The first time I really paid attention to the term “work-life balance” was during interviews as I was about to graduate from business school. Coming out in a strong economy when companies were actively recruiting from top business schools, I heard many spiels on work-life balance and corporate programs centered around the concept.
The whole idea was to make us think that even while working 50+ hour weeks, our lives would be balanced because many of the companies provided services to pick up our dry cleaning, interview prospective nannies, and take care of any number of menial tasks. Of course, that simply was not true.
Work-life balance or work-life management, as I like to refer to it, is more than just using every available hour to either be productive at work or accomplish personal errands. It is about achieving fulfillment in life, prioritizing, re-evaluating those priorities on a regular basis, and taking care of yourself in the meantime. No doubt, “real life” brings unexpected events and stressors; however, there are some things we can do to manage it all:
Get you team on board. Your team might be your significant other, children, aging parents or anyone who depends on you. Why is this important? Because these are the people who might feel slighted when you need to spend more time than normal on your business or on a personal goal, like training for a marathon. It is important that your team understands what makes you tick and what your goals are. Manage expectations and also let them know when you might need a little extra support.
Prioritize. Don’t apologize. Clearly understanding and communicating your priorities — which most likely will change over time — helps to manage expectations. Otherwise, you will find yourself apologizing for not doing the things that everyone else thinks you should do at the time. Prioritizing will help you to focus on the things that are important to you and not spread yourself too thin. It may be tempting to accept multiple board invitations, be the class mom, manage your local alumni chapter and run a business. But, more than likely, you will find yourself apologizing for dropping the ball at some point.
Re-evaluate your priorities. What’s important today may not be as significant tomorrow. When my son was in kindergarten, I was in his classroom daily. He would be mortified if I did the same in 7th grade. It’s still important for me to help him manage academics but not in the same time-consuming manner. This allows me to shift my time to taking on more challenging professional opportunities and still show support for my kids in other ways (does mom-taxi sound familiar?)
Take care of yourself. A lot of people talk about me-time, but not many are comfortable actually taking it. The reality is that taking time to exercise, meditate or simply spend time with friends is essential to personal rejuvenation and well being. Taking care of yourself is the only way to optimally manage your work and life.
Work-life management is about more than time-boxing activities. Think about it as integrating all that is important to you in a meaningful and manageable way.
Scottie Davis Winslow is vice president of Optum Consulting, a division of United Health Group.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.