I don't need another article or blog post about work-life balance to tell me I'm overwhelmed. Do you? The media continually reminds us that our modern lifestyle is not sustainable for a sane and satisfying life. This isn't news to me, my peers or my clients. In working with hundreds of professionals over the past 15 years to make positive and impactful changes to their career and life, I have met very few who weren't struggling with some aspect of work-life balance. That's why I'm inspired to share my thoughts about how you can impact your work-life balance during WorldatWork's National Work and Family Month.
While most of us are competent problem solvers at work, we tend to be so mired in the craziness of our day-to-day lives that we feel helpless to make change there. While it is unrealistic to expect to go from working 60 hours a week, singlehandedly managing your home and barely sleeping to the serene, organized and efficient operating model about which we fantasize, change is possible.
Right now, schedule a time - actually schedule it, on your calendar, in ink -- when you can step back, consider the following questions and start the process.
What is driving my current choices?
If you are dissatisfied with your work-life balance and haven't already taken steps to change it, there is likely something you gain from your situation. Be it financial security, leadership, prestige, survival, accomplishment or a host of other reasons, this represents something you value. Once you determine what drives your current choices, it is easier to consider changing or to accept that it may be too difficult to do so at this time.
For example, if you determine that prestige is driving the current intensity of your life, you get to decide if what you gain from your prestige at work is worth the stress it is having on you and your family. If it's not, you can begin the work of change. However be open to the possibility that the choices you're making are tied to something that is non-negotiable to you. If that's the case, you can choose to accept the intensity of your current situation. Many of my clients have achieved satisfaction without making any changes to their work-life balance, by simply gaining awareness as to why they are working the way the are.
What am I willing to do differently?
I have many clients who are unhappy with their work-life situation and are not willing to make any changes. Often, we are so invested in the life we've created that the idea of doing anything differently feels impossible, pointless or scary. Yet, we've all heard Einstein's quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
Think about what you are comfortable doing differently. Could you leave work on time one day a week? Say 'no' and risk disappointing a friend or colleague? Submit a first draft that really is a first draft? Delegate real work? Experiment with just one or two new ways to do things that give you more autonomy over your own time and energy.
What might I have to risk?
With change comes risk. When you do something differently, it's likely to have an impact. The colleague you say no to may get angry; skipping dinner with a friend to work out may disappoint your friend; asking for help from your partner may feel uncomfortable to you. In most situations, we overestimate the risk, and gain far more than expected. However, the more aware you are of what you might risk, the easier it will be to measure it against the potential benefits.
What will I gain?
Clarity about what you will gain is the best motivation for incorporating successful new behaviors into your life. Take some time out of your busy schedule - 10 minutes is enough - to define what you will gain if your work-life balance situation becomes better, more manageable, more sane, more enjoyable...you decide what you want to be different and how you want to feel and what at least one benefit could be.
These questions are not tips and they're definitely not a magic wand. Making any type of change requires self-assessment, choice and then a commitment to actually make the change. Once you've done the above work, you really can make a work-life balance change and experience the benefit.
Philadelphia-based leadership/executive coach Julie Cohen, PCC, is the author of Your Work, Your Life...Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance. Cohen provides organizations with training programs and executive coaching to enhance work life balance satisfaction, professional effectiveness and leadership development. Learn more about Cohen at www.7KeysToWorkLifeBalance.com. Follow her at www.facebook.com/7Keys or @jccoach on Twitter.