The new buzzwords these days seem to revolve around ‘Work-Life Balance”. We all struggle with it, but what does it mean?
I will admit that I have a few years on me. Having started my business career in the mid 70’s when women were really struggling to make our mark; we looked at this so-called Work-Life Balance more as survival. I have run divisions of FORTUNE 500 companies and started my own business. While all of it was challenging and exhilarating at times, finding balance seemed elusive. One of my best friends, who became the first woman publisher of a major business magazine, told me “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” What that means is Work-Life Balance is about choices.
Recently, I read a book titled, “Micro –Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boost in Focus, Drive and Energy” by Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines. This book actually gives useful advice for surviving the Work-Life thing we do. I highly recommend it whether you run your own business, or work for someone else. With this book in mind, other research and life experience, here is my take:
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to live. – Dolly Parton
In the book, St. John and Haines cited a study that found multi-tasking slows down our thought process and our ability to recall details diminishes. It also significantly reduces our creativity, and we have a higher risk of making serious mistakes. This contributes to an overall reduction in the quality of our work. A 2006 study found that even when we talk on a hands-free cell phone while driving, as millions of people believe they do quite well, the impairments are similar to those of driving drunk: slower reaction times, erratic movements, and more frequent traffic accidents. Right now, many of you designers, working moms, creative types and entrepreneurs are saying, “There is no other way to get everything done”.
Again, it is all about choices…
Here are some of my suggestions:
Set limits: When I started working from home, I joked with my kids, saying, “Do not interrupt me when I am on a phone call unless you are bleeding from the head!” The point here is whether you are in a corporate office or a home office, respect for that space is important. Constant interruptions disrupt your train of thought, and it will take twice as long to do anything.
Make lists: Lists are your friends. Use your phone to make notes on the fly. This will help you avoid forgotten appointments, and empty lunch bags later. I talk to my phone all day, asking it to set appointments on my calendar, set reminders and I use it to make notes as I think of things I need to do. Find a system that works for you. Technology can be a huge help.
Take time to breathe: We all get that “overwhelmed feeling” sometimes, and say things in frustration we wish we could take back. Whether it is a physical break of walking outside to catch some fresh air for 5 minutes or just deep breathing at your desk for a short time, the mental break will help you regain control. A good suggestion from the book is if you are having a meeting with just one or two people, have a walk and talk meeting. It is proven that the act of physical movement actually stimulates creativity.
Let go of things that really don’t matter: What little things can you let go of? I was brought up to always use cloth napkins for the dinner meal. This may seem trivial but when I gave myself permission to use paper napkins it was life changing. I still bring out the nice napkins for special meals and for entertaining. I am Southern after all! It was liberating to realize that sitting down together for the meal was much more important.
Be present: Whether it is with your family or your employees, if you are always multi-tasking, you are not present. We are not talking about watching TV and folding clothes here. Life is short and making the choice to give them your full attention is important. Everyone will be more productive. Many years ago, my oldest daughter was being inducted into the National Honor Society, but I had to play in the FORTUNE 500 golf tournament at the renowned Pinehurst #2 Golf Course. How could I possibly do both, you ask? I was not going to miss that induction so I went to the tournament. After playing the first round, I jumped into my car, drove 4 hours back to Williamsburg, Virginia, in a driving rain storm, met my family at the school, changed my clothes in the bathroom, went to the induction ceremony and then had my neighbor, who happened to have an airplane, fly me back down to Pinehurst, in time for me to meet my group on the first tee the next morning. It is exhausting to recount the experience, but I was present. Although I am not sure I would do it the same way now, she knew I was there for her.
Honestly, most of the time I felt as if I was flying by the seat of my pants. Back then, professional women were not talking and sharing good ideas on how to balance life better. It is gratifying that we are all trying to help each other with advice, time savers and a sense of humor. The Southern C is a big part of that process.
What I am most proud of are the wonderful daughters my husband and I have raised. At the end of the day, that is what matters most to me. I have a great family to back me up and a strong faith that helped us get through it all.
This is just one person’s observation from a life well-lived. I am sure that all of you in the Southern C blogosphere can add to the list above.
What tips would you share on how you balance your Life and Work?