By Peggy Noe Stevens
We spend countless hours in our business world organizing and strategizing for the day-to-day business needs of the companies we work for. However, I am often called upon to counsel employees because they complain of their work hours which are beyond the expectations of their roles – leaving little time for their family life and personal needs.
The normal question I receive during that counsel is, “How do I achieve balance in my life.” My reply is always the same, what is your game plan? It usually is answered with a blank stare and hesitation because work-life balance is not often positioned as a game plan. It is normally assumed that people intuitively know how to do this. The game plan I refer to is a strategy that can get you from point A to Z. Again, we create strategies and plans for everyone else in business, but fail to realize the importance of taking charge in our own lives. “Balance” is a bust, because nothing is ever easily divided and situations come up whether personal, or professional that requires us to do gymnastics to achieve.
I have a new term, “Work-Life Purpose,” which is outlined in my book – Professional Presence. If there is purpose in what you do and prioritizing those purposes, we will be able to navigate our week, month and even year with greater satisfaction and achievement. If it does not have a purpose, why are we doing it?
Here are some steps to take when mapping out your game plan.
Develop a personal strategy
Draw two circles on a piece of paper like a pie chart. On the first circle, dissect the many areas of your life. How many hours do you spend at work, extra-curricular activities, community responsibilities, professional organizations, etc. This can be quite revealing when you see from a helicopter view where you spend your time. It may be as simple as how much time it takes to do things around the house for your family to how much you work on weekends. On the second chart, map out your aspirational chart, putting in your terms what you feel would satisfy you the most. Keep in mind that the reality is that you do spend “x” amount of time at work, but a normal work week should be put in place.
Create a Gap analysis
Where do you see gaps from where you are to where you wish to be? What are the obstacles that keep you from getting to the aspirational chart? Identify both personal and professional “drainers.”
Close the gap
What are the three things that need to happen in each category of your life to achieve a better balance? Example, if you are exhausted after a day at work and need to cook every night, cook two meals on Sunday so you have a break during the week. Simple, yet time-saving. Another example is an organization that you belong to that is zapping your time and energy, assess and prioritize if you really need to be part of that organization at this time of your life. We over commit and wonder why we feel stressed?
Work with your family to help you with the little things, like having your children layout their clothes the night before school, so you can get out the door faster. For that matter, plan out your wardrobe for the week so you don’t have to think so hard every morning by staring at your closet, or standing each morning at the ironing board. An hour of planning on a Sunday night (wardrobe/grocery/kid’s activities) will save countless hours in the long run. Or, asking your boss what is the true deadline of a project, so you can plan ahead for delivery. Sometimes all it takes is knowing expectations and mapping out how to get there. Do you spend all day answering emails? Block a specific time out to answer emails, so you can do other areas of your work.
If your boss is bombarding you with unrealistic expectations on deliveries, sit down and have him/her help you prioritize what is needed to do and when. Managing your work load is a shared responsibility.
What do you continue to do that someone else can do for you? Who is on your team that can help you? Who in your circle of family and friends can you rely on for help and you give a favor in return. We just don’t ask for help sometimes when we need it the most. Building a strong network to support you is crucial; we are all in the same boat of trying to coordinate. Once you manage your pie chart and begin building plans toward a work-life purpose, you can extend to longer planning needs for your home, college, financial, etc. It is truly in your court and we all need to be empowered to take charge and manage through the process of a better situation for ourselves. Do not strive for perfection with your plan mentality!