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Achieving Work/Life Balance: Is It Really Possible?

With Focus And Determination, You Can Prosper At Work And In Your Personal Life

By Steve Schumacher

There was a time when there was a clear line between work and personal life. Work was something a lot of people did to enhance what they could achieve in their personal lives. That is no longer true. Work pervades every aspect of our personal life. During the recession, employees worked harder and longer for fear of being the next one laid off. When people put in extra time and effort, many organizations come to expect it and even when times get better, employees are expected to keep the previous levels of high productivity.

A recent Accenture study found that 75 percent of employees work during their paid time off. The most common activity was checking email – 71 percent reported doing this – but 30 percent said they participated in conference calls, and 44 percent said they use these nominal days off to catch up on work. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that working like that causes a great deal of stress and makes people wonder if there is any way to strike a better balance between work and personal life.

It can be very easy to overload yourself with work, even in your off hours. Especially, if you are seeking a promotion or are just trying to make ends meet. Consider the cost associated with working that much. Your home life will take a big hit if you continually make working a 24/7 proposition. The costs associated with your personal health and relationships can be devastating in the long run.

There is no easy fix, but there are some things you can do to get a more equal balance between the demands of your job and the demands of your personal life.

Take Stock Of Your Time.

Pay close attention to all of the tasks you do on a daily basis, both work and personal. At work, make sure you are working on the highest priority items and not just spinning your wheels on tasks that have no real payoff. Delegate tasks to others as much as possible. In your personal life, identify the things you want to do when you are not at work and make the time for them.

This includes time with your family and friends that does not include banging away at your laptop and catching up on emails. I have heard a lot of people say “when I get more time.” The reality is that you will not get more time. Everyone gets 168 hours per week; that is it. Make the best use of each of those hours.

Talk to your boss about your hours. In the mining and rock products industry, it is difficult to change work shifts. Plants need to be running all the time, and workers need to be on-site, for the most part. If you can, talk to your supervisor about changing shifts, flex-time, or telecommuting if you have a staff job.

Learn To Turn Down Requests.

Many of us have a sense of obligation when people ask us to take on additional tasks at work, which makes it difficult to say no. We all want to please others and be a team player. However, when you are feeling overloaded and it is taking a toll on your personal life, learn to be assertive and politely turn down additional tasks. Others will respect you for it.

Do Not Take Work Home.

In this age of being connected to work all the time, this presents an ever-increasing challenge. It takes a conscious effort to leave work at work. When you get home, turn off your cellphone and do not open your laptop. Discuss your decision with your boss and co-workers beforehand. Obviously, if your boss has a problem with it, you have no choice. Do your best to only respond to emergency work issues when on personal time. I know of one company CEO who has the company servers turned off on weekends so the employees can have uninterrupted downtime.

Calendar Family Events.

It is common that, at the beginning of the year, we tell ourselves that this year is going to be different. That we are going to make more time to do what we really want to do on our time off, and make more time for our families. Then work demands creep into the vacuum of time and our best plans fall by the wayside. Talk with your family and schedule events on your calendar. Do your best to hold those plans as sacred. Your family will appreciate the effort.

Take Care Of Yourself.

Set up, and stick to, an exercise and healthy eating regimen. Studies show that it takes approximately 66 continuous occurrences of something before it becomes a habit. Too many of us give up on exercise way too early. Force yourself to do it even when you do not feel like it. Once it becomes a habit, you will find the time much more easily. Take fun classes and do some reading just for enjoyment. When you are healthy and have less stress, you will achieve more at work also.

Achieving a balance between the things you need to do at work and your personal life is not easy. It takes focus and a concerted effort. Do not be the ones who constantly say “when I get around to it.” Do it now.

Without Trust, Change is Difficult If Not Impossible to Achieve

The need for trust in the workplace and communication therein is understood by many leaders to be the foundational building block of the organization. The degree of trust developed will impact employee performance and retention, the development of teams and implementation of organizational change. Irrespective of size and industry, organizations are comprised of individuals who desire the same thing: the ability to trust those they work with. People cannot trust an organization, but they can trust their superiors, employees and associates.

Issues of broken trust and personal betrayal are far from just the result of restructuring, downsizing or other major organizational events. They are the product of the numerous micro-decisions that leaders and managers make every day. When individuals do not keep agreements or remain true to their word, and do not share information or trust another employee's judgment or competence, trust is breached. Employees develop feelings of betrayal that lead to a chain of unresolved conflicts. These unresolved conflicts build a strong sense of mistrust and disloyalty that is extremely difficult to counteract.

– Timothy Bednarz, Ph.D.