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The Truth About Work-Life Balance

In recent weeks, many of my conversations have raised the subjects of self-care, work-life balance and setting boundaries. Specifically, what they are driving at is: How can I create time and space for myself AND still be successful? Is it possible to have balance AND to be promoted?

The truth is, I can’t answer that question for you or give you a formula to achieve balance or success. What balance looks like for you might be different from someone else. What I can tell you is that how much you work is determined by three, well, four things: your manager’s expectations, the organization’s culture, your role/industry, AND your own beliefs about work.

We don't have control over your organization, your manager or how your industry operates. We do have control over our beliefs, and by examining them, my clients been able to significantly reduce the amount of time and energy they spend on work without sacrificing job performance. In many cases, by examining their beliefs, they elevate their job performance.

How? 1) By helping people identify the assumptions and unnecessary expectations they place on themselves; and

2) By helping people stop stewing in self-criticism, self-doubt and judgment toward others. 

What drains our time and energy is how we interpret requests from others, especially from people above us. We may assume we must respond right away to a request, but that is not always true. Many of my clients have discovered that what they believed was an urgent request could wait. On other occasions, people have assumed that a task must be 100% effort. But sometimes 80% is what is actually needed, and recognizing that can help us prioritize and save our energy for when 100% is needed. 

I know, I know, I can hear some people probably saying, “I always over-deliver. That’s who I am and how I do things.” My questions for you: How do you know you are over-delivering on the highest priority items? By over-delivering on one item, what are you missing out on? When you over-deliver on "everything," how do you show up with your colleagues? IDK about you but I would be pretty cranky and annoyed that I'm working so hard when perhaps others aren't. Cranky interactions can make it much more difficult to get the real work done.

Sometimes people work a lot because it’s what they were taught will help them get ahead or they believe it’s their insurance policy against something going wrong or against getting laid off. Except it’s not. Working a lot of hours isn’t the same as being effective. (And, btw, working a lot of hours can actually make us less effective and create way more stress and work for ourselves.) 

In other cases, people get bogged down in emotions. Wading through the swirl of emotions is taxing, not the actual work. Once I help people discern between the facts, thoughts and their emotions, it’s easier for them to make decisions, delegate and to prioritize. 

So, these are just a couple of the ways I’ve been able to help people reduce the time they spend on or at work. They aren't strategies that will change your manager’s expectations or the culture of the organization, but they might give you some relief so that YOU feel more balanced and can be more present for all the things that matter to you. And that IS a reward. But you won't get a medal for it.

P. S.

On a side note, for those of you who are still reading, I’ve been thinking about creating an online course about how to save time and energy at work without sacrificing performance. What do you think of this idea? If the idea resonates with you, let me know. I’ll be looking for beta testers in the future who do the online course for free. :) 


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