By: Audrey Adelson, MSW, WLCP
October 16, 2014
So you say that you are having trouble trying to manage things and would like some help with work-life balance? Like a lot of people these days, you are probably feeling overwhelmed more than ever with work and personal responsibilities and are struggling to find enough hours in the day to get even half of what you “should” be getting done. Many of us feel incredible pressure to work faster and do more with less. I hate to be the deliverer of bad news, but there is no such thing as work-life balance. Now you’re probably thinking that you’re wasting your time reading this, but you’re not.
Although there really is no such thing as work-life balance, you can learn to be more productive with your work-life and be more effective with the time you do have. You can have greater work-life integration and you can get to know yourself more and prioritize what is most important to you.
Work-life is not one size fits all. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. Each of us is different – with regards to our personal lives, beliefs and work responsibilities. What works for us at one point in our life, will not help us to maintain a sense of balance at other points in our life. In today’s incredibly busy world, we have to focus on what is most important to us in life and sometimes ask ourselves some challenging questions. We need to set personal and professional boundaries and accept that we are not super heroes who can do it all. We are just a people doing the best we can. We need to learn to ask for and work towards the things we want in our lives. Sometimes this involves enlisting the help of others and making compromises.
Below are some tips to help you find greater work-life effectiveness:
- Increase awareness to what you do with your time. Using some form of log, try keeping track of your time for a few weeks. Pay close attention to both work and personal activities and then rate what was most enjoyable to you and what was required and what was optional for you. Are there things that are difficult for you to do or where you could possibly use a little extra help? Are you able to cut or delegate any of these activities? Are there things that you would prefer to be doing or need to do with some of this time?
- Familiarize yourself with resources to help you both at work and at home. Emory provides all kinds of resources to support its employees with work-life, including resources to help with child and adult care, workplace flexibility, financial and legal matters, discounts, leave options, etc. In addition, every day we hear about new ways to use technology to help save us time and make things a bit more convenient. While some people find technology habit forming, others are intimidated by it. They key is to use technology to help you, but to set clear boundaries with regards to when and how one uses it. (See tip number 4 for additional information on learning to disconnect).
- Learn to respectfully decline. Remember that it is okay to respectfully say no sometimes. Seek help if you are struggling with being able to decline (or delegate). Coaching is available to help you learn to have more control and avoid accepting too much out of guilt or a false sense of obligation. If you are finding it challenging to decline additional projects at work due to your plate already being full and feel apprehensive about talking to your manager about it, take advantage of the free help available at FSAP. Being unable to set clear boundaries is a major roadblock to effective work-life.
- Learn to disconnect. This is a lot easier said than done. Although it is true that technology has allowed us to have greater flexibility over where, when and how we work today, it has also caused us to work longer hours and blur the boundaries between our work and personal lives. This is why it is so important that each of us make a conscious decision to somehow separate work and personal time. These parameters will vary for each of person and we need to respect the boundaries set by one another. Communication becomes paramount in helping us clarify these boundaries for others and to help others respect them.
- Find creative and efficient ways to manage your time. Again, this is going to be customized by each person. We all have to determine what is most important to us and prioritize our time. Sometimes getting things done means being creative with our time and enlisting the help of others. Instead of holding off on household chores until the weekend, perhaps try to do a small task each day and avoid having to do it all on Saturday. When it comes to managing children, consider sharing care with a friend and taking turns with things like carpooling or babysitting to help you find some time to have a quick workout or a date night with your partner. At work, utilize teams more and don’t be so reluctant to delegate. Technology can be a great tool to help you manage time and be more efficient. Programs and apps are available to help you manage practically everything these days including finances, caregiving, “To Do” lists, holding meetings, creating presentations, etc. Explore what technology is available to help you.
- Utilize your support system and if you don’t have one – build one. A support system should include a variety of different types of people and should not be limited to just people whom we feel “close” or those that give good advice. It should include individuals who hold different roles in our life and can support us in different ways both in our personal and work lives. Support systems require effort and we should be careful to avoid becoming dependent on them. Common functions of a support system include role models, shared interests, close friends, helpers, skills/competence, referrals/networking and people who motivate us. Support systems are essential to having effective work-life.
- Take time for yourself. I am sure this sounds cliché, but it is true and we often need to remind ourselves to do it. Being able to maintain any sense of balance and have an integrated work and personal life requires maintaining a healthy diet, including some physical activity on a daily basis and getting a good night sleep. Give yourself permission to enjoy some fun each day. Include friends and family when you can. Avoid procrastination and by all means possible, plan and take a vacation. Everyone needs one once in a while.
Resources to help you manage your work-life:
Emory WorkLife Resource Center
Faculty Staff Assistance Program
Cali Yost’s Work+Life+Fit Blog
Life Meets Work Blog