Work-life balance is a hard thing for many employees to achieve—particularly in today’s world of 24/7 connectivity. So, how can you maintain a successful career while still having a fulfilling personal life?
Schedule regular vacations and time off. A recent CareerBuilder survey of more than 5,600 workers revealed that 30 percent of workers plan to take work with them on their vacation—which means they aren’t really getting away from work at all! Additionally, 16 percent of workers reported giving up vacation days last year because they didn’t have time to use them.
Everyone needs a break from his or her job once in a while to re-charge and relax. By scheduling time off in advance, you can work toward completing all of your work before you leave. Alternatively, you can see if a co-worker can cover your tasks for the days you’ll be out of the office.
Learn to say “no”. Don’t overload your plate by volunteering for projects that you can’t really take on. This doesn’t only apply to the office, either—you don’t have to spend all of your free time outside of work volunteering at a local nonprofit or helping out family and friends. Make sure to leave some time for things you truly enjoy, such as exercising, participating in a hobby, or spending a night out with your significant other.
Manage your time effectively. Minimize distractions by scheduling a set amount of time for each task you need to accomplish that day. Sticking to a strict deadline provides more motivation to finish the task and keeps you on track.
Telecommute or ask for a flexible schedule. Look into telecommuting options at your company or talk with your boss about the option of working from home. You can also present a case for a more flexible schedule, such as coming in an hour later or leaving an hour earlier. Many employers are willing to accommodate employees, as long as they are still producing the same results.
Don’t neglect your personal life or your health. Minimize stress and health problems by eating well and getting the recommended hours of sleep each night. Regularly make plans with friends and family to relieve stress from work and maintain relationships with folks outside of the office.
Focus on results. Spending all of your time at the office might make you look like a productive employee, but how much are you really accomplishing? Instead of focusing on the amount of hours you work each week, measure the quality and outcomes. You might be surprised to see that you actually finish your assigned tasks in 35 hours, even though you spend 50+ at your office.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? Any additional tips to share?
One of my favorite sayings is “The only people who think they are the best that they can be, are the mediocre.” Self Improvement, challenge and change should be a continuous part of life. I try every year to instill this way of thinking in my staff auditors, who believe that their work goals should remain the same every year and I recently got a reminder of my own!
Having recently attended my ten-year Wharton MBA alumni reunion, with what seemed to be all the overachievers in the world. I left the reunion with mixed feelings, half way in between depression and motivation. As I made my way to the reunion, I bumped into a schoolmate on my flight and I asked her about life since our school days. She responded in one breath: “I’ve done two additional degrees, one of which is a PHD, left consulting, started a venture capital firm and I give motivational speeches all over the world! How about you?” Just then, I felt like a fog had settled around me. She did all those things? Had I wasted the last ten years? Had I settled for mediocrity? But I managed to dig deep and give a fluffy response that while truthful, probably sounded better than it is “ I’ve done a number of corporate finance projects across four continents and transitioned to a leading corporate governance role.” Then, I reminded myself that when you compare yourself to others, you can become either vain or bitter because there are always people worse or better than you.
After having time to give it some thought, I felt much better. I work for a company that adds value to the world by finding jobs for people and finding talent for employers. Running an Internal Audit department for a public company has provided so many interesting challenges, new adventures, learning opportunities and new skills have been acquired. However, people who live an outstanding life of achievements embrace challenges and they live with a sense of urgency in every aspect of life. Was I up to par?
Now I admit that I should apply more of the same urgency that I use to get the job done – for my personal development. I haven’t fully tapped into the depth of the company’s free educational resources that are at my fingertips. As a result, my mind is currently in planning mode; planning for achievements in the next ten years, not to compete with my classmates, but for my own self-satisfaction. One of the most gut-wrenching thoughts a person can have is looking back on achievements that could have been. More on my plans and thoughts in future blogs…
Can I just say being a working mom IS my biggest challenge?
Everything about it is hard. There is no time off.
I knew that I’d be a working mom when I got pregnant with Joshua. My staying home wasn’t even something we ever discussed, so when I went back to work when he was four months old, I knew I had to find a way to make it work.
I honestly had no idea how big a challenge it would be to make this happen, and sometimes I feel like I’m a complete failure at getting everything done, even after two years.
But, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that I’m happy to share.
Leave work at work whenever possible.
It feels like there is never enough time to adequately devote myself to all of the things that need my devotion.
This year I vowed that I wouldn’t bring things home to grade. If it took me longer to get them back to students, so be it. My family time was my family time. Work wouldn’t interfere with that.
I know that sometimes this doesn’t work in the business world. Use the time you have at work to do work things. If you HAVE to bring things home, make sure those times are sporadic. It’s important to set aside time in the evenings to be work-free. Save the emails for after the kids go to bed.
There were a few times when a stack of essays or some quizzes had to come home with me, but not like in previous years where everything came home instead of getting done at work. Occasionally, you may have to use your own time to complete work-related tasks, but don’t let your job interfere with your home life.
Develop a family plan and stick to it
Making a plan is a must for finding anything even remotely resembling work-life balance.
Our routine is the same every day. My husband handles most of the morning things—making coffee for me, packing his lunch, taking the dog out and feeding her. I take Joshua to daycare and pick him up in the evenings. I handle dinner most of the time and my husband handles bath and bed time (with an appearance by me for nighttime kisses and books).
