CA­REERS AND JOB OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES Back-to-work BLUES

Make a plan to bal­ance work, home life

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

SUM­MER is quickly wind­ing down. The smell of fall is in the air. Ev­ery day there are more and more geese fly­ing over­head anx­ious to get on their jour­ney. Leaves are be­gin­ning to turn and crops have been har­vested. Chil­dren and fam­i­lies are once again busy with the an­nual back to school ac­tiv­i­ties. Yet, while sum­mer va­ca­tion was en­joy­able and gave you peace of mind, you seem to be wak­ing up with a gnaw­ing sen­sa­tion in the pit of your stom­ach. What is it? What’s both­er­ing you?

Let me sug­gest that the trep­i­da­tion you’re feel­ing might stem from fear. Specif­i­cally, fear of once again be­ing over­whelmed with a mul­ti­tude of tasks at work. Be­ing over­whelmed in turn leads to a sense of be­ing out of bal­ance and ex­hausted. In fact, you prob­a­bly didn’t re­al­ize how ex­hausted you were un­til a few days into your va­ca­tion when you sud­denly ex­pe­ri­enced a new sense of re­vi­tal­iza­tion.

Now, upon re­turn­ing from va­ca­tion, you vow not to let work be­come your life. You vow to fo­cus on fam­ily, per­sonal bal­ance, per­sonal ef­fec­tive­ness. At the same time, you know the pres­sures are strong. There is no way to avoid it, there’s work to be done, there are bosses to please and goals to achieve. So, that’s the chal­lenge: how does one achieve suc­cess at work while stay­ing fo­cused on the goal to re­tain work/life bal­ance?

Work/life bal­ance is some­thing I know is hard to achieve and so I of­fer the fol­low­ing tips that might help in your strug­gle.

Reaf­firm your con­cept of suc­cess. Ev­ery­one lives by their own def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess; what’s yours? How has this im­pacted your work life? What goals are you seek­ing: power, pres­tige, po­si­tion, plea­sure or pros­per­ity? Are you truly fo­cused on the right things? Where does work/life bal­ance fit in?

Main­tain your self-es­teem. Feel­ing over­whelmed saps your en­ergy and drags you down. De­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing a con­tin­u­ous pos­i­tive at­ti­tude ev­ery sin­gle day is im­por­tant to avoid­ing the anx­i­ety trap. Stamp out those neg­a­tive thoughts and re­place them with pos­i­tive think­ing.

Take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. Your ca­reer suc­cess is your re­spon­si­bil­ity and yours alone. If you are strug­gling and not feel­ing a sense of suc­cess, it is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­fine your chal­lenges and put steps in place to over­come them. Be proac­tive and dis­ci­plined.

Ex­am­ine per­sonal habits. Suc­cess is the re­sult of spe­cific be­hav­iour that in turn be­comes a habit. What habits or be­hav­iours do you need to change and/or de­velop in or­der to be suc­cess­ful and avoid be­ing over­whelmed at work? Habits are hard to change. De­velop a plan and mon­i­tor your growth and progress.

Pay your­self first. Fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers tell peo­ple to “pay your­self first.” In other words, de­posit money into a sav­ings ac­count be­fore pay­ing any­one else. The same can ap­ply to you per­son­ally. Pay your­self first in terms of time. Make pri­vate time for your­self at the be­gin­ning and/ or end of each day. Read, write, ex­er­cise or sim­ply take a nap.

Do the hard tasks first. I sug­gest tack­ling the hard tasks first. These are the ones you typ­i­cally leave to the last and/or they sim­ply don’t get done. Do the hard tasks first and imag­ine the sense of ac­com­plish­ment. Not only that, you’ll prob­a­bly find the tasks weren’t so hard af­ter all.

Pri­or­i­tize on a daily ba­sis. Pri­or­i­tiz­ing lets you fo­cus your at­ten­tion and en­ergy on those items that are more im­por­tant in the large scheme of things. Pri­or­i­tiz­ing cre­ates a sched­ule and a time frame that helps to re­duce the ten­dency to worry. When given new as­sign­ments, be sure to ask your boss how he or she wishes to repri­or­i­tize your work. Fo­cus on pri­or­i­tiz­ing for length of time re­quired, for value, for im­por­tance and/or for level of dif­fi­culty.

Take a break. Many peo­ple work fever­ishly all day and don’t take any time for breaks. How many times have you had lunch at your work sta­tion this week? Call time out and take at least a pe­ri­odic five-minute break dur­ing the day. Close your eyes, re­flect a bit, get up and walk around and/or sketch and doo­dle — do some­thing dif­fer­ent. You’ll be sur­prised to see how re­lax­ing this can be.

Leave work at work. How many of you are car­ry­ing work home night af­ter night but leav­ing it un­touched? Is this the only way you get some ex­er­cise? Pay at­ten­tion to how many times you do this. Stop and eval­u­ate. If you aren’t work­ing at the tasks in the evening, then don’t take the work home. Set clear work/home bound­aries, then leave work at work and take time for your fam­ily.

Con­firm your area of con­trol. Many times when peo­ple feel over­whelmed they not only fo­cus too much on the prob­lem ver­sus the so­lu­tion, of­ten times they are wor­ry­ing about things be­yond their con­trol. Fo­cus on your own work not the work of your boss or any­one else. Fo­cus on your own work, not the state of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Fo­cus on you and your fam­ily rather than that of your neigh­bour. Keep a proper per­spec­tive.

Know your lim­its. Some peo­ple don’t have the word no in their vo­cab­u­lary and so they get over­whelmed be­cause they take on too much. They sim­ply have too much to do. In spite of the fact they have a heavy work­load, they sign for a study class and a sports ac­tiv­ity, they put their chil­dren in two ac­tiv­i­ties each and prom­ise their mother a twice weekly visit. Who are they kid­ding? You don’t have the time. Know your lim­its!

Re­ward your­self. You can’t ex­pect a re­ward from your man­ager for ev­ery task you com­plete. But you can re­ward your­self. Re­view each project and/or work prod­uct. Hold it up to the light. Look at what you’ve learned and how you’ve con­trib­uted to your or­ga­ni­za­tion. Pat your­self on the back. Smile!

Feel­ing over­whelmed is a com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence es­pe­cially when you’ve been away from work and are pre­par­ing for those first few days back. How­ever, don’t let this aw­ful feel­ing get the best of you. The strate­gies I’ve listed can help to turn things around and bring you back into con­trol. Keep fo­cus on the goal of work/life bal­ance.

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