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Posts Tagged ‘work-life balance’

Using Strategy to Prioritize Goals

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

With the summer ending and fall nearing, it’s a logical time to evaluate priorities and determine how time can be spent and what can still be accomplished in 2018. There are endless things to do –– time with friends and family, work and professional growth, giving or volunteering time, hobbies… But how do we determine priorities and how our time should be spent?

In a recent book, The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, author Fran Hauser discusses the value in sitting down and analyzing the way you spend your time and determining if your choices are bringing you closer to your goals.

Hauser described a system she uses to prioritize her goals. She draws four squares on a piece of paper and in each square, she writes an important area of her life such as: Me, Friends & Family, Career, and the World. Then in each square she lists her top priorities related to each section, only allowing herself to write a maximum of three priorities per square, to prevent herself from overextension.

Participating in that exercise led her to an interesting realization. She wrote, “When I took a step back and looked at my squares, it was clear to me right away that my calendar and to-do list were not aligned with the priorities I had identified. I began shifting my schedule and commitments by saying no to and delegating some of the requests that were not aligned.”

This lesson is something that we can all take to heart –– are the things that we’re doing on a regular basis intentionally working toward our goals? Have we even identified our goals in each category? Understanding what the major goals in our lives are is a key component to deciding how to spend the time we have. The sooner goals are apparent, the faster we’re able to use our time in the most effective and efficient ways. How are you spending your time ?

A ‘right to disconnect’ will not lead to a right to succeed.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

French workers now have a “right to disconnect” with their employers outside of business hours. Under a new law, French companies are obligated to create new policies stipulating times when employees are not required to read or answer work-related emails. According to The Guardian, the law addresses “compulsive out-of-hours e-mail checking” and is designed to reduce stress and burnout. According to the Raconteur, some companies have banned internal emails in the evening or on weekends, shutting down company email servers after hours, and automatically deleting emails when employees are on vacation. French newspaper Libération said the law was needed because “employees are often judged on their commitment to their companies and their availability.”

While there’s no doubt that the expectation of being connected after hours has increased with the rise of technology, is it really up to the government to regulate?

Playing in the big leagues requires big time commitments. If a professional is serious about business, they do whatever it takes to get the job done. Significant projects often require late-night works hours. Consequential crises and opportunities don’t wait for business hours – so companies and employees need to be available. Turning off business at 5 p.m. sharp everyday is simply an unrealistic expectation for anyone who wants to succeed in business.

Employers and governments should not push against this new era of the connected worker, but embrace it. The ability to be connected anywhere goes beyond work-life balance to create work-life integration, a concept widely desired by the next generation of employees. It’s the idea that one loves their job and finds purpose in it, so they don’t work to separate it from their life; it’s part of their life. Work-life integration requires an understanding that an employee is eager to work late hours, incorporate the goal of company growth into their daily interactions, and connect from home when needed; and an employer is happy to maintain a similar eagerness to provide flexible hours or life-work integration.

Instead of seeking government regulation with unrealistic expectations, communication about expectations, availability, and limitations is key. No one can be connected at all times no matter how much their job is integrated into their life, and a good client or manager will understand that. However, employees who want to do their best will make themselves available whenever possible. During busy seasons or substantial projects, salaried employees should expect to work late hours and stay connected as needed. During vacations or unavoidable times of disconnect, employees should communicate their boundaries and limited availability and take necessary steps to prepare for their time away.

At the end of the day, employees are either in or out. They can choose work-life integration and success, or they can set unrealistic expectations for work-life separation that will likely lead to mediocrity.

Workaholism: Not Cool, Ever

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

royston_workahcartoon via Royston Roberts

Yes. Too much can be too much.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and angel investor Chris Yeh has seen his fair share of colleagues throw themselves into 100+ hour weeks.  He’s had a few moments like that as well – but is firm that workaholism is the wrong choice.

“Back in the 90s, there was a movie called “The Paper.” Michael Keaton stars as a workaholic newspaperman who neglects his pregnant wife, Marisa Tomei. At one point, he tells her that she’s more important to him than his job, and that he’d choose her without hesitation.  She replies that life never presents us with a single, big question; that [instead] every day, he’s being asked to choose, and that each time he misses an appointment or doesn’t make it home, he’s making his choice.”

Yes, circumstances sometimes demand extra hours. But often, working around the clock just means you don’t know how to manage your time, or you don’t have your priorities in order.

As CK President Ann Keeling shared in her Business Courier editorial recently, the demands clients place on agencies is becoming an epidemic. But when literally years of your life are at stake, knowing where and when to lay down the line is essential.

