Life/Work Balance…..Are you managing this?

September 26, 2017 by  

I am sure that no one will disagree that today you are living in very hectic times. Everywhere there seems to be a sense of urgency that things must get done NOW! Between technology and a shrinking, competitive world, you are constantly pressed to do more, work faster, and speed up our bodies and lives. As a result, most of you have very full plates and are experiencing “time poverty” because there is simply too much to do but too little time to do it all.
This current culture, as exciting as it may be, doesn’t always feel very good. As a matter of fact, most of you, if you are truly honest with yourselves, would agree that this fast-paced tempo of life is far from satisfying and comfortable. Yet you often feel unproductive if you are not working at full speed. You may even admit that you aren’t living the life that you truly desire because you lack a quality balance in work/life.

“Juggling” suggests that you must keep “all the balls in the air,” or if you don’t, you feel inadequate. “Balance” means that your work and personal life must be equal. As you know, sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. That is okay, as long as the periods of when it is not well balanced are short so that you do not miss out on spending sufficient time with your loved ones and friends, or even with yourself.
On the other hand, the term “balancing” connotes the ongoing process you all go through as you attempt to make a living and make a life. Each person’s process is as unique as their fingerprint. The journey to understand what will work involves a commitment for reflection and experimentation. In addition, you need to be flexible as you adjust to the flow of external responsibilities and internal choices.

Knowing how to effectively manage tasks and activities becomes even more challenging as people find themselves on overload. It’s hard to decide where your time and energy should be spent in order to advance in your career and still remain a caring, loving parent, and family member. When you don’t pay attention to the pressures in life and don’t make adjustments, you often experience stress-related symptoms. Typically when your well-being is challenged, life becomes less satisfying and more difficult to manage.

The following reasons contribute to people feeling so frazzled:
 – Working long hours.
 – Developing a mentality that emphasizes “work hard or lose out.”
 – Two out of three couples with children under 18 years old have both parents working for pay.
 – Not all workplaces have adopted flexible work arrangements.
 – There is greater competition in the global marketplace.
 – With shifts in the economy, your jobs are less predictable and/or more demanding (some employees due to downsizing have the work of more than one person)
 – Life can be very unpredictable and challenging.
 – There can be a conflict between society’s expectations about work and personal life and an individual’s beliefs about what success means.

Your life is a work in progress, that means that you are continually balancing your needs and demands in three spheres: your work, your family, and your personal life. It is important to create a full, rich life rather than to try to “balance” or even out what already is your life. What constitutes this view of life is different for each person. Nevertheless, for all of you, it is really about reducing the clutter in your mind and the stuff in your home and workplace. It is about making tough choices to satisfy your needs and wants.

Creating a rich, full life means honouring three spheres or areas of your life. Sigmund Freud, the great psychoanalyst, once said that there are two components of a person:

Work: which gives a sense of mastery. It offers focus and a place to contribute. This is the “workplace sphere.”
Love: which is about relationships with your family and friends. It offers a sense of belonging and support. This is the “social sphere.”

I am going to add another important sphere: your “unique self.” This sphere is the one that reflects your interests, talents, self-care, and ongoing education.

You need all three spheres to feel fulfilled and whole. These three create the person you are. So when you speak about balance, you are talking about honouring these three roles and paying attention to them.

These spheres are not always equal. Sometimes the “work sphere” is larger, especially when you need to spend extra time on important projects, have business travel, or take on more responsibility. Sometimes the “social sphere” is larger if you have added family responsibilities, such as a new baby, an ill older relative, a child who is having a problem, etc. The sphere that often gets short-shifted is the “self.” It’s important to make sure that that doesn’t happen. If you aren’t vigilant about that sphere, you may not be strong enough to manage the other two. In addition, the “self-sphere” is critical for professional and personal development.

People who are successful at navigating the pitfalls of their lives likely demonstrate the following skills and traits:
 – Espouse a positive attitude
 – Make sure you have time for yourself
 – Delegate what you can and set limits for yourself
 – Be well organized
 – Plan well, and prioritize tasks so that you achieve the most for their efforts and are moving toward achieving your goals
 – Set specific goals
 – Communicate effectively in all spheres of your life

In order to manage that balance well it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about the following:
- Your values and principles and how you will live by them
 -Creating and sustaining those important relationships in your life
 -Your organization’s and team’s mission and strategic plans
 –How to create and sustain important relationships (co-workers, customers, family members, friends, community people, etc.)
 -Goals for your job, family, and personal development
 -Strategic plans and actions steps to achieve those goals
 -Ways to restore yourself
Goals are important because they give you purpose, direction, and focus. They help channel your energy into meaningful action and allow you to take charge of your life. If you don’t have goals, you will most likely be in conflict, feel uncertain about what you want out of life, and find that you are just going through the motions of life without having an objective in mind.

Simplifying your life is a process that requires slow changes so here is how you can get started:
1. Adopt a “less-is-more” mindset. When you de-clutter your environment, activities, and thoughts, you free up your mind and life, and you experience considerably less pressure. Think about the activities and tasks that you could eliminate so that you can have time and energy for those that truly matter to you.

