How’s Your Work/Life Balance?

May 8, 2014 by Lynn Faughey

WLBalanceSo how many hours did you work this week? Don’t forget to add the time you spent checking messages or answering e-mail while not “officially” on the clock. If you’re like too many of us, you may be surprised to find that when you add up the all time you spent on work related tasks it totals a lot more than the standard forty hour work week. So if all of this time is being added to our work week, what is it being taken away from?

I’ve recently read an interesting book entitled “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington. While focusing on improving her work/life balance, her message is very clear and very enlightening. “Arianna Huffington’s personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye — the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group — one of the fastest growing media companies in the world — celebrated as one of the world’s most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?”

This excerpt taken from the Amazon website is what intrigued me to want to read the book. The last sentence, “Is this what success really feels like?“, is a powerful question we should all ask ourselves. Our careers all too often take priority over everything else. Our family, our friends, our hobbies and even our health all get fit in around work. Because we’re always “connected” we don’t ever give ourselves a break. Weekends no longer mean the end of the work week, instead we are now checking in on work from the golf course, the beach, the family vacation, the kids’ ballgame…

Finding the right balance between work and life isn’t always easy. Many of us are feeling the pressure of a poor economy and having to work extra hours or even multiple jobs to make ends meet. A friend of mine who survived a round of lay-offs at her company lamented to me that, “While the people went away, the work didn’t. Now there’s just less of us to do it“. Too often we don’t have a choice in the hours we have to work, and many companies, unfortunately, don’t care if their employees have a life outside of their jobs. My friend, after eventually also being laid-off was at a job interview and asked about flexibility for things like picking up a sick child or parent/teacher conference. Things that don’t typically occur after business hours. The response was, “You have to earn the right to be able to leave for these things”. Really? Can you imagine being told you have to earn the right to go and pick-up your sick child from school? Sounds like a lousy place to work, but at the same time, a job that many of us couldn’t afford to lose. So what do we do to make sure that the scale stays balanced? Here are a few tips that were featured on WebMD:

1. Build downtime into your schedule. Be proactive about scheduling – we all know if we wait for a good time to do something it’ll never happen. So schedule it in! Put the phone aside and remove the temptation to check on work stuff and go enjoy yourself. Challenge yourself to focus on the task at hand and not on work.

2. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.  Whether it’s spending too much time on Facebook or with a coworker that likes to corner you and talk your ear off, make the conscience choice to walk away. Challenge yourself to learn how to say no to co-workers who tend to take advantage of you.

3. Rethink your errands. Are you wasting a lot of time running to the grocery store multiple times a week when you could plan better and make one trip? Sometimes doing things “on the fly” becomes such a habit that we don’t realize we can make better choices with our time. Challenge yourself to become more organized in order to free up more time to enjoy yourself.

4. Remember a little relaxation goes a long way. Start small. Find little things to help recharge your batteries, read a book, listen to music, take a walk. Anything that you can do to help remind yourself there’s a world out there beyond work is a step in the right direction. Challenge yourself to not be the last car in the parking lot at the end of the day!

A final thought. I recently saw an article titled, “The Top Five Regrets People Have on their Deathbed”. It was written by a woman who worked with the dying. While all five were noteworthy, number two says it all: “I wish I didn’t work so hard”.  A very sobering thought.

I’d love to hear the ways you’ve learned to manage your work/life balance. Feel free to send me an e-mail with any tips you’ve found to help keep your work life from taking over your whole life.

-Lynn Faughey, FlexPro COO

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