The Recreational Dimension of Work-Life Balance

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

As competition grows in the marketplace, managers and employees are being pressured to focus more and more on work and less and less on family. Work 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. Many companies are “right sizing,” which often translates into fewer people trying to handle the same old work load. And “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.”

Obviously, something’s “got to give.” People can’t work harder and harder, and longer and longer, without some cost. And that cost can be very devastating. 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. We have a number of friends whose marriages or partnerships have crumbled.”

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 — to give up your family if you want to get ahead — especially when you read comments such as David Ogilvy’s in Confessions of an Advertising Man. He wrote: “If you stay home and tend to your gardens and children, I will love you more as a human being, but don’t expect to be the first person promoted in your group.”

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. That’s what my program, “Take This Job and Love It! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life” is all about. Just give me a call at 1-800-621-7881 if you’d like me to speak to your organization about this.

As I wrote in last week’s “Tuesday Tip,” there are eight dimensions of life. And you’ve got to have something positive in each of the dimensions if you’re going to have work-life balance and work-life quality.

The first dimension is PHYSICAL. I dealt with that last week. But the second dimension, the RECREATIONAL, also deserves a bit of your attention. Let me suggest the following.

=> Learn That Life Is Unfinished.

Like me, you were probably raised to believe that work came first. In other words, you had to get all your work done before you could play. And that’s not a bad thing to teach children. After all, they haven’t been to a time management seminar yet.

The trouble is — we’re adult professionals. If we took that advice today, if we literally had to get all our work done before we could play, we would never find time to play. There’s always going to be more work than time.

You’ve got to change your thinking. You’ve got to realize that you’ll never be finished, and that’s okay.

=> Force Yourself To Take Breaks.

That’s right; force yourself to take breaks — even if all your work isn’t finished. Escape for a while. Take some time to read or think. Lose yourself in a movie or game. Take a brief trip for a change of scenery. You’ll go back to your work with more energy than you thought possible.

=> Take Time For Quietness.

Of course, you may think you’ve got too much to do to stop and be quiet for a few minutes. But you’ll pay a price if you don’t. Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Extreme busyness…is a symptom of deficient vitality.” Physicist Blaise Pascal said, “One of the ways in which man brings the most trouble upon himself is by his inability to be still.”

You know how you feel after a good night’s sleep. You feel stronger and more able to meet the day. Taking time for quietness during the day enables you to restore your vitality and energy. You’ll begin to understand what is happening. You’ll think more rationally, and your tension will diminish.

If you’re not doing this at present, I’d suggest you start with five or ten minutes a day. Find a private place, and just sit there quietly. Don’t try to solve any of your problems. Don’t try to focus on anything. Just experience the calmness of silence, and the quietness will work as a pressure releaser.

Next week I’ll talk about the third dimension of balance — the OCCUPATIONAL dimension. Don’t miss it. You spend so much of your life on work, so it’s important to know how you keep that in perspective.

Until then, take a moment to reflect on these “Guidelines for Sane Living.” See if you’re following them.

1. Strike a balance between work and play — between seriousness and laughter.

2. Stick with the truth, even if it makes you look or feel bad. Falsehoods are like wandering ghosts.

3. Forgive your enemies. Realize you are sometimes a pain in the neck yourself.

4. Walk. Get lots of air and sunshine, and occasionally get some rain or snow in your face — and some dirt on your hands.

5. Talk through your troubles and mistakes — as well as your dreams — with someone you trust.

6. Don’t underestimate the ability of God to straighten out a situation even when you can’t. And give God a little time!

7. Discriminate among your fears. Learn to tell which ones are useful and which ones are destructive.

8. Remember that the ultimate death rate is still 100%. You would be getting short-changed if everyone got to die and you didn’t.

9. When you can’t sleep, say “Aha! Here’s a chance for a little privacy and creative thinking.”

10. Fall in love with life — with children, older people, middle-agers, sports cars, the theater, music, books, cities, hills, the sea — with everything except money.

Action:  Put aside 5 minutes each day this week for nothing but quietness. Make it 10 minutes each day next week. Then make it a habit. You’ll like the extra sense of peace, serenity, control and creativity that will come to you.