We spend countless hours in our business world organizing and strategizing for the day-to-day business needs of the companies we work for.
However, I am often called upon to counsel employees because they complain of their work hours which are beyond the expectations of their roles—leaving little time for their family life and personal needs.
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The normal question I receive during that counsel is, “How do I achieve balance in my life?” My reply is always the same: What is your game plan? It usually is answered with a blank stare and hesitation because work-life balance is not often positioned as a game plan. It is normally assumed that people intuitively know how to do this.
(Does work-life balance really exist at all? Find out here.)
The game plan I refer to is a strategy that can get you from point A to Z. Again, we create strategies and plans for everyone else in business, but fail to realize the importance of taking charge in our own lives. “Balance” is a bust, because nothing is ever easily divided and situations come up whether personal, or professional that requires us to do gymnastics to achieve.
I have a new term, “Work-Life Purpose,” which is outlined in my book, "Professional Presence." If there is purpose in what you do and prioritizing those purposes, we will be able to navigate our week, month and even year with greater satisfaction and achievement. If it does not have a purpose, why are we doing it?
Here are some steps to take when mapping out your game plan.
1. Develop a Personal Strategy
Draw two circles on a piece of paper like a pie chart. On the first circle, dissect the many areas of your life. How many hours do you spend at work or participating in extracurricular activities, community responsibilities, professional organizations, etc? This can be quite revealing when you see from a helicopter view where you spend your time. It may be as simple as how much time it takes to do things around the house for your family to how much you work on weekends.
On the second circle, map out your aspirational chart, putting in your terms what you feel would satisfy you the most. Keep in mind that the reality is that you do spend “x” amount of time at work, but a normal work week should fill the circle.
2. Create a Gap Analysis
Where do you see gaps between where you are and where you wish to be? What are the obstacles that keep you from getting to the aspirational chart? Identify both personal and professional “drainers.”
3. Close the Gap
What are the three things that need to happen in each category of your life to achieve a better balance? For example, if you are exhausted after a day at work and need to cook every night, cook two meals on Sunday so you have a break during the week. Simple, yet time-saving.
Another example is an organization that you belong to that is zapping your time and energy. Assess and prioritize if you really need to be part of that organization at this time of your life. We overcommit and wonder why we feel stressed.
4. Set Boundaries
Work with your family to help you with the little things, like having your children lay out their clothes the night before school, so you can get out the door faster. For that matter, plan out your wardrobe for the week so you don’t have to think so hard every morning by staring at your closet, or standing each morning at the ironing board.
(Make the most of the wardrobe you have with these nine tips.)
An hour of planning on a Sunday night (wardrobe/grocery/kid’s activities) will save countless hours in the long run. Or, asking your boss the true deadline of a project, so you can plan ahead for delivery. Sometimes all it takes is knowing expectations and mapping out how to get there. Do you spend all day answering emails? Block a specific time out to answer emails, so you can do other areas of your work.
5. Manage Expectations
If your boss is bombarding you with unrealistic expectations on deliveries, sit down and have him/her help you prioritize what is needed to do and when. Managing your workload is a shared responsibility.
What do you continue to do that someone else can do for you? Who is on your team that can help you? Who in your circle of family and friends can you rely on for help? We just don’t ask for help sometimes when we need it the most. Building a strong network to support you is crucial; we are all in the same boat of trying to coordinate.
Once you manage your pie chart and begin building plans toward a work-life purpose, you can extend to longer planning needs for your home, college, finances, etc. It is truly in your court and we all need to be empowered to take charge and manage through the process of a better situation for ourselves.
Do not strive for perfection with your schedule--it will make you crazy when things fall apart. (That is the gymnastics piece). Stay flexible and keep your sense of humor … it is all part of your plan mentality!
Peggy Noe Stevens is an author, global speaker, media spokesperson and prominent brand strategist, who brings a gracious, relevant and fresh approach to the topic of image and development. She recently released her new book, "Professional Presence: A Four-Part Guide for Building Your Personal Brand.”