Prescription for Better Work-Life Balance

Work Life Balance

Beat burnout by making more time for the activities and people that matter most to you.

If you’re finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, you’re not alone.

Many people are putting in extra hours, or using their smartphones to be on call when they’re not physically at work.

“A lot of people are having a more difficult time finding balance in their lives because there have been cutbacks or layoffs where they work. They’re afraid it may happen to them, so they’re putting in more hours,” says psychologist Robert Brooks, PhD, co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life.

“But even if you don’t have much control over the hours you have to work, you can ask yourself: In what other ways am I bringing greater enjoyment into my life?” Brooks says. “Focus your time and attention on things you can control.”

Here are five ways to bring a little more balance to your daily routine:

1. Build downtime into your schedule.

When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends, and activities that help you recharge.

If a date night with your spouse or a softball game with friends is on your calendar, you’ll have something to look forward to and an extra incentive to manage your time well so you don’t have to cancel.

“It helps to be proactive about scheduling,” says Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author ofSuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. “When I go out with my girlfriends, we all whip out our cell phones and put another girls’ night out on the calendar for 1 month later.”

Stack also plans an activity with her family, like going to a movie or the park, every Sunday afternoon. “We do this because if there’s nothing on the schedule, time tends to get frittered away and the weekend may end without us spending quality time together,” she says.

Michael Neithardt, an actor and television commercial producer in New York City, wakes up 3 hours before he has to leave for work so he can go for a run and spend some time with his wife and baby.

“A lot of my friends tend to wake up, shower, and go straight to work. And they often complain about having no time to do anything,” he says. “I find that if I can get those 3 hours in the morning, I have a more productive and peaceful workday. I can sure tell the difference when I don’t.”

2. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.

“Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value — for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping,” says Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, a psychologist and executive coach in New York and Connecticut.

Her advice: Take stock of activities that don’t enhance your career or personal life, and minimize the time you spend on them.

You may even be able to leave work earlier if you make a conscious effort to limit the time you spend on the web and social media sites, making personal calls, or checking your bank balance. “We often get sucked into these habits that are making us much less efficient without realizing it,” Stack says.

3. Rethink your errands.

Consider whether you can outsource any of your time-consuming household chores or errands.

Could you order your groceries online and have them delivered? Hire a kid down the street to mow your lawn? Have your dry cleaning picked up and dropped off at your home or office? Order your stamps online so you don’t have to go to the post office? Even if you’re on a tight budget, you may discover that the time you’ll save will make it worth it.

Stack also suggests trading services with friends. Offer to do tasks that you enjoy or that you were planning to do anyway.

“You could exchange gardening services for babysitting services,” Stack says. “If you like to cook, you could prepare and freeze a couple of meals and give them to a friend in exchange for wrapping your holiday gifts.”

4. Get moving.

It’s hard to make time for exercise when you have a jam-packed schedule, but it may ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate.

“Research shows exercise can help you to be more alert,” Brooks says. “And I’ve noticed that when I don’t exercise because I’m trying to squeeze in another half hour of writing, I don’t feel as alert.”

Samantha Harris, a lawyer who works for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, goes to her gym 2 or 3 mornings a week before her family wakes up. “It’s been a real boost in terms of the way I feel for the rest of the day,” she says. “I feel like my head is clearer and I’ve had a little time to myself.”

5. Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way.

Don’t assume that you need to make big changes to bring more balance to your life. Brooks recommends setting realistic goals, like leaving the office earlier 1 night per week.

“Slowly build more activities into your schedule that are important to you,” he says. “Maybe you can start by spending an hour a week on your hobby of carpentry, or planning a weekend getaway with your spouse once a year.”

Even during a hectic day, you can take 10 or 15 minutes to do something that will recharge your batteries. “Take a bath, read a trashy novel, go for a walk, or listen to music,” Stack says. “You have to make a little time for the things that ignite your joy.”

WebMD Feature by Jen Uscher

Work Life Integration: Make Balance Work

Gone are the days when you could come home from the office and unplug. We are now living in a 24/7, seven day a week, always connected business environment. Your company doesn’t stop running when you leave the office or when you go on vacation. For the past few decades, journalists, authors, speakers and executives have talked about the importance of work life flexibility but that discussion has shifted in this new environment.

Now, the new phrase is “work life integration,” where professionals have to blend what they do personally and professionally in order to make both work. Many professionals, especially boomers, aren’t prepared for this major shift because it’s happened so fast, just like the speed of technology, that it’s been hard to take a step back and come up with a better solution. Millennials, on the other hand, have already started to adapt to this reality. They’re on Facebook talking to their friends at work and answering business emails when they leave the office.

