How Rewiring Can Help Solve the Riddle of Work, Life and Balance
For women especially, the work/life balance is a delicate act, a constant pressure, sometimes even a constant guilt. Working women struggle every day with this and constantly ask themselves:
- Am I working hard enough?
- Am I working too hard?
- Am I spending enough time with my family?
- Am I short-changing my career? My family? Both?
I believe that our overwired world has made this worse. Nowadays, we all move at lightening speed, all day, every day, with our plates piled high and little time to pause, reflect, and focus properly.
Because we are always plugged in and always available, it seems like our work never ends. Because we can work from anywhere, we feel like we have to, or should, work at night, on weekends, during lunches, and social events.
There is no balance because there are no boundaries.
Being overwired means multitasking, multithinking, and never really being present with the task at hand or the people in our lives. It leads us to question ourselves and our choices. And, for women, this often leads to the never-ending battle of work/life balance.
But there are two simple ways to correct this.
First, stop worrying about work/life balance and start focusing on doing more of what energizes you and less of what depletes you.
Work/life balance is a tricky thing. We beat ourselves up for not being home more, or present more, or “there” for more people.
I think instead of worrying about achieving work/life balance (whatever that is!), we should focus instead on doing the things we love and being with the people who energize us and doing fewer of the things that deplete us.
Think of your time as precious (it is!) and, as much as possible, be critical and judicious with the activities and people who take up your time and attention. Learn to choose more wisely. Ask yourself:
- Who are the people, personal and professional, who are draining my time and attention?
- If I have to deal with them, how can I do so on my own terms?
- What are the commitments, professional and personal, that I do not enjoy or do not have to attend?
- Whom do I love to be with? Who brings out the best in me? What do I love to do?
- Whom/what should I say “yes” to and whom/what should I say “no” to?
As much as possible, you want to shed the people and endeavors that negatively encumber you. You are letting them steal your precious time. As much as possible, fill your life with the people and activities that fulfill you, engage you, inspire you, and make your life better. Choose them, and you’ll never worry about work/life balance again.
Second, stop being available 24/7 and start setting some boundaries.
More than anything, being overwired—and that feeling of imbalance—is the result of not having good boundaries.
Sure, it’s crept up on us, but we have done this to ourselves. We have made ourselves available 24/7. We say “yes” to everything. Very often, our friends, family, and our work have come to expect this, so we have to retrain ourselves and them as well.
You have to set strong boundaries, and it is imperative that you stick to them. If you tell clients and colleagues that you are not available after 5 p.m. or on weekends, but then you work and respond to them after 5 p.m. and on weekends, they will expect this, and you will have undermined your boundaries.
People have to understand what your boundaries are and then you must be consistent in enforcing them. So:
- Find out from your HR department or supervisor what the expectations are for your out-of-office availability. Some jobs require 24/7 availability (doctors, EMTs, PR people, crisis-management teams, top executives, etc.), but most of us do not need to be available 24/7; we just feel like we do. Find out, so you can establish boundaries for your work and home life.
- Set your automatic email responder or voicemail to correspond with these boundaries. For example, when you leave for the day, use an email or voicemail responder that says: “I am out of the office for the evening (or weekend). I will respond to this when I return in the morning.” Let people know how you wish to be reached in an emergency.
- Make it clear to colleagues, associates, and clients when you are available and when you will return calls or emails. Then stick to it.
And get the spouse, partner, loved ones, and family on board too. When you are together, be present with one another. This means setting some boundaries at home:
Establish computer-free, screen-free, phone-free times.
- If you do not want people to expect you to answer their emails after 7 p.m., don’t check your email after 7 p.m.
- Use your caller ID to screen calls and don’t answer unless you absolutely have to.
- Be together without the distraction of screens, gadgets, phone calls, etc.
The more present—really, truly, purposefully present—you are with your loved ones, the more you will enjoy your time together, and the less it becomes a balancing act. By rewiring our thinking and setting good boundaries, we can worry less about work/life balance and more about personal fulfillment, for ourselves and our loved ones. BW
Dr. Camille Preston is a virtual leadership expert, highly sought-after speaker, executive coach, and the founder and CEO of AIM Leadership. She is the author of Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World. For more tips and strategies to rewire your life for results, visit www.aimleadership.com.