Your work/life balance is in your hands and how much time you spend on each side is your choice.
The choice is whether you make ‘your life’ a priority or not. Emergencies do require exceptional hours and for specific periods demands of your professional life may well creep into your personal life but, not as a given.
Work/life balance is a catchy phrase. It is a concept that many aspire to, rather than live. Leaders become used to taking work home, working on weekends, and long hours at the office. Staff expect, yet dread, after hours ‘urgent’ calls from their manager with business as usual. We stop thinking an eight-hour day is ‘enough’ and allow work to carve into our own time. If you recognise yourself here, ask yourself ‘Why would I do this?’ And ‘Who’ am I putting in front of my family and personal life?
What is normal, and what is not?
In the past, a client let me know that when she is under pressure she is at work from 4am. A manager calls one of her team on her personal phone at 9pm at night. Yet another accepts his manager’s calls when he is on leave. He finds it impossible to respond to his manager’s plea, ‘it will only take you 5 minutes’. Another stays at work until 10pm on a regular basis to make sure everything is completed before she goes home each night. I am shocked. Why is this perceived as normal? Each of these after-hours requests and expectations were made for everyday actions, yet the timing is as if a state of emergency existed.
Each of these leaders working impossible hours is highly talented but is unable to say no to their boss or the compulsion they feel from their own standards. Each accepts this invasion into their personal life as if it is ‘normal’.
- Why would they put their work in front of their family and friends?
- Why do leaders sacrifice their own life and development, for their career?
- What impact does building resentment have on work relationships and bottom line results?
- What form does the resulting sense of entitlement take?
What does it take to change?
A dad with young children, Pete, was writing for several hours most nights or on the phone. Pete and I were working on what was ‘good enough’ and what aspects of his work had to be exceptional. He decided to make family a priority after 6pm each night. A month later I asked what the response to this change had been. He said, ‘I don’t think anyone at work has noticed!’ He even noted that one of his sons had begun laughing more.
You do have a choice
Maintaining friendships and personal interests is paramount to developing your identity, your personal well-being, and avoiding burnout. It is easy to think we don’t have a choice. We can’t say ‘no, that’s not possible’ to the boss, but really? Here are some options: ‘I’ll be in at 8am, let’s discuss this then.’ Or ‘That’s not possible’.
Yes, your boss could make your life unpleasant, but it already IS unpleasant with what is going on. It is unpleasant knowing that at any time, your boss will call with an unreasonable request. What might you do to you tackle this systemically and reset your own, or your boss’s expectations?
Are you cheating yourself?
Reducing your personal life to spend time on business matters is generally cheating yourself. And practically, who will be there for you when you really need someone? If you don’t invest in your family and friendships, why would anyone be there for you?
Make your time your priority
Knowing your priorities within your work-life, and within your personal life, enables you to see time itself as a priority rather than something to ‘allocate’.
Decide on the priorities for your non-work life. Who is important to you? Who would drop everything for you if you asked? Who would you drop everything for? Is your boss one of these people? Why would that be?
Diana Jones ©