Women In Business - May 2016
by Cindy Petitt
How would you describe your life? Are you working to live or living to work, or are you one of those very fortunate people who has achieved good balance between your work and personal life? By good balance, I mean leading a fulfilling, multi-dimensional life. You feel fulfilled at work, and you have an enriching life outside of work. What represents the right balance is specific to each individual.
If you are working to live, then work is simply a means of providing income needed for basic survival or to support a lifestyle that is important to you. For many who are working to live, their job is just a paycheck rather than a career or calling. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are living to work, then your life is about work —it consumes you out of passion or compensates for emptiness in your personal life. At either end of the spectrum there are voids in the way of fulfillment. You are either spending a major portion of your time doing work that is not nurturing your interests, talents and/or potential; or you are neglecting yourself, your relationships and your interests outside of work.
A well-balanced life is a worthy priority. You will be happier, live longer, be more change adept and productive. I have seen over and over again, during times of major organizational change, that well-balanced employees cope best because work is just one aspect of what is important in their lives. On the other hand, employees who lack balance don’t do as well on a business or personal level. In times of major change, they often resist the change, feel betrayed and suffer mentally and physically. The core aspect of their lives is disrupted and it is devastating.
Achieving balance is more difficult today than ever. Technology has dissolved the boundaries between work and personal time, in both directions, which is a major contributor to stress. This is why surveys show most business leaders say overwhelmed employees are an urgent problem. Being overwhelmed paralyzes you, stifles your creativity, depletes your energy—and it creates guilt, anger and anxiety.
A balanced life is achievable.
Here are a few tips to help lay the foundation:
• Identify and stay focused on what’s really important, meaningful and gives you the most energy. Make choices that are consistent with your priorities instead of saying “yes” to whatever is asked of you or comes your way.
• Be resourceful across all dimensions of life with the aim of achieving what you are seeking with maximum fulfillment and minimum stress. Rather than trying to master multi-tasking, look for ways to reduce the need for it by being selective, simplifying, planning, anticipating and being pre-emptive. Studies consistently show that multi-tasking reduces both productivity and quality of results.
• Take care of, invest in, and find time for yourself. Learn the art of being present in the moment, and try not to worry about what has already happened or is about to happen. Exercise and practice mindfulness activities like meditation or yoga.
• Stay positive by starting each day with gratitude. Given your current circumstances, set intentions for doing one small, achievable thing that would make you happy at work, at home, in your broader activities.
• Let go of guilt about not spending more time with your family and friends, and for taking time off from work when you do. Become astute at identifying those small things that make a big difference, such as, shutting off your smartphone during dinner with someone you care about.
• Build broad and deep relationships with co-workers, friends and family members. Build trust in those relationships by being reliable, authentic, transparent and non-judgmental. Encourage open and continuous communication to avoid relying on assumptions.
• Cultivate a culture of reciprocity in your organization (i.e., “I will give extra effort when you need it, because I know you will accommodate me when I need it”).
How will you know when your life is well-balanced? Your life will feel more like a healthy ecosystem rather than fruitless attempts to compartmentalize, and you will feel all dimensions of your life contributing to the betterment of each other (i.e., energy from work fueling happiness outside of work and vice versa).
Cindy Petitt is an executive coach and management consultant. She has conducted studies on factors that help and hinder the advancement of women to executive levels in male dominant corporate environments. She also conducts workshops for women on topics such as personal presence, communicating with influence, and leadership; and workshops for men and women on gender differences.