Are you tired of working too many long hours? Do you feel occasional pangs of guilt that you “should be” spending more time with your loved ones? Or working out and staying fit? Or engaging in your hobbies and passions? Or keeping up with the stacks of unread books and magazines? Or just going out and having more fun?
You’re not alone. For women with a successful career track record, a yearning for “work-life balance” is high on the list of desires. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself these 5 questions … and be completely honest with yourself as you answer them:
- How often is the “should” word coming up in your thoughts and feelings of guilt? The word “should” is a big clue that you’re feeling external pressures from family, friends, and society. It means you’re not feeling like you’re totally empowered to make your own choices. Assume you ARE empowered to make your own choices. Then ask yourself how would you spend your time, if you had it YOUR way?
- Do you worry that you would be perceived as not being committed enough to your job if you went home before 6pm? Many women over-work to over-compensate for lack of self-esteem/self-confidence. Sheryl Sandburg said in her best selling book “Lean In”: “ Slowly, it began to dawn on me that my job did not really require that I spend 12 full hours a day in the office. I had believed that others were demanding this of me … but in truth I was torturing myself.” Unfortunately, the traditional practice of judging employees and promotability by face time rather than results still persists in most companies. But ask yourself if the promotable men in your office are working as many hours as you are. If they’re not, then why are you?
- Are you spending all your time at work because your home life isn’t very satisfying? Or because you have no one to come home to? Or because you’re avoiding certain people in your life? Many of us, especially women who are going through a rocky transition in their personal life such as divorce, separation, or an unsatisfying marriage ALSO have a tendency to bury themselves in their work as an “escape”. Of course that’s a trap because if spend all our time working, how can we ever hope to “have a life” and develop new relationships? Could you be a more interesting, multi-dimensional person if you spend time on a variety of activities and passions, and not just work?
- Is it difficult to say “No” to people who request your help or your time? Many women have difficulty saying “No” because they need to be liked, and don’t want to turn people away. Take a close look at how you spend your time. Are you focusing most of your time on truly important activities? What activities can you let go of? Stop feeling guilty. Learn to say “No” very tactfully, and with a smile. It’s time to set clearer boundaries so that you don’t get drained of your precious energy. And once you set your boundaries and communicate them to the people in your life, then stick by them.
- Are you trying to do everything yourself? Have you tried delegating tasks to other people … and given up because they didn’t meet your expectations? Many of us are perfectionists. We have very high standards and we like to see things done our way. The problem is that if we insist on adhering to our standards, we end up doing everything ourselves. Effective delegation requires that the person to whom you are delegating have the right skills, experience, and motivation to succeed. This includes tasks at home as well as at your workplace. You may have to train them as well as communicate the expected outcomes and timeframes. But they need some freedom to do the task the best way THEY think it should be done, which might be different than how YOU would do it. Let them do it. Done is better than perfect, isn’t it?
The best way to achieve work/life balance and make room for both life and career is to make deliberate choices, set your limits and stick by them. Do the best with what you’ve got, make the best choices you can … and accept them. You’ll have peace of mind and a lot less stress.
Do you agree? I’d love to get your comments below.