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Work/life balance is more important than we think

SO, LET’S talk about over-used terms for a minute. If you’ve been in the business world since the mid-1990s you’ve likely heard your management espouse the desire for employees to achieve greater work/life balance.

Many companies all over the world have adopted programs to help employees strike a better life balance by providing health club benefits, entertainment discount programs and additional time off for life events such as the birth of a child.

Despite this, there are millions of us who are still working flat out. With all this discussion of work/life balance, how can so many of us still be so overworked? The answer is simple – we don’t know how to achieve it.

First of all, let’s get clear on the primary purpose of achieving a work/life balance in the first place. It’s about minimising stress in your life. Much of the stress in a typical person’s life is derived from work. Stress also comes from non-work activities as well. You can say you’ve got work/life balance, but in addition to working full-time, you might participate in many activities with the kids, volunteer at the local homeless shelter, and exercise five days a week. If you’re feeling stressed and tired, you haven’t achieved the purpose of a work/life balance, which is to reduce stress. All you have done is balanced the degree of stress you have in your work life with the stress you have in your non-work
life - but at least the stress is balanced.

To realise a practical work/ life balance, consider the following tips:

Decide what is really important

Saying that a work/life balance is important is one thing, but truly meaning it is a different thing altogether. You may want to believe you place other things above work, but wanting to believe it simply doesn’t mean that’s how it is. Make a conscious, realistic declaration on where your priorities lie, then examine your behaviours or ask a friend, relative, significant other, or spouse. Taking the first step toward the quest for work/life balance means eliminating the gap between what you desire and what you do.

Make your calendar a life thing, not just a work thing

Integrate important personal activities into your calendar. Examples of things to schedule include exercise, being home at a specific time for dinner and kids’ activities. Also include items such as important meetings that your spouse or significant other needs to attend which require you to be at home with the kids or to take junior to the dentist.

Measure success in results, not hours

Those who measure success based on hours worked will prioritise hours over results and tend to be less motivated to figure out how to get more work done in less time. Those who measure success based on results are more likely to figure out better ways to do things, prioritise their workload and get home in time for dinner. Don’t use the clock as your gauge of success; use the results you deliver as your success yardstick.

Don’t succumb to peer pressure

From our earliest years, we are exposed to peer pressure. The ‘I dare you’ from our youth has become ‘Who’s got a bigger house’ or ‘Who drives a nicer car’ as adults. Don’t let your peers’ actions pressure you to run the wrong race. Just stay focused on providing meaningful results that provide value to the organisation.

Don’t take on too much ‘life’ in your work/life balance

Achieving work/life balance doesn’t mean you cram more and more stuff into the life side of the equation to balance out a high-octane work life. Achieving good work/ life balance means doing both in moderation and minimising the stress in your life. You could be working a 40-hour work week and still be stressed out because of the non-work activities you’ve committed to. Doing too much in life can be just as stressful. If you acknowledge you are a workaholic and don’t want to change, then by all means work 18-hour days. If you do want to change, though, you need to accept the challenge head-on and get on the road to a more balanced lifestyle. You may be surprised at how your quality of life increases and how little it truly impacts your career aspirations.

Lonnie Pacelli is an accomplished author and autism advocate with more than 30 years’ experience in leadership and project management at Accenture, Microsoft and Consetta Group. For further details visit www.lonniepacelli.com

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