Balancing Work and Personal Needs
While it’s a well-known fact that a happy employee is a more productive employee, many companies in the U.S. have been slow to address the demographic, economic, and lifestyle realities confronting today’s workers. The traditional family, in which only the husband works, has long since been replaced by the dual-income family, where both partners or spouses hold down jobs. And those jobs can often be very stressful, particularly in times of high unemployment.
Then there are the demands of family: dinners to prepare, rain gutters that need repair, carpooling a daughter’s weekly dance class, a parent who needs care. There are so many competing claims on our time these days, it can be helpful to take a look at how you’re spending time and set, or reset, priorities.
What Matters Most. Personal coach Laura Berman Fortgang, author of NOW WHAT? 90 Days to a New Life Direction, suggests taking some time to answer these questions: If my life could focus on one thing and one thing only, what would that be? If I could add a second thing, what would that be? A third? A fourth? A fifth? And so on. Your list can include top tier priorities like spouse and children to less important activities such as walking the dog or knitting. Then build another list next to this record of things that presently occupy your time, with a percentage value, and try to align the two lists. For example, if your partner is at the top of your priority list, but you only spend a few hours a week with him/her, drop or reduce the time you spend on a low priority activity to make more time.
Protect Private Time. This can be difficult in practice because work and/or family often interfere. But it is essential, according to Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, a distinguished professor of psychology at Kent State University and co-author of Work Won't Love You Back: The Dual Career Couple's Survival Guide. He says it’s a myth in the workplace that “more hours mean more.” On the contrary, recent research confirms that people who have healthy personal lives are generally more productive and creative at work. And don’t always be the first to volunteer at work. Learning to say ‘no’ can open up more time for activities you really enjoy.
Ask for Help. While the extended family may be as outdated as the traditional male head-of-household model, friends and cohorts are filling the vacuum. Social networking sites, such as HSF’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages, can connect you to other HSF alumni in your area who you can tap for help. Ask a co-worker to cover for you when you need to run to the drugstore, or another dad might share car-pooling to that dance class.
On the home front, ask your partner/spouse and family members for times they might assist. And don’t forget to take care of yourself; ask a friend to switch off watching the kids, so you can work out at the gym, take a museum trip, or spend an afternoon with friends, free of interruptions.
Be Efficient. Group your errands to save time and gas. Plan weekly menus so you only have to shop once a week, and try to shop when stores aren’t busy. If you’re the cook, prepare meals so you have leftovers to freeze. Pack lunches and get school books, backpacks, etc. ready the night before.
Remember, too, that creating a healthy work-life balance is a continuous process. So try to schedule a regular time each month to reassess and realign your list of priorities.