Time Management: Finding Work/Life Balance
I love, love, love this subject. It’s part of a bigger conversation and falls under the umbrella of Time Management, a topic which comes up with every coaching call I hold. No wonder: The lines between business and personal were blurred the minute we picked up our first Blackberry or Palm Pilot and then erased completely when they became Smart devices and allowed us to bring our work home.
And boy, did we ever...
Does it pain you as it does me to see a mother or father ignoring their children in favor of their PDA? The greatest gift you can give your children is your complete presence. This makes it critical to learn how to rebuild the boundaries that separate us from our jobs.
First, commit. Make a change in this area and commit to the change for exactly one week. Practice your course-correction steps Monday through Friday so that you can gauge the difference that it makes over a small sampling of five days.
Second, plan. Set an alarm on your cell phone to go off 10 minutes before you plan to end your day. When the bell tolls, create your plan for the following workday. Write it down on a pad of paper, everything from your appointments to your phone calls to your tasks to your priorities.
Third, go home. Whether it’s crossing the threshold from one room to another or hopping into your car, put your office and your work in the rearview mirror. If you have spent those 10 minutes wisely, you have emptied your head of anything that needs to be remembered and (tell yourself this) you do not need to think about what’s coming up until the following day.
Fourth, be home. Practice immersed listening. Be completely, 100% present to your family. Be curious. Ask them questions and delve into the subject’s that they are discussing. Important: Resist the urge to talk about you, your day, or what’s on your mind. You can get to that later. For now, it’s all about them. Three words to remember: “Tell me more.” Three words to forget: “My day was ...”
Fifth, have a strategy. Your work/cell phone is going to ring at night. Will you answer it? Texts and emails will come in. Will you respond? What message does that send? I know what message you’re trying to send your customer, but what are you saying to your family? With a few time-critical exceptions, you are not nearly as important as you think you are. It’s okay to let things go to voicemail. It’s okay to shut your phone off entirely. This is the hard part and what you need to plan ahead for.
Look, this is not a perfect or simple task. You’re not going to be able to ignore work 100% of the time when you're not at work. It comes down, in my opinion, to what you value in life. I’d write more on this (and actually did, but then deleted) but I fear that it will come across as judgmental. I will only say that it was one of the proudest moments of my life when my daughter admitted to me that she was gay. She knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that her father would support her because, in her words, “You are my best friend.” It was in that moment that I knew I had done something right: I had separated my business from my parenting and that 15-year-old girl validated my hard work in this area.
Whatever change you make — taking my suggestions or another approach — try it for one solid week and then make corrections. It’s really hard but it’s really, really worth the effort.
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Bill Farquharson can be reached at (781) 934-7036 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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