Most people don’t know how to balance work in relationship to other areas of their life, often described as work/life balance. Hectic work schedules, increased responsibility, new technology, and the need to read and respond to growing quantities of email and voicemail are just some of the things that place huge demands on your work life. This pressure may cause you to feel as if your work is a prison that you can never escape as more and more keeps coming at you.
Many of us work in environments that have management’s hands-on involvement. Work comes from a lot of different sources and you might be supporting many different people. You’re pulled in various directions without knowing why or understanding how to cope with expectations from multiple people. It’s a lot to handle and it may seem impossible to bring your work and life into balance.
One of my clients was working in the biotechnology field and over a five year span kept moving up through the ranks, from manager to senior manager to VP. The number of responsibilities, choices, and decisions he made drastically increased. He had a lot of things coming at him and needed to make decisions quickly, but it became more and more difficult for him to make the best decisions. He had to learn what was most important, along with when to say yes and when to say no. He needed to develop new skills for dealing with a never-ending stream of demands.
Whether you’ve been promoted or are just trying to cope with the relentless pressures of the modern work environment, learning new ways to handle it all will help you achieve that important balance. The place to start is with yourself and the way you think about the demands on you. Below are four ideas to help your bring your work and life into balance by changing your attitudes about what you can, and should, accomplish at work.
- Do not please everyone. The underlying goal of many executives is to please everyone in an effort to be perceived as doing a good job. This desire, along with over-compensation, causes you to be ineffective in work/life balance and managing your time effectively. People who are really good at pleasing everyone don’t say no to anything being given to them. They don’t want to be critical or to challenge a paradigm that is being presented by either a boss or superior. What happens is that they become stuck in a place where they say yes to everything without giving consideration to what is most important or what is the best use of their time.
If you try to please everyone, the one person who doesn’t get pleased is you! You can’t be placed second while someone else at work is always placed first. Instead, take care of yourself first and foremost.
- Be true to yourself Many executives think they get respect by others inside the company by how much they do and how well they do it. However, a very important determiner of respect is integrity, and integrity requires being true to yourself. To do that, you must know what your truth is. What is yours? When you have too great a workload, isn’t your truth to try and rebalance it? When you have too many things going on and too many projects, isn’t it your job to delegate more? There is a truth that always exists within your work life: the need to do what is right for you, not what is right for the company. Yes, you must often do what the company wants you to do, but not to such a degree that YOU get lost within that paradigm. It’s important to know your truth and be able to take a stand on what you need to do to be true to yourself.
- Set high boundaries In order to set high boundaries, you need to know what you are willing to say yes to and what you are willing to say no to in the areas of work/life balance. For example, have you set boundaries that you will never work through lunch, not work past a certain time, not get to the office before a certain time, and take time for lunch every day? Do you know what your boundaries are so that when you get a huge project, you won’t allow your boundaries to evaporate because of the demands of the project? Setting boundaries will help you have a work/life balance that provides you enjoyment, peace, and fulfillment in all aspects of your life.
When you feel a great amount of stress and burden from the demands of your work, it’s almost impossible to make time for what you most need or want in your life. This is why having and setting boundaries is so vitally important. If you keep your boundaries strong, they will protect you and take care of you no matter how difficult, troubling, or challenging your work can become.
- Set realistic and lower expectations with yourself. Set realistic expectations with yourself that allow for underpromising. What is underpromising? It’s allowing yourself to do less than you think you can do. If you think it will take 1.5 hours to do something, give yourself two. Do the following:
- Step 1. Give yourself increased time frames to get things done.
- Step 2. Increase the amount of gentleness and compassion you have for how much you need to get things done.
- Step 3. Increase your expectations of yourself so you have more room to fail and more room to succeed.
You’ll be less inclined to beat yourself up when you have underpromising expectations. Most people say they underpromise, but do exactly the opposite by giving themselves very high expectations. For example, if they think they have an hour to get something done, they give themselves 40 minutes. This puts extra pressure on them. Actually, 80% of the executives I work with create such high expectations that they rarely accomplish what needs to get done.
Practice these four suggestions and you’ll soon see a decrease in your stress level and an increase in the quality of your work.
Copyright ©2005-2015 Joel Garfinkle, All Rights Reserved.
Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 7 books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world's leading companies, including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle, and many more. Visit Joel online at Garfinkle Executive Coaching. Subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!
This article may be reprinted or forwarded to colleagues and friends as long as the above copyright notice and contact information is attached in its entirety.
If you reprint this article, please advise us that you have done so and forward a copy of the article, or a link to the web page where the article can be viewed, to Joel Garfinkle.