We spend countless hours in our business world organizing and strategizing for the day-to-day business needs of the companies where we work. I am often called upon to counsel employees because they complain of working hours and hours beyond the expectations of their roles, leaving little time for their family life and personal obligations.
So how do you achieve balance? My reply is always the same: what is your game plan? I’m usually answered with a blank stare and hesitation because we often don’t approach our personal lives with the same intention we do our professional ones. Your game plan is a strategy to get you from point A to Z. 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 both personally and professionally that requires us to do gymnastics to achieve.
I prefer to use a new term, Work-Life Purpose. If there is purpose in what you do and you prioritize those purposes, we will be able to navigate our week, month and year with greater satisfaction and achievement. If it does not have a purpose, why are you doing it?
It can feel overwhelming to map out a game plan for your life — and it may not feel intuitive. Here are some steps to get you started.
Develop a personal strategy
Draw two circles on a piece of paper — we’re making pie charts. On the first circle, map the many areas of your life. What is “real”? How many hours do you spend at work, on hobbies, with your family, on community responsibilities, exercising, on personal care, with 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 working weekends.
On the second chart, map out what your “ideal” week would look like, putting in your own terms what you feel would satisfy you the most. Include what an average work week looks like — or should look like.
Create a gap analysis
Where are the gaps from where you are to where you wish to be? What are the obstacles that keep you from getting to your 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 purpose? 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. If an organization you belong to is zapping your time and energy, assess and prioritize if you really NEED to be part of it at this time of your life. We overcommit and then wonder why we feel stressed!
Work with your family to help you with the little things, like having your children lay out 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 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 the true deadline of a project is 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, or do you block out specific time to answer emails so your work is not interrupted?
If your boss is bombarding you with unrealistic expectations on deliverables, sit down and have her or him help you prioritize what is needed to do and when. Managing your workload 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? Sometimes, we don’t ask for help when we need it the most. Building a strong network to support you is crucial; we are all in the same boat!
Once you evaluate your pie charts and build toward a work-life purpose, you can extend to longer-term 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 schedule; it will make you crazy when things fall apart (that is the gymnastics piece). Stay flexible and keep your sense of humor…it is all part of the plan. Your plan.
Tagged as: The TasteMaker