The great paradox of our age is that we have added years to life, not life to years.
As competition grows in the marketplace, American workers are feeling pressured to focus more on work and less on family. Fewer people are doing more of the work, and hours are increasing. According to Witt Associations, an executive search firm, the work week for managers has increased 10 to 15 hours a week in recent years.
Unfortunately, the overwhelmed, out-of-balance employee may not find much sympathy. Fortune magazine published an article that described a new corporate style, “the high commitment model” that suggested “your life should revolve around work and not much else.”
The Price of Imbalance
Obviously, something’s “got to give.” People can’t work harder and harder, and longer and longer without some cost. Management experts Tom Peters and Nancy Austin say: “The majority of passionate activists…have given up family vacations, Little League games, birthday dinners, evening-weekend-and-lunch hours, gardening, reading, movies, and most other pastimes.”
What’s “giving” is family time. According to the Family Research Council, parents spend 40% less time with their children than they did 25 years ago. And that seems to be the only choice, give up your family if you want to get ahead professionally.
Keeping the Balance
While the pressures are enormous, there are some ways you can keep your balance. There are some ways you can have a successful career and a successful life.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF LIFE. Never give up on what you really want to do. You only have a limited amount of time, and if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, it’s time to make a change.
EVALUATE THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE. Look at what you’re putting into your job and what you’re getting out of it. Do the same thing with regard to your personal life. As you make your evaluation, use your own standards, not your parents’ or your boss’s or the world’s. Find out if you’re compromising too many of your values.
LOOK AT HOW YOUR JOB AFFECTS YOUR FAMILY, not only now but five years from now. Time does pass more quickly than you think. It might help to remind yourself that at the end of life, no one has ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
DON’T TAKE A JOB JUST BECAUSE THE SALARY IS HIGH. If you hate the job, more money will not make you like it. All money can do is anesthetize your problems, not cure them.
WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS OF ANY PROMOTION. Don’t rush into this important decision. Promotions often come with a corresponding increase in workload. Is it worth it? Not always.
HAVE LUNCH WITH A FAMILY MEMBER ONCE IN A WHILE. If you have to miss a family dinner, then invite a family member to lunch. Give that person your undivided attention during that precious hour.
ASK PERMISSION TO DO SOME WORK AT HOME. More and more companies are allowing employees to do this, especially if the job is computer-related. Take that hour of commuting time and spend it with your family.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier to get a slower, quieter introduction to the day. Take a short walk or read something inspirational. Make a list of all the things you’d like to do before you die, and check one off each year.
PACE YOURSELF. Don’t get addicted to rushing. Learn the difference between necessary haste and unnecessary impatience. And subtract an old activity whenever you add a new one to your life.
CONSIDER CHANGING JOBS IF YOUR FAMILY IS SUFFERING. No job is worth sacrificing your spouse or children. I know. I made that mistake, and it took me years to correct it. No career is more important than your relationship with those you love.
If your life is out of balance, there is no better time than now to make the necessary changes. Yes, it will take courage, but millions of others have gone before you. And if they can do it, so can you.
You might even want to hire me as a speaker to present my program on “TAKE THIS JOB AND LOVE IT! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.” Whether you want a keynote, half, or full-day session, I can tell you this program is HOT! People love it — because it works.
Action: Select two of the strategies I have capitalized in this week’s Tip. Then sketch out a step-by-step plan on what you will do during the next month to incorporate those strategies into your life.