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How To Make Work Life Balance a Reality


Recently I was speaking with a colleague who was venting the challenges of balancing her work schedule saying she regularly has calls at 6am to accommodate professionals on the east coast and in the same day will also have calls scheduled at 11pm with professionals in another part of the world. She said it felt like she could work around the clock and still not be able to meet the demands of her work life.

Technology, the World Wide Web, and many other challenges have contributed to a world where we could literally work around the clock 24/7 if we let others' demands and requests rule our day. With schedules filled with endless calls, meetings, networking events, action items and urgent deadlines our careers can feel like we are chasing, but never quite catching, that dangling carrot called Work Life Balance or the new and improved Work Life Fit.

It is time to take back your life by utilizing some handy calendaring tools (using Microsoft Outlook email service as an example) and following a few time management tips. You will have more personal time to spend with family, friends and/or in peace-filled solitude re-fueling your energy reserves, so you can be your best self and produce your highest quality work product on a regular basis.

Tips for Making Work Life Balance a Reality:

1) Boundaries: We each personally know, better than anyone else, the workload we are carrying on our plates and when those plates are filled to overflowing. It is not uncommon to feel resentful when we are overwhelmed and overloaded with continuous requests and commands from our clients and/or work colleagues. What is important to remember, is that the people sending those requests rarely know the workload we are carrying. This is why creating, broadcasting and protecting boundaries is critical in the prevention of burnout which can lead to requests falling through the cracks, poor quality workmanship and even health issues.

2) Get clear on the hours you are willing to work. Common sense is necessary here; if you work in a field which requires 40 to 50 hour work weeks attempting to work 30 hours a week may not go well for you. However, on the flip side, working 80 to 100 hour work weeks is unreasonable and long-term could be a danger to your health and well-being. Use your calendar to map out your work hours. Block off recurring time-frames in advance to: catch-up on emails (mark as busy), take calls & meet with your team (mark block of time as available until these time-frames fill in), etc. Be careful with being too flexible with your time, it could easily lead to an overflowing work plate.

3) Manage your time. If you have deliverables, presentations, etc., block off time in your calendar to diligently work on those projects and then be loyal to those time frames. Don't cheat yourself (and your team) by accepting additional work unless you realistically know you have the bandwidth/means to complete everything with quality and pride. This free guide will take you through the Apps that will help you manage your time efficiently. 
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4) Manage expectations. If you have projects you anticipate will require calls at 6am and 11pm; build your schedule around those calls. Pick the days of the week you are willing to be available during each time frame, create blocks in your calendar (showing available) for those time frames and then communicate that availability when necessary. Also, create compensatory blocks of time (mark as busy) before or after the fact to ensure you still have time to catch-up on email, complete assignments, get sufficient sleep, etc.

5) Protect your personal time. Responding to emails, accepting meetings, projects and calls during the time frame you have dedicated as your personal time communicates that your personal time is less valuable than another's. Block off your personal time in your calendar, including family/me-time (busy), time at the gym (busy) and when you plan to sleep (recurring out of office) and protect that time as if it were a doctor's appointment for a loved one. Your health and well-being could depend upon it.

6) A No and a Yes. "I'm unable to do ABC, but what I can do is XYZ" This technique is very powerful. It conveys that you are a team player, have a genuine desire to help and puts the control of your workload in your hands. You know what your availability is and what it isn't. Here is an example of a No and a Yes "I'm working to meet a tight deadline, but if this (request) can wait until Wednesday (offer genuine availability), I would be happy to take a look at it then."

7) Add Reminders: Not all email requests are urgent (despite the all caps and exclamation points). Many emails can often be assigned a future date and time to revisit. This is especially handy if you have a number of urgent matters you are working on, but want to make sure the lower priority items don't fall through the cracks. If you use Outlook as your email service, there is a follow-up feature (icon shows as a red flag). Right-clicking on the flag and then selecting Add Reminder will open a box with an option to add a reminder. Assign the specific date and time you plan to address the request, click OK, save and then close the email. You will receive a pop-up reminder on the date and time you selected with the email attached to the reminder.

8) Create and practice verbal responses. One of the most difficult parts of broadcasting boundaries is knowing what to say. Draft a few phrases that fit your work-life scenarios, practice saying them out load (in the car when you're alone works' great!) and then use those phrases to protect the time-frames you have blocked off. Here are a few examples: "I have another call at that time that I am unable to reschedule, but let's schedule a follow-up call to go over any action items I can help with"; "I would like to help, but I have several urgent deadlines I am working to meet. If this can wait until [offer time frame] I should have some time and would be happy to help"; "I will be on vacation, but can check in with you when I return to see if you still need assistance."

Creating healthy boundaries can help to prevent you from feeling like a hamster forever running on that workplace hamster wheel. What happens to that hamster when it can no longer run on the wheel? What is it costing you long-term to work unreasonable hours with an overloaded work plate?

Ultimately, it is beneficial for you, your colleagues, your clients and even your place of employment when you are healthy, rested and experiencing a sense of work life balance. It boosts your energy, improves your ability to focus and makes growing your career a much more enjoyable process with a greater likelihood of long-term success.

Also the following tools and Apps will help you manage your time properly, have a good balance between your and your life and yet, observe greater productivity levels.

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