There are a few reasons why mastering work life integration are so essential right now:

1. The boundaries between family and career are blurred. The demands of the workplace are greater because business never sleeps and companies are trying to do more with fewer resources. In a  studyby the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the found that more than 50% of workers say that work conflicts with life responsibilities at least two or three times per week. Due to this, about 40% of women have delayed having children. It’s hard to know when and when you aren’t working these days because technology has enabled us to message personal or professional contacts instantly. Many of us millennials also suffer from the fear of missing out (FOMO) so we’re always tuned into Facebook, Instagram and other platforms to make sure that we never miss a moment in our friends lives. In addition, a lot of employees have one phone or business and personal so it becomes impossible to avoid either.

2. Employees are willing to give up their personal time to do work and many have no choice. In a study by TeamViewer and Harris Interactive, they found that 61% of employees are willing to work during vacation. In another study by Gyro and Forbes Insights, they found that 98% of executives check email during their off time and 63% check every one or two hours during their off time. Some employees are doing this because they have no choice, especially managers and executives who have direct reports, and others do it because they feel like they have to. Of course, employees who are really passionate about their work become addicted and are actually excited about new emails coming in.

3. There are more employees working remote than ever before. One of the biggest trends that I enjoy talking about is the rise of the remote worker, which has been made possible because of technology like Skype, social networking and Google Docs. Working from home is also a benefit that millennials, and other workers, are prioritizing over higher salaries because of their desire to integrate their work and life. In total, 30 millions Americans work form home at least once each week, which will increase by 63% in the next five years. About 3 million Americans never go to an office and 54% are happier working from home than in an office. Furthermore, 70% of employees work from alternative locations (not just home) on a regular basis. What these numbers show you is that millions of people are working in a personal setting, maybe even in their bedrooms. When this happens, it’s hard to separate work and life and thus they are integrated even without your consent.

Now that I’ve shown you the “why”, I’m going to tell you the “how”. The “how” being how to go about integrating your work and life so you remain sane and are able to accomplish everything you want to do from a personal and professional perspective. I recommend that you do work when you believe you can perform the best and do personal activities to break up your day.

What I do is have a flexible calendar so that I can schedule things like going to the gym, writing articles, reading, meetings, research at around the same time each day. This way, I get into a habit so I have more control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I do more of my work in the morning because my productivity is higher and I usually schedule lunches during the day so that I have face time and social interactions. I also make a list of my annual goals and break them down by what I need to do each quarter, each month, each week and each day in order to fulfill them. Work life integration is going to become a more common way of how people manage their career and personal lives every year.

by Dan Schawbel at Forbes.com

The 3 Approaches to Communication: Care-less, Care-ful, and Caring

The alternative to win-lose or lose-win thinking is win-win thinking.  Win-win thinking is to look for mutually positive outcomes in every one of life’s situations.  Instead of thinking “my way is best” or “your way is best”, there is a third “our way is best” solution.

Let’s take a closer look at 3 ways to communicate.  The first way is “care-less” communication, when we believe that we are right and others are wrong. In the adversarial world in which we live, most people communicate carelessly or without care for others, much of the time.

The second way is “care-ful” communication. To contrast it with the care-less approach, it happens when we are so concerned not to upset the other person that we allow their values to trump ours. Communicating in this mode is like walking on eggshells.  Both care-less and care-ful approaches lead to breakdowns in communication.

But there is a third way, which avoids communication breakdown and that is the caring approach. In caring, you esteem your value system and the other person’s value system simultaneously. It’s like saying, “My values are right for me and yours are right for you and that’s OK. To work together, we can always find a way to honor what each of us believes and wants, without becoming negative and disrespectful.

The Third Way of Communicating: A Simple Example

Say you’ve been out shopping with your teenage daughter.  You’re tired and hungry and your daughter says she’d like to buy a pizza for a snack. The critical nurturing parent in you knows that bought pizzas contain empty nutrients, and are expensive. So how do you move towards the third way of communicating?

The key moves are firstly to acknowledge your daughter’s request; secondly to value her wishes; and thirdly to find a win-win solution that honors both your values and hers in a caring way.

So you say, “You want a pizza? I am hungry too! What say we go home and make a smoothie?”

The most important step is assertiveness – you are offering a solution.  You are not saying “No” and closing the door to communication.  You are not saying “Yes” and caving in to other’s wishes.  If this part makes you uncomfortable, then you will need practice.

Caring and respect for others is appropriate for both home and work situations.  Win-win negotiations are highly regarded as an important life skill and work skill.  Keep the 3 Approaches in mind next time you hit a roadblock or disagree with someone.

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a Meeting Facilitator and Business Event Coordinator with Stop the Presses!