That phrase has gotten a lot of play in the last few years. But now, with the current events driving everyone to work at home, work life balance is even more critical than ever. LeaderImpact addresses one aspect of this when we talk about the integration of our personal, professional and spiritual life. Certainly all three aspects affect each other, and our management of our own growth and productivity concerning all three leads to a life of greater impact.
During this time of uncertainty, it is important to be really mindful about how we do what we do. In fact, we are really at the beginning of a major transition regarding how we work and live. While trying to understand and cope with these new realities, it helps to have some guidelines, or boundaries, in order to create new and healthy norms. Let’s break those boundaries into three categories, which we will call time boundaries, space boundaries and electronic boundaries.
First, how do we manage time at home? Whether you have a spouse and children at home, you are an empty-nest couple, or you are one of the many young professional singles living alone or with roommates, the separation between personal and professional is important. The idea is to differentiate between work time and personal time. Okay, I know that sounds obvious, but the actual doing of this is not that easy. The more consistent we are with our hours, the more we set expectations for family members. If they know that mom is working from one to five in the afternoon, but also know that they will have her undivided attention starting at five o’clock, they will be much more content to let her work in peace.
The same is true for mom. If she knows that her work time is protected, she can relax and focus on her family when that time rolls around. The keys to making this work are communication and consistency. Let the family know when you are working, and when you are not, and then stick to it. If you have to deviate once in a while, they will understand. If you break your own rules too often, they have no meaning.
The second aspect of the sought after balance is space management. A friend of mine asked me, when he started working at home, what advice I had for him regarding his marriage. I asked what he meant, and he explained that he was having a hard time getting anything done, because his wife was used to him being available when he was home. This can be either a time or space issue, but setting good boundaries, like having a dedicated space at which to work and set times, will begin to set new expectations. I suggested that he have a conversation with his wife, at a time when they both were relaxed. It could start out something like this: “I want to ask you about something. Now that I’m working at home, I realize I’m changing up things for you as well as for myself. What are some things I can do to be sensitive to you during the day, when you aren’t used to having me around?” Hopefully, his wife will reciprocate and he can explain his point of view. If not, he could then say, “I really want to be available to you and am trying to work on my work life balance, but I’m finding that I need some dedicated time and space to make that work well.”
The third aspect is something many people are talking about, the constant barrage of electronic interruption. Suffice it to say, for now, that turning your phone off or putting it on silent and out of reach for time to connect with people has been a good idea since electronic devices started being such an ever present force in our lives. Now is a really good time to show others you care by focusing on them and avoiding the distraction.
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