may be a reason why you work late — lay out your schedule to take a better look at what needs to be accomplished so you can establish a timeframe.
Know when you’re done
Stop spending your evenings in the office reworking things until they’re perfect. Establish a clear definition of the end result — when you’ve reached it, check out for the day.
Eliminating working late and leaving work at the office often comes down to better time management.
What are your go to tricks for managing your time at work?
Reblogged from thenextweb.com