Need a work/life overhaul? Or just a few tweaks to improve your work/life juggling act?
Try this five-step process that CCL suggests to clients and users of our self-assessment,WorkLife Indicator.
Identify what is and what isn’t working for you. This sounds easy, but it can be difficult to identify the core issues. We often don’t take the time to stop and reflect, especially when things are hectic. Sometimes one key problem will trigger other challenges or frustrations, creating the sense that nothing is working right or that the problems are too complex to fix without making dramatic change. As you think about what works well and what doesn’t, consider four areas:
- Boundary control. Consider whether and when you would prefer stronger boundaries and in what situations you would do better if you could blur the lines. Would it be more effective to work only at the office? Could you be more effective if you scheduled larger blocks of time to focus on one thing or the other?
- Time management. Are you paying attention to how you spend your time, being realistic about what you can accomplish, and making conscious choices to take care of what is most important?
- Expectations. Unrealistic expectations create unnecessary stress. Do you need to adjust expectations you have of yourself or have a conversation about the expectations others have of you?
- Transitions. Not having enough time to switch from one role to another can leave you feeling rushed or frustrated or ineffective. Do you need to change how you move into or out of a role to make the transition more smoothly?
Learn boundary management techniques. Good ideas are out there. Read articles about how to address the issues frustrating to you. Talk to co-workers and friends about what works for them (bearing in mind that different tactics work for different people). Challenge yourself to change something you assume you can’t — maybe change how you use technology (do you really have to respond to every message, right away?) or find someone else to take on a task that has always been “yours” (at home or at work). Once you decide some changes you’d like to make, communicate your preferences and ideas to key people. Look for solutions that benefit others as well as yourself. For example, look for someone at work that would benefit from taking on a task that you’d like to get off your plate. Be open to ideas for creating solutions together.
Envision a better life. There are benefits and trade-offs with any approach to managing your work and life. You will be able to weather the stressful times more successfully if you have a picture of what you are striving for and why. When you are clear on your larger goals and priorities, it helps you focus on what matters most. It also helps you put setbacks and bad days in context.
Get support. Everyone needs support to achieve goals, especially those as complicated as work and family goals. The support may be from work or from home. Some people might help you figure out how to best manage your time and energy, or agree to take some tasks off your plate. Others can provide encouragement or empathy as you try to adjust your work/life patterns. A coach or mentor can help you navigate the options at work. Help with improving your physical health may also be important for increasing energy and resilience. Your support network is also invaluable when dealing with a crisis such as helping a chronically ill family member.
Track your progress. Change requires focus and commitment. Make a plan and track your progress. This keeps you accountable to yourself and your work/life stakeholders. It allows you to see what is working and where the pitfalls lie. With this information, you’ll have a better handle on what else you can do to find greater productivity and satisfaction in your various life roles.
Want a new way to think about work/life balance? Read the CCL white paper, Making Your Life Work: A New Approach to Increasing Your Effectiveness On and Off the Job. And take a look at the new guidebook, Managing Your Whole Life