How productive are you? Are you energized and focused? Or are overload and stress taking a toll at work and at home?
“In today’s busy and uncertain times, everyone needs to be as effective as possible,” says CCL’s Kelly Hannum. “Understanding how you manage the boundaries between work and family is one way to boost your focus and productivity as you navigate your many commitments.”
Hannum, along with CCL researchers Marian Ruderman and Phillip Braddy, partnered with Ellen Ernst Kossek, a professor at Michigan State University and author of CEO of Me, to understand and measure different approaches. They found that there is no single “right” solution for everyone. The research showed three areas are important to pay attention to: 1) behaviors, 2) identity and 3) control. Building on those findings, CCL created a new assessment. The self-assessment and development planning guide helps you clarify:
- How you currently manage boundaries between work and personal life. Do you let work interrupt family? Do you let family interrupt work? Both? Neither?
- How you see your primary identity. Are you primarily work-focused, family-focused or equally focused on work and family? Is your primary identity tied to other interests, such as recreation, athletics, volunteering or religious activities?
- How much control you feel over where, when and how you manage boundaries. To what degree do you have control over how you manage transitions between work and family?
- How you can be more engaged and effective. What changes would enhance your overall life?
“There is no one approach that works for everyone,” Kossek notes. “Rather than seeking the elusive ideal of work/life balance, it’s best to pay attention to what you are doing, find the right way for you and take action. Even small changes can have big impact.”
You might find that a modest change to your work or family schedule allows you to be more effective. Some general tips to consider:
- Set aside time for yourself. Structure some time to focus on you. Take time to rest and reflect so you avoid burnout. You do not even need a long block of time — just enough to slow down.
- Manage your mood and use transition times positively. After work, you may have a transition time during which you stop thinking of work and begin to focus on family needs. That might mean listening to music, or stopping to have a cup of coffee or catching up on current events.
- Identify big priorities in life and focus on meeting those demands first. Develop a life plan and discuss it (or aspects of it) with the people most important to you and whose support you need. Focus on a limited number of goals and update your plan as needed.
- Leverage technology to help you control boundaries. Use technology to help you manage your life; don’t let technology manage you. You may want to schedule blocks of time when electronic communication devices are turned off or to use different devices or accounts to manage connections. Figure out how to make your mobile device work best for you: to stay in touch with work and home — or to separate work and home.
- Experiment with creating connections between your work and family roles. Consider discussing a work situation with your spouse or another friend or family member. The person you talk to may have creative ideas that could help you — and may feel closer to you as a result. Similarly, colleagues may appreciate connecting around non-work roles.
- Use substitutes to allow you to focus on the most meaningful tasks. Figure out what you can delegate or shift both at work and home. Could you get help so you have more time to focus on priorities? That may mean hiring help, or asking someone to do something for you in exchange for your doing something for them or perhaps as a development opportunity.
Finally, you may want to talk about your work style preferences to your boss, coworkers, family and friends. Help them understand your various obligations and the strategies you want to use to make the most of your time and energy. It can be a great way to get ideas, to get support and to better understand and communicate expectations.