“Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” –Hillary Clinton
Do you consider yourself a workaholic? Perhaps you wear your 18 hour days, seven days a week and middle of the night emails as a badge of honour. Sometimes going the extra mile is necessary, but if this is routine behaviour for you, it’s time to consider that you could become a better leader and live a much healthier and productive life if you achieve balance. The question then becomes: how exactly to prioritise time between career and life? Every day, people struggle with answering that very question, whilst at the same time, leaders struggle with implementing the solutions.
A recurring theme in many of my blog posts is the idea that in order to affect change—regardless of your position in your organisation, or the challenge at hand—your mindset and your willingness to make adjustments has to be present in a genuine and real way. Work-life balance, in that sense, is no different. You will only achieve it if you’re ready to do so. Attaining and maintaining a healthy balance between your work demands and family life can be, no doubt, challenging; and strategies will vary depending on your particular needs and may even evolve as those needs change.
You can create a path towards a place where your professional and personal lives can coexist in harmony by:
- Being clear and open about your needs. Engage in an honest conversation with the relevant individuals in your organisation about your specific needs. Perhaps you need to leave by 5:00 pm three times a week to attend your son’s football practise; or you are determined to stick to your new year’s resolution to go to the gym every day. Whatever your needs are, make sure to communicate them.
- Respecting your own boundaries.Once you create boundaries by communicating your needs, respect them—or no one else will. There will always be an email you can respond to or a call you could answer, but ask yourself if the nature of those tasks merit you postponing personal commitments you’ve made to yourself or your family. If the answer is no, then don’t do it. By doing so, you’ll send a clear message to others that your personal life is important and you respect your commitments.
- Fixing your mindset. I’m not implying your mindset is broken, but that you should develop perspective and focus on what’s really important to you. This will enable you to use your time wisely and productively.
- Shutting off. When you walk out of the office or go on a holiday, try to shut off—and I’m not just talking about your phone or computer. Switching your brain off from work is necessary as well to recharge your batteries. This is probably the most challenging thing to accomplish; it will take practise to get out of the habit of constantly checking your email, but once you do it a few times, it will become much easier and, with time, a habit. When you finally master the art of shutting off you will be able to gain perspective and allow yourself space to be more proactive rather than reactive.
- Regulate your speed.Undoubtedly, there will be times in which you will have you speed up your pace to keep up with the demands at work or at home. The key is to learn how much and when to speed up and when to slow down. Also learn to work smarter, not harder. Perhaps it’s time to delegate some tasks or stop over-committing yourself at work.
The good news is that although work-life balance is not a concept that was discussed, much less embraced, twenty or thirty years ago in the workplace, in today’s corporate culture, effective leaders understand that a balanced employee thrives.
If you are a leader, there are a number of ways to encourage and enable your employees to reach and achieve work-life balance. In addition to recognising that people need to switch off, make sure you review work schedules and support flexible hours when appropriate, take active steps to understand your employees’ needs, open up lines of communication, keep an eye on working hours and actively promote a supportive culture and environment.
We recognise that work-life balance issues are complex. If you are in on how best to tackle promoting work-life balance at your organisation, contact Castlegate International to seek advise.
If you could do one thing in your organisation to promote work/life balance, what would it be? Contribute to the conversation in the comments section below.