Virtual News (En)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Loving Life in the Fast Lane – How to improve Work/Life Balance

By Heather-Jane Sears

Are there times when your ‘To Do’ list is just too long? When you feel unsatisfied at the end of the day? Overloaded with email & deadlines? As if you have been in overdrive all week and have run out of time? Don’t worry – there is a cure.

Welcome to the world of complex lives, unrealistic expectations & frenetic change. Even in the best work situation, the pace of change and exponential growth of information can lead to stress, whatever your place in the organisation.

There are some simple things that you can do to stop the feeling of being on a treadmill that is speeding up. The first trick is to break the pattern by reducing the complexity in your life.

Top Tips towards Balance:

  • The best way to get it all done is to do fewer things. So prioritise!
  • Understand who you are, what you really want… and what it will take!
  • Simplify your life and spend quality time with yourself and your family
  • Notice which areas are out of balance, and how that effects you and others
  • Be selective about your choices, establish realistic expectations of self and others
  • Identify what’s important to you. What does personal success mean to you?
  • Reacquaint yourself with your needs, do more of what you want
  • Discuss what you would like, then ASK FOR HELP!

Like many of us, you may find asking for help quite difficult – either because you are embarrassed in some way, or you feel some unwritten rule that you should do it yourself (in my case fitness, ironing & international tax returns spring to mind!). If you had to delegate who would you ask? What time could be released? What would you choose to do with it?

As evenings tend to be less rushed than most mornings, try to plan ahead. Even deciding what you are going to wear the next day, straightening the house, checking the calendar and papers… all help you to become more organised. Make sure that you have clocks visible in most rooms – especially the bathroom! You may consider getting up or leaving home earlier, to give yourself a few calm minutes before meetings begin – this also helps with unexpected delays such as traffic or the fact that your child may have ‘lost’ something again!

As an Effectiveness Consultant & Executive Coach I feel that I should practice what I preach & try to role model best practice whenever I can… but I’m only human! My biggest weakness is my own finances – I just hate the detail, so save time by paying as many bills as possible automatically. I travel a lot, so also try to keep track of my expenses as they accrue so that tax time is not so onerous…I simply sort them by month & category… my bookkeeper does the rest. Are there tasks in your life which you just hate doing? Try to get rid of them if you can…

Many high achievers - from executives of large companies to owners of small enterprises - often feel they must be all things to all people all the time and tend to expect too much of themselves & others. This can set them up for failure and creates feelings of unworthiness.

One symptom of an overloaded life is a schedule jammed with commitments. Ask yourself whether something is urgent or important (it’s not always both!). Can you do it more flexibly? Or change how it’s done to a better way next time? Use checklists to do routine things quickly.
Another tip that I use is to ask for appointments early in the day, reducing my waiting time.
The way we manage ourselves & our precious time is based on habit. We do what we do because we have always done it that way. Habits are unconscious behaviours that are automatic. Various tools such as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) help people change old behaviour patterns, thus manage themselves & their time more effectively.
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Learning to handle stress keeps us mentally & emotionally fit. Remember that you can’t change the way that other people react or behave – work on changing your own responses & recognise when you need to relax. Loosen up. Be more playful. Take yourself less seriously. I always remember my mentor telling me that “everything is not a pivotal moment in time” … friends tell me I’ve improved with age!

Habits can usually be broken in 21 days. Try these simple tips for success:

  • Identify the new behaviour (& consider NLP as a reliable quick fix)
  • Then think about ways to practice the new behaviour with passion!
  • How you will feel, what you will see & hear when you are doing the new behaviour?
  • Publicly announce new behaviour for a strong beginning eg. Sponsored run/slim etc.
  • Do the behaviour for at least 21 days consecutively…it does get easier!
  • Post motivational pictures & notes to remind you of the new behaviour
  • Be willing to feel uncomfortable until the new behaviour takes hold
  • Change the environment to reinforce the new behaviour
  • Focus on the positive – and particularly on praise when you get it. Celebrate success!

About the author:
Heather-Jane Sears is the Chief Executive of Synergy Global, an international consultancy specialising in Change Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness.


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