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Question: You love your job, but can sense it’s starting to take over your life. How can you keep creating high-caliber work while maintaining a rich personal life?
For Maxine, maintaining a work-life balance is paramount. She really enjoys her job, but worries about it consuming her. So far she has been able to do keep it in check while producing high-quality work, but she can feel something start to shift. What can Maxine do now to help her stay balanced?
Here’s a summary of our mentors’ best advice from the discussion on the Everwise Answers forum.
1. Assess the Situation
Maxine should think about what her ideal situation would be if she could control her circumstances. “How do you want to live your life?” asks medical marketing expert Myron Troschuk. “Answer that question and define your expectations while doing your best to meet them.”
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. As a certified Master Trainer Rk Springfield says, what helps “to keep my work/life balance is to actually have a life!” Is Maxine keeping in touch with friends and family? Does she have a gratifying personal life to balance out her workload? Is she pursuing her personal interests?
It’s also important for Maxine to determine why she is feeling unbalanced. “It is necessary to identify the particular problem or set of problems and start addressing them,” says scientist and researcher Valery Petrykin. Some common problems in this situation are poor time management, conflicting motivations, not enough personal energy, or recent changes in pattern or environment.
Many of our mentors highlighted prioritizing, both at and outside of work, as a key ingredient for maintaining balance.
At work, “Maxine must learn to know the difference between ‘critical’ tasks and ‘important’ tasks,” advises HR expert Sharon Stover. This way, she can determine critical deadlines and delegate or push back less urgent tasks.
Maxine can also apply the same logic to her life outside of work and shape her top priorities to match what is most important. Sales expert Joe da Silva recommends blocking out personal time before (not after) making a work schedule “because anyone in business knows that you do not break appointments and an appointment to yourself is the most important appointment one can make.”
3. Manage Your Time
For Maxine to accomplish a work-life balance she needs to master time management. “Effective time management is simply developing a system that allows you to keep those goals in sight throughout the day and make conscious efforts to minimize (or plan) the diversions,” points out engineering director Jim Moorman.
There are tons of tools to better manage your time. Using a good calendar, creating daily tasks or to-do lists, and using planning software are some great ways Maxine can stay organized and ensure that she is productive. She could also chart her day to discover where time is being wasted.
“Get in the habit of not allowing other people or situations to waste your time,” suggests leadership expert Dr. Sandy Nunn. Time is valuable and Maxine needs to learn where her time is best spent.
4. Be Aware of Boundaries
“Today’s connected world can be seen as a bane when it comes to work-life balance. On the other hand, if you are smart and organized it can also be a boon,” suggests IT expert Srikumar Ramanathan. In today’s globalized world, boundaries are more fluid. Work can easily continue after coming home, which for many becomes an added burden. Or, if properly approached, it can create more flexibility by creating space for you to address personal issues during office hours.
On the other hand, if murky boundaries are a slippery slope for Maxine, customer loyalty expert Mary Ann Felix advises Maxine to “set clear cut boundaries for yourself and respect them. Ask yourself ahead of time when it’s okay to work late or take work home. Strive to set a start and quitting time, if at all possible.” Setting definitive times to start and leave may help keep work from seeping into personal time.
5. Learn to Say “No”
Just as Maxine needs to properly manage her time, she also has to be careful about over-committing herself. “Maxine needs to get really good at saying ‘no’,” counsels recruiting expert Partho Gangly. She should be realistic about her capacity and not take on more than she can handle.
6. Take Care of Yourself
“Focus on your health, as in physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health,” shares telecommunications expert Mikhail Nekorystnov. “When I feel healthy in all these areas I do not have a question about balance.”
Taking care of yourself is an important part of being a happy individual. “Those individuals that work all the time cannot be very happy people and being happy is a basic component of being a great leader,” says business and technology leader Timothy Loftus.
Being healthy will help Maxine weather the stressful times and improve her productivity. “I always found an hour or two to exercise,” says mergers and acquisitions expert Tim Barabe “helped me deal with the stress of my job. It’s not the number of house one works, but the productivity of those hours.”
7. Check Your Progress
Creating a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing progress that Maxine will continually revisit to maintain. “She should set self review dates to check her progress/level of satisfaction,” outlines talent manager Virendra P Singh.
Balance is a give and take. At times Maxine’s energy may need to tip in favor of work, but as long as she recognizes the imbalance and makes a concerted effort to find stability she should be able to retain a healthy lifestyle overall.
There is plenty of great guidance available about these sorts of challenges, here are a few suggestions:
Thanks to the Everwise mentors for their ideas, and to all the others who shared their recommendations on the forum.
- (Illinois) national account manager at Bowman Mfg Co Inc, expert in medical sales and marketing
- (Arizona) CEO/ Training Director at The Training Mine, expert in corporate training and certified Master Trainer
- (Japan) director of research and development at SuperOx Japan LLC, expert in material science and chemistry
- (Maryland) CEO of LifeLogics, Inc., expert in human resources and coaching and development to improve team performance
- (Canada) President at JDS Agencies Ltd, expert in sales and public speaking
- (Texas) COO and director of engineering at TRACE Engines, LP, expert in systems engineering and management
- (California) CEO at JAT Industries LLC, expert in ethics, diplomacy, law enforcement, leadership and management
- (New York) senior vice president at Mphasis, expert in information technology in financial services
- (California) Assistant VP of Retail Branches at Orange County’s Credit Union, expert in building customer loyalty
- (India) general manager of operations at BOB Technologies, expert in resourcing and staffing
- (California) Sr. Director OPS Integrations at RingCentral, expert in telecommunications and infrastructure
- Timothy Loftus (New York) owner of Free Knowledge Network, expert helping businesses utilize technology to empower people and expanding revenue
- Tim Barabe (California) board member Vigilant Biosciences, expert in leveraged buyout finances by private equity
- (India) HR director at RJ Corp, expert in employee engagement and talent management