Our weekends are full of house-tasks. Any cleaning and sort-of relaxing is done on Saturday; laundry and groceries dominate Sunday. (Sidenote: meal-planning and only going to the grocery store once a week has been a life-saver! Instead of wondering what’s for dinner that night, I’ve already got what I need for a week’s worth of meals at home, saving me time during the week and money on the inevitable impulse buys at the grocery store!) We also contracted a lawn company to come out twice a month and do the bare-minimum so we could save that time on the weekends for ourselves.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
As cliché as it sounds, that adage holds especially true for working mothers. There will be some things you cannot get to in any given week and that has to be okay.
I’ve learned to prioritize and let go of things that don’t matter to my overall sense of accomplishment.
Sometimes, I will skip vacuuming the rug so that I can snuggle with my boy. Sometimes, I will go months without washing my car. Sometimes, I will have a pile-up of junk mail that needs to be sorted into recycling and shredding piles.
If all I have is 5 or 10 minutes and the choice between sorting mail and reading a book to my son?
The mail can wait. Seeing a smile on his face adds way more to my sense of accomplishment than all that junk mail ever will.
When tweaked to fit your needs, these tips, while not ground-breaking or revolutionary, work. And that’s the secret, I think—finding what works for YOU.
What does and doesn’t work for you? I can always use a little help!
I think that in some instances what you don’t say is more important than what you actually do say. Sometimes your actions speak louder than any words that come from your mouth. Self-promotion is a tricky proposition. You don’t want come across looking overly overconfident or even worse arrogant, but you don’t want your talents to go unnoticed either. So how do you promote yourself without looking self-promotional?
I think you start by showing your value through your relationships with others, getting involved in your local community (not your online communities either), go volunteer at a homeless shelter, help build houses, volunteer to mentor kids. It’s hard to be self-promoting when you’re looking into the eyes of a 10 year-old child who doesn’t have food to eat or a yard to play in.
Be conscious of how you treat others, make sure you follow through by honoring and keeping your promises, and be the kind of person that others want to associate themselves with.
You always want to keep your resume updated, but make sure it is an accurate and true reflection of your skill set and accomplishments. Having a good resume, along with a true sense of “self-awareness” are key elements in promoting yourself successfully.
When I say self-awareness, I mean understanding what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and have a good sense of how others perceive you. I think every business professional should take some type of personality assessment. Most can be completed within 30-45 minutes, and they provide a comprehensive look at your behavioral styles and characteristics. Once you know your personality type, and how those drivers impact your personal and professional relationships, you can really promote the “real you” …through your actions and not your words.
One day, things were running a bit late and I was hurrying to get everyone together to get out the door. My daughter said, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” In the very next instant, she barfed all over the couch.
I stood there and blinked for a minute, taking in what just happened and the ramifications of it. This wasn’t good. Any hopes I had of getting some work done were effectively ended by whatever mystery ailment possessed my daughter.
This unexpected turn of events made me realize that the work/life balance is a myth. What receives our attention is in a constant state of flux, but never is it a static balance. Never. Occasionally, we will get those moments that allow us to wholly focus on work; when we get them, we need to seize them with both hands and make the most of them.
But more often, our children are the priority with their activities, their class field trips, their illnesses, and the other aspects of life like first steps, first words, new discoveries, reading to them, playing games with them, laughing with them, kissing away the hurts, and loving them.
I wouldn’t trade any of these moments to nurture my children for the world! But it makes me a whole lot saner to understand that there is no such thing as the work/life balance.
How does one navigate office politics? Is there really a compass to chart these waters? Is that taught in school….or learnt in the school of the real world? We say office politics like it is a passing term and yet we all know that this exists. Just think about the implications—what is discussed on Politico talk & TV shows; shouting, hard left, hard right, bi-partisan hopes. The office is a little more subtle, but exists nonetheless. In the office, shouting is out in favor of indirect maneuvers, but the need to meet in the middle is just as great. I have observed that the informal charter of office politics is the less obvious and needs the most examination. There are the usual boundaries that exist via functional roles (Finance, HR, Operations). You just know that these groups operate on some level in unison. The common objectives tend to be overt. The alliances of the “informal” organization— now those are the ones to be reckoned with if you are not within “that group”. Figuring out how people, groups and peers manifest influence….that’s the real stuff of office politics!
Just when you thought sibling rivalry was behind you—the workplace reminds you that that was just the beginning of a life-long event. There are always favorites. Period. It is human nature to be drawn to natural Leaders. But when the leader is a cheerleader of hallow substance; it can bring out the worst responses in otherwise professional people. Try to recognize your responses to these politics. Find your own platform of success based on fact, and make sure it is front and center in an appropriate way. Inserting Your Success Stats (sales revenue, client satisfaction, completing a project on-time & under budget) are real metrics that can be called on to level set what may be a preferred style of validation by others. Calling out your performance is one way to stay positive, remind bosses that you are a major contributor and keep the negative aspects of office politics out of your way. The jealousy factor is not productive. And, back to the sibling analogy, did your parents really not love you more than your sisters/brothers or was it just in a different way? Can we say the same about the workplace?