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Whatever you’re doing, working for a corporation or running a small business, finding a way to balance the personal and professional parts of your life can be daunting. Living in a world where we’re able, and expected, to be connected 24/7 makes it even more difficult. Add in the stress that comes from trying to do it all can put you over the top.
So what are we to do?
Looking for a little perspective and guidance on how to balance work, family, and friends, I contacted several work/life balance professionals. What I got back were thoughtful comments and some concrete advice. Here are their responses to my first two of four questions.
CI: Trying to juggle work, family and friends generates a lot of stress. Is it important to have a balance between our personal and professional lives? Why?
Wendy Kaufman, CEO, Balancing Life’s Issues
Quite simply, balance is important to our health. An unbalanced life prevents us from being our best at home and at work. If you write your obituary or eulogy routinely you will understand why work/life balance is important. That one exercise gives me the confidence to make decisions, hard decisions, on what I should do and what I should stop doing or postpone on a given day. Consider balance the airplane oxygen mask for life. You have to put it on yourself first before you help others around you.
Julie Cohen, Author, 7 Keys to Work Life Balance
Balance between our personal and professional lives is constantly changing based on our professional responsibilities and our personal priorities. It’s important to make choices that reflect what we want for ourselves, our family and our community. Sometimes this may look and feel like “balance” and sometimes it may not. The more important measure is satisfaction, as opposed to “balance.”
Kathi Elster, Business Strategist, K Squared Enterprises
It is important to have a balance between our personal and professional lives for two reasons. First, too many people wake up at age 45 and say “Oh I forgot to have a life or a family”, Or they suddenly realize at age 45 that they have spent too much time enjoying themselves and say “Oh no I haven’t developed my career.” The second reason is, when you have a fully integrated life, you will notice that when you are not working you have something to enjoy, and when you are relaxing you know that you have a carrier to get back to.
Elene Cafasso, Executive Coach, Enerpace, Inc.
Stress happens when there’s a gap between how our lives are and how we want them to be. Yet many times we create a vision for our personal life that could only exist if we didn’t have a professional life, and vice versa. It’s important to get our visions aligned!
Kristin Andree, Author, Don’t Make Me Pull This Car Over: A Roadmap for the Working Mom
It is critical that we are living our personal and professional lives to the fullest and that we are enjoying the journey. Only when we are happy & fulfilled in BOTH can we lead our best life – and reduce our stress level in the process. However, I am a firm believer that it isn’t about “balance” at all, but rather about creating a life that lets you perform at high levels, both personally and professionally – in whatever ratio works best for that particular point in your life!
Cathy Alessandra, Founder & President, National Association of Entrepreneur Moms
It is essential that we have balance between our personal and professional lives! And we must make the commitment to ourselves to do that. While it can be a struggle to juggle it all, we will suffer greatly if we try to do it all. Depression is on the rise which directly correlates to our stressed out, unfulfilled lives.
By not having the support and nurturing environment of friends and family, our happiness suffers. However the feeling of success for a job well done can provide a great sense of pride as well. Making the conscious decision to map out time for work, play and our own personal space is critical to achieving balance and thriving.
CI: Between email and smart phones, we’re able, and expected, to be connected 24/7 which can be quite stressful. What are three ways we can set boundaries between our professional and personal lives?
Once again, this is about choices. Surround yourself with people you trust to handle “problems” to give yourself room to be unavailable. The reality is that we go through workdays and home life unavailable when we are in meetings or the shower or the swimming pool exercising. We need to be intentional in claiming space and time to communicate with those who matter most.
Consider the consequences of connecting or not connecting. Will you miss the one goal, solo or award your child will ever get when your head is bent down over a 4G phone? Is that worth it? Will you really lose a client if you don’t respond in a nanosecond? Are you discouraging personal and professional development of staff and family by hovering?
Invest in relationships with work groups, clients and, of course, your family. Deliver your attention when it counts and then count on their understanding when you need it.
My three suggestions for setting boundaries are:
Three ways to set boundaries in our 24/7 world are:
When you need to set boundaries:
First, turn off your cell phone and refuse to check your email from the time you sit down to dinner until after the kids are in bed (there is plenty of time to catch up on anything you may have missed between your little ones “lights out” and the time you hit the sack yourself.
Second, if you have to catch up on work over the weekend, set scheduled time to do so and stick to the schedule.
Finally, keep your vacations sacred. In other words, delegate anything that could possibly need covering during your time off to someone else on your team. If you have the right players in place, empower them to take charge & trust that they will be able to handle whatever may come their way. Remember this quote: “If they need you while you’re gone … you don’t need them when you return!”
Being connected, 24/7 is a blessing and a curse. I call it dis-connecta-phobia – the fear of not having that smart phone and laptop accessible at all time. However, we must take our life back.
First, set boundaries with your clients. We have allowed them to think we are available 24/7, and for our own personal sanity, we can’t. Let them know when they can expect a return phone call or email, but put the boundary in place and honor it.
Second, check and respond to your email only a few times a day: for instance at 9 am, noon and before you are done for the day. The distraction of having your email popping up on your computer screen all day can be stressful. Checking your email only a few times will give you more time to really focus on the task at hand.
Finally, have someone who can intercept calls or emails and solve problems without you having to get involved. If you want friends and family to have access to you 24/7 set up a separate email account and have only have those emails forwarded during “off” hours. The idea of turning off your email may make your heart skip a beat. But there is no reason you need to respond to a client at midnight!
(Stay tuned for Part 2 which focuses on what stops us from finding a balance and provides suggestions on things to change).