Most people don’t know how to balance work in relationship to other areas of their life, often described as work/life balance, and this causes untold stress everywhere in their lives.
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. It can also make you feel overwhelmed and stuck, so that you cannot even conceive of taking on anything – even the things you may really want to do.
It’s important to develop new skills that made each task that you take on easier as well as learn simple strategies of delegation and empowerment of self and others. The concept of learning how to get more done in less time, remember the old adage: “If you want something done quickly and well, give it to a busy person.”? It may sound trite, but it’s true, and this is the reason why some people can achieve so much, while most of us lead mediocre lives. Often our poor attitudes, organizational or people skills are what’s holding us back, but these can be easily developed.
Many of us work in environments that have a variety of hands-on involvement. Work comes from a lot of different sources and you might be supporting many different people, in many different tasks. 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.
As our business has grown exponentially over the past fifteen years, there is no way we would be able to look after everyone in the same way we could in our first year or two of building the network. Over the first seven years we kept moving up through the ranks, every year from Car Qualification to Diamond, to Double Diamond, to Senior Diamond, with the number of people in our network rising from less than a hundred to over a thousand over those years.
Therefore the number of responsibilities, choices, and decisions we made on a daily basis drastically increased. We had a lot of things coming at us and needed to make decisions quickly, but it became more and more difficult for us to make the best decisions. What were the best decisions of what to do and what not to do?
We had to learn what was most important and do that, along with when to say yes and when to say no. We both also needed to develop new skills for dealing with a never-ending stream of demands – and this is something we continue to do, year after year.
You can never be, do or have more than what you currently have, if you are not willing to invest in yourself and your personal growth: whether it be by way of skills in dealing with people; in managing, motivating or marketing yourself (the hardest person to ‘handle’); in developing better organisational skills; or in your leadership ability.
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. One 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.
1. Do not try to 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 the over-compensation that you make when you feel you haven’t done it, causes you to be ineffective in work/life balance and in 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 peer, 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 you always place someone else first, and expect to come out ahead. Instead, take care of yourself and your needs first and foremost. Remember when you are in an airplane, the hostess says “Place your own mask on first!” I had to do this as a single mum, when I wanted to put my daughters on the nutrition, but couldn’t afford to pay for six people’s supplements. I was the one working, and I had to make surer I stayed well, to bring in their keep.
2. 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. It is important to do each task thoroughly and complete it well. 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? Know what your values are and do not compromise on them. Be willing to stand up for the things you believe in, and for your self.
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 are only so many hours in everybodys day, and everybody has the same amount, so using your allotted work time for the most important tasks, the ones you are responsible for, is your primary goal.
There is a truth that always exists within your work life: the need to do what is right for you, being true to yourself and your values, not only what is ‘right’ for the company. If it is a good and honorable thing to do, it will be good for everybody. Yes, you must do what the company wants you to do, but not to such a degree that YOU get lost within that paradigm. While I’m not saying focus solely on yourself and your needs, because we do have the philosophy of putting other people’s needs first, 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.
3. 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? If you have a home run business, do you set any boundaries at all? You will find you will get more done, in less time, if you know what you should be doing when – and you get to choose.
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, and will mean that your family or personal life does not suffer.
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 clear and strong, they will protect you and take care of you no matter how difficult, troubling, or challenging your work can become.
4. Set realistic and lower expectations with yourself and start working on them. 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.
We recommend you do the following – to achieve more in less time:
◦ Step 1. Give yourself increased time frames to get things done, but make sure you set the time frame so you can get to work and actually accomplish it.
◦ Step 2. Increase the amount of gentleness and compassion you have for how much you need to get things done, and seek coaching or mentoring if you find yourself struggling.
◦ Step 3. Increase your expectations of yourself so you have more room to fail and more room to succeed. This is a real step into leadership. Most people will not stretch themselves, and therefore their lives never change. As the saying goes: If you want to be, do or have more, you cannot continue to do the things that you are currently doing.
Be happy and willing to have underpromising expectations. You’ll be less inclined to beat yourself up when you do. 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. They place really high expectations, and immediately go into overwhelm and can’t get really into momentum. It is so much wiser to under promise and over deliver . . . even to yourself!
Practice these four suggestions and you’ll soon see both a decrease in your stress level and an increase in the quality and productivity of your work. Considering its results that count, you and everyone around you will be happier, and with less stress.