Building Better Work-Life Balance

Most of us have felt the pull of work and personal commitments when we want to be focussed on other things. Work worry can spoil our time off, or personal issues can mean we are less productive at work.

So how do we juggle everything so we feel more in control and are able to focus on what is important?

Leaving Space To Do Nothing!

Are you one of those people who has a list to things to do a mile long? Do you have commitments every night of the week? Many “stressed out” people are not necessarily poor stress managers – they are simply overloaded with more responsibilities and commitments than one person can reasonably handle.

Look closely and objectively at your work and personal life and ask yourself, “Is this a true obligation for me? How much do I need (& want) to do this? How important is doing this to me/to someone I care about?”

Finding things to eliminate from an overly busy schedule can help you not only reduce stress, but provide you with more time for yourself and more energy to put into your remaining commitments. It is important to take the time to consider our options and to evaluate the choices so that we have the time and energy to work, to play, and to make sure life is as fulfilling as it can be.

Even removing one commitment from our week can give us some downtime to reflect, relax and recharge. Make sure you have a decent amount of time each week that you haven’t booked out in advance. It gives you the chance to be spontaneous or prioritise urgent things that need doing.

Manage Your Working Week

Figure out where you feel most productive (are you an owl or a lark?) and talk to your boss about managing your working day around those times. The worst that can happen if you ask your boss about different work options is that s/he can say no. If you don’t ask, you won’t have a chance. If you do, you may just be pleasantly surprised.

Get organised with what has to be done (Stephen Covey’s First Things First is a great book about prioritising). We all can be guilty of wasting time doing things that are unimportant. But this causes workload to back up and can mean late nights – and lots more stress.

The more efficient you are, the more control you have over your time and the more balance you can introduce (less late nights trying to meet deadlines!)

Managing Your Hats

It would be ideal if we could choose when we worked (3 days a week would be nice!) but that is not the case for most of us. Instead we need to determine how we can best weave our home and work responsibilities together so that we are satisfied with our situation.

One challenge in weaving together work and family is that we have many roles to fulfill or “hats to wear” (husband/wife/partner, friend, mother/father, employee, daughter/son, brother/sister, sports coach/team member, etc). Sometimes all of these hats can cause us to have role strain. When we have too many hats we have role overload.

Our hats can also clash with one another, causing role conflict. For example, your role as a boy/girlfriend conflicting with your role as an employee.

Assess your “hat” situation:

o List all of the hats (roles) you wear

o Write down how much time you spend on your hats

Consider :

o Do you feel you have too many hats, too few, or just the right number?

o Are you spending enough or too much time on each hat?

What do you want to be different?

o Write down what you would like to change.

o Add extra “hats” you’d like to wear

o Eliminate “hats” you don’t want to, or can’t, wear

o Make a plan for how you can change these hats

o Write down a target date to have this completed

o Revisit your “hats” on that date to assess your progress.

Saying No!

For many people, the most difficult thing about creating balance between work and home life is the ability to say NO. Practice saying NO and shake your head while you’re at it. Practice different ways of saying no, “No, I have other plans for that night”, “No, I have enough on my plate at the moment, I wouldn’t be able to give the project the attention it needs”. Say it without guilt. Life is too short to live based on other people’s agendas. This is your life, based on your priorities.

Other tips to create balance include:

o Focus on what is important. When you are considering an additional commitment don’t say yes right away. Consider how it fits in with your bigger goals and the way you want your life to be.

o Delegate as much as you can (Can you share duties with other family members? Anyone else going to the post office? – can they post it for you? etc…).

o Ask yourself how you could do certain tasks more efficiently (e.g. sign up on Internet banking, create automatic payments, order some of your groceries over the net and have them delivered, hire a student to clean your house… )

o Cross out things that you don’t need to do (Say NO).

o Remember to take time to do nothing. Our best ideas often come from ‘downtime’.

As with all changes and improvements, learning to balance your responsibilities is a skill you can improve on with time, leading ultimately to a more balanced life and better stress management. Through simplifying, you can create space and get in touch with what it is that you really want. Know that you always have a choice. Choose and then act to create the life you want to lead.

© CareerAnalysts Ltd 2008 You are welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the “about the author” info at the end).

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