Ann Keeling says:

I once worked with a guy, let’s call him Andrew, who was always at work by 7am and typically the last one to leave at 7 or 8pm – pretty much everyday.  Mind you, he was married with two young children at the time.  Like many of us, he liked to learn new things and had great interests outside of work.  His lessons and sports before and after work left him little waking time, if any, to see his family.  Why would you commit to a partner, have children and then spend as little time as possible with them?  It’s important to periodically step back and re-examine your priorities and reallocate how you are spending your precious minutes, hours and days.

“Yes, I Said No.”

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

It’s time to put on the tough layer of skin and lay down the law. The key to your business success can be as easy as one word – “No.”

Wharton professor and author, Adam Grant, tells professionals: “Limiting your commitments is the only route to excellence.” Typically, we would cue a sigh of relief…but professionals at every level are not taking the advice to heart.

Success has been built on a habit of saying, “yes” to any opportunity that arises.  However, saying yes to too many opportunities, too many projects, and too many people is a recipe for disaster. The challenge is knowing when and how to say no – and Grant is just one of thousands of business consultants who hammer this advice to professionals over and over again.

Saying no is not very easy for most people and is associated with negative characteristics such as lack of commitment, negativity, and selfishness. It’s not surprising that we have built a reflexive habit of saying “yes.” Even when we do build up the strength to say “no,” it more often than not, turns into a yes. A customer argues, a friend begs; a no – turns to a maybe – then to yes. Don’t let being nice cause challenges in the workplace. You can say no, without damaging relationships or acting like a jerk.

When individuals are able to separate the personal from the professional, “no” becomes much easier to say in the name of business. Concentrate on the business component of the request. There might be clear barriers or unrealistic expectations that can be clearly and quickly explained. That said, short and to the point is a must. Don’t try to distort the message by making your rejection a monologue with a winding explanation. More often than not, your colleague won’t know what you said and you’ll have to explain again. Providing a realistic answer can help curb the typical sentiment of a no answer (anger and unhappiness), and make you feel better. Practice ahead of time, because you don’t want to have to say no twice – or end up saying yes, agreeing to something you wish you hadn’t.

There are certain scenarios where no is the ONLY option. They may seem obvious, but people still manage to get themselves into trouble by thinking they will be able to sort out the situations. Once you have mastered the realities of when you have to say no, you’ll be much more comfortable saying no in the future. Learning when to say no is a necessary skill to build your personal and corporate success, and a balanced life.

“It’s What We Do.”

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Annually Expedia conducts a Vacation Deprivation Study, which analyses a global disparity in the “work-life balance.” The most recent study found that 76% of American bosses are supportive of vacation time, higher in comparison to the global average at 65%. That said, collectively Americans failed to take an estimated 577,212,000 vacation days last year. What’s the hold-up? Americans explain that they are stockpiling the days to take a bigger trip.

It may be a fair assumption to think that all of these Americans are saving their vacation days for a once-in-a-life time trip to a new destination; an adventure out West through the National Parks, a journey overseas to see a new country, or a visit to a picturesque coast – the options are endless for excursions that can be both relaxing and invigorating. However, the majority of travelers aren’t out to discover a new place – they visit a destination they have visited before. The annual repeat summer vacation is a quite desirable trip for people all over the world.

Richard L. Gitelson and John L. Crompton conducted a study on the repeat vacation phenomenon in Texas. The two professors created a questionnaire for use at Texas Highway Visitors Centers, and then led in-depth personal interviews to a small sample of respondents. The study found that a majority of participants were returning to a place that had been visited before. Typically, the repeat vacationers tended to be older individuals and families, either seeking relaxation or visiting friends/family. The repeat vacationers cited five factors that influenced why they returned to a familiar destination:

  • A reduced risk of an unsatisfactory experience
  • An assurance that they’d find “there kind of people” there
  • Emotional or childhood attachment
  • Experience an aspect of the destination that had been omitted on a previous occasion
  • Expose others to an experience which the respondents had enjoyed

Tradition has been a key factor in making these repeat summer vacations so popular. Redundancy has a lot of value for both travelers, and the travel business. A favorite vacation spot can feel like a home-away-from-home. Places can be a way for family memories to stay alive for generations to come; it becomes “unexpectedly, yet unchangingly, What We Do.” One example is a group of friends who took their first trip together when they were in high school. Over the past 30 years, they have made the same trip every five years, creating a tradition and maintaining their friendship. Even the First Family has created a vacation tradition – annual trips to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard.

Whether or not you are a wanderlust traveler or enjoy the annual trip to the same destination, it’s vital to take vacation days for work-life balance.