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365 Ways to Get Results: Day #54: Tip the Scale of Work/Life Balance

Throughout the world America is revered as a place where dreams can become reality. The American dream is touted to be obtainable by nearly anyone who is willing to work hard enough to get it regardless of nationality, previous history, or socioeconomic background – a luxury compared to other countries no doubt. So thus our culture tempts you to work harder and harder to reach your ambition. Other countries laugh at us because along with the race for the American dream comes a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer and stress than most countries in the world. Take a lesson from the Europeans – slow down and enjoy life before your dreams dissolves to a nightmare of lost relationships, lack of joy, and compromised health.

It is true that creating goals and measuring results increases your chances for success. But work is only one aspect of who you are. And if you focus only on work, other things suffer – time with family and friends, connection with your community, energy that comes from being healthy, the fun of entertainment and more. If work is your only emphasis, you will burn out before your dream has the opportunity to materialize. Your energy will plummet and your attitude will switch from hope to discouragement.

The Life Balance Self Examination: Define how balanced your life is right now by writing down the percentage of time and energy you spend on each of the six areas of a balanced life: 1.) relationships/home, 2.) spiritual/community, 3.) social/cultural, 4.) financial/career, 5.) personal development/educational and 6.) health/appearance. These should total 100%. Then draw a circle and divide it into a pie chart representing the corresponding percentages. Is every piece of the pie equal?

Tips to Build Better Work/Life Balance

1. Track Your Time and Schedule Better. Do you start and end your day with work related activities? Do you check emails at any time of the day or evening? Do you wake up knowing that you plan to be in your office until a late hour? If you answer “yes” to any of these, you are undoubtedly in a pattern of prioritizing work related activities to the exclusion of other important aspects of your life. This doesn’t mean throw out the Blackberry. Just alter your habits.

Learn to delegate some of your nonessential duties to others. Can you start your day by planning to leave the office one hour earlier than you typically do? If you go into your office with that plan, you will work more productively because you know that you have an end goal in mind. And I bet you will get just as much done. But you have to have the goals of getting out earlier framed in your mind before you start your day.

If you want to explore new things in a sustainable fashion, schedule them into your life. Will your employer give you more flexibility over your time with telecommuting, job sharing, flexible hours or a compressed work week? Can you schedule a doctor’s appointment for a health ailment you have been putting off? Can you schedule in a daily walk? What time do you want to go to bed to feel energized in the morning? When will you drink an extra glass of water each day? When will you start eating breakfast? What is the schedule of services at your local place of worship?

2. Create a Network of Balance Seekers. If you have someone to share your new interests with you will be more likely to stick with them. Hold each other accountable. Is there someone who you can have weekly coffee with? Who will you ask to share a set of this season’s theater tickets? What group can you join that is exploring a new activity? To free up some spare time, can you share a housekeeper with a friend? Who can you walk with three times a week? Who will take up that hobby with you that you’ve always wanted to explore?

3. Learn to say “No.” Busy people are the first people who are asked to take on responsibility. That’s a compliment. And we appreciate the compliment so much that often we do not want to let down the person paying the compliment. So we let ourselves down instead and take on another project we don’t need. Only take on new responsibilities outside of work that help to equalize your work/life balance pie chart. “No” can be great for creating healthy boundaries.

4. Leave work in the office. This is especially important for people who work from home or carry a Blackberry or other device that keeps them in touch with their work email at all times. Unless you are in a job that requires you to formally be “on call,” you must take a humbling step back and appreciate that you are not so important that you need to be on call 24-hours a day. Yes, leaders often advance in their careers faster by demonstrating their willingness to go above and beyond. Work smarter not longer. Figure how to go above and beyond in the work day. That will truly be outstanding.

Mark your calendar six months from now to reassess your work/life balance. By taking these steps to adjust your routine, you will find that your energy is high, you feel energized and that others are noticing and appreciating the difference. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of StartingOverNow.com – Leading Productivity Solutions for People and Organizations. With more than 16 years of experience as a CEO of organizations with up to $26 million in assets, Mary Lee consults with businesses on strategy. She is a graduate of The Duquesne University Professional Coaching Program and an alumnus of the 2010 Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference. Her personal urnaround came as a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where she earned success to support her family. Services include: Workshops, Meeting Facilitation, Coaching, Webinars, Speaking and Management Consulting. Areas of Specialty: Strategic Planning / Board Development / Healthcare / Public Relations / Goal Setting / Meeting Facilitation / Training / Leadership / Time Management / Life/Career Transition. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.