2. Buy less. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself, “Do I want or need this item?” Ask yourself if you already own something that does what that item does. Think carefully before you buy more stuff.
When you make choices, you have control. Every day you have the opportunity to make choices about how you spend your time, about the people you want to be with, about the tasks you want or need to accomplish, things to buy, and so forth. Even your work offers an opportunity of choice. Even your attitude is a choice, make it positive!

3. Create boundaries, and say “no.”
A TIME/CNN poll indicated that almost 65 percent of Americans spend our leisure time doing things we’d rather not do. Some people have difficulty making choices, especially when it comes to setting limits and saying “no” to activities or tasks they prefer not to do. There are, of course, tasks that we must do because they are part of our job. People who commit to balancing work and family life realize that they need to say “no” in order to say “yes” to themselves and the priorities in their lives.
When it comes to requests outside of the work arena, it is helpful to ask yourself some key questions that clarify your investment of energy and time:
 Which of the options that I face will help me go from urgency to ease and become the best person I can be?
 Is the activity one that will enhance my life – is it something that I really want to get involved with?
 Will the relationship help me become more of the person I want to be?

4. Enlist the help of family members, colleagues, and friends.
Because it is impossible for you to do everything on your endless to-do list, it is important to use the fine art of delegation. Like others, you may have trouble delegating as it can be difficult to ask for help. In addition, it can be hard to give up control, especially if you like to do things your way. However, when there is a lot on your plate, it is important to figure out how to get some items off it. Once you learn an effective method for delegating and practice it, you will get better at it.

5. Be grateful.
There certainly is a lot that you can complain about! However, the more you complain, the more dissatisfied and agitated you can become. Also, it can mean that we will alienate others more. Research has demonstrated that an Attitude of Gratitude can increase your personal happiness by 25%!

6. Be positive.
Try not taking yourself so seriously. As many wise people have said, “Life is too important to take too seriously.” Make sure that laughter and fun are part of your daily life. When feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that you have a rich, full life. You are managing a job in which you are fully committed to doing your best. You are being a loving, caring parent, partner, family member, and friend. When situations become especially trying, remind yourself that this, too, will pass.

7. Set reasonable expectations.
When you have high expectations for achievement that are unreasonable, you often experience conflict, overload, and exhaustion. When you place unreasonable demands on yourself, you become like a sponge that cannot absorb any more water. Then your effectiveness is compromised and so is your satisfaction.

So, if you want to enjoy a great life/work balance try to employ some of the strategies offered here and I think you find that you will have a fuller, richer experience in all three spheres of your life.

Being Assertive in the Workplace

September 15, 2017 by  

  • How often have you heard the phrase, “It is a jungle out there!” These days, lifestyle coaches and corporate trainers are training professionals to become more assertive. “Stop being a pushover,” they say. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
    So how important is it to learn to be assertive at work?
  • Is this any different from being assertive outside of work, in your personal life, when for example you have trouble saying “no” to family or friends, partners, or salesmen?
  • What exactly does it mean to be assertive anyway? And does it mean the same irrespective of gender?
  • And, do class or culture count?
    These are important questions to consider for anyone who feels somewhat shy or intimidated, and feels that they are being held back by their inability to speak up.

To start with, what exactly does it mean to be assertive?
Assertiveness means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner. It is being able to stand up for yourself and your ideas, for what you believe to be right and for what you know to be fair. It is not about simply getting your own way. It does not mean disrespecting others but rather respecting yourself. It means having the self-confidence to speak up when you have a point to make. It also means the ability to say “no” or “I don’t think so” when the situation demands it.
Assertiveness is not simply a behavioral change, something outward and superficial. It has to start from your inner conviction, from having good self-esteem. People who lack confidence or who let others walk all over them worry about the effect of their own words and actions on others. They feel a lack in themselves, be it confidence or self-worth. But as Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly put it, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Assertiveness should not be confused with aggression, as it is a positive trait. It comes with the right tone of voice, the right body language, and the right attitude.

Contextual Considerations
However, there are some important considerations, like gender and cultural context for anyone looking to make these changes in their personality and behavior. Cultural differences, in particular, should not be overlooked in our diverse and very global society. For instance, there is a much more vertical hierarchy in Asian business environments than in the western world. What may seem friendly and personal may come across as aggressive and “in your face.” The “cards on the table” attitude of one culture can puzzle or even offend another. Suit your tone of voice and non-verbal communication so you do not alienate others when you are meaning to connect. There is a fine line dividing assertive and aggressive behavior. It is easier to get your voice heard if you can build better professional and personal relationships based on trust, respect, and rapport rather than domination.

Ultimately, assertiveness is more about you as a person, whether in a personal or a professional capacity. If you can develop self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem, and self-worth, you will find it easier to look someone in the eye and calmly but firmly get your point across. The good news is, these personality traits can be learned, as long as you commit to changing how you deal with others and practice those strategies when the opportunity arises, you will get better at being assertive.