Hot Topics / RCCE Update

April Hot Topic: Work/Life Balance

We’ve all been there…trying to juggle several things at once and trying to fulfill several aspects of ourselves at the same time. We try to succeed socially and in our careers. We want to spend time with family and friends. And of course, we like to indulge in pleasant pastimes, material possessions, and healthy living. We want to make our mark on the world, to leave a legacy and make a difference. Still, spreading yourself too thing amongst all these points can lead to leadership burnout, fatigue, and unhappiness.And many times, when you are involved with so many things, other peoples’ expectations of you increase–without additional reward or assistance. Trying too hard to do everything often leads to doing nothing well.

Part of this involves constantly analyzing what takes priority in your life right now. The more important point to note, though, is that your priorities may, and probably will, change at different stages in your life. It’s important to acknowledge that fact so you can tailor your interests and time management to effectively address this emphasis. For example, right now, I’m focusing a lot more on academics, family and friends, and recognition while my indulgence in pleasant pastimes and healthy living has been put on the back burner a bit. That’s not to say that you should ignore these aspects…just tailor your routine to emphasize whatever you deem to be more important at that time. When I begin my entry-level job in June, I plan on readjusting my priorities to focus more on my career and health.

Another point to note is that your priorities are your priorities. Although it may be tempting to look at a mentor, professor, manager, or peer and think that you would like to follow in their footsteps or compete directly, that is not always the best case. Sure, it might be good to use them as a resource or model to see what you may like, but in the end, you are the person you need to make happy.  This is probably the most challenging point…being honest with yourself and what truly makes you happy (not what you think other people expect, not what makes other people happy, not just what you think will give you happiness-recognition, prestige, etc.)As the saying goes, “you be you,” and do what you truly love and enjoy.

Still, although your priorities are in order and you believe you have found what you think will make you happy, you should still be aware of certain turning points in your life for opportunity and growth. I’ve recently been inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s initiative of “Lean In,” which encourages women to get more involved and active with their ambitions. You will never know what might make you the happiest or the most fulfilled if you don’t try all your aspirations.

Now that you have your priorities in order, it’s on to some logistics. It really does come down to time management, and let’s be honest, there just simply isn’t enough time to do everything (that’s why you need to decide what you want to emphasize at this point in your life). One important point is creating a barrier to keep your work life and home life separate. Try to leave work at work as much as possible. If you bring work home, it will always be at the back of your mind. It will be hard to remove yourself from the work mindset when the thought of work is nagging you. Still, that’s not to say never bring home work ever (it’s going to happen), but have a designated location for work and a designated place to relax. Keep the laptop and paperwork limited to the desk and leave your bed and couch for sleeping, watching a movie, and relaxing with friends. Establishing physical boundaries will help you keep those mental boundaries in check as well.

Another point is just pure scheduling. Get rid of tasks that are toxic–the ones that sap your time and energy. These are the things in life that bring you no fulfillment. Maybe it’s gossiping with a nosy coworker or complaining to a family member; acknowledge these times that don’t help you reach any of your goals. Cutting out that extra negativity in your life can only help. Also, look into your options regarding work and errand flexibility. Maybe you can telecommute a few days during the week or contact out some errands. Look into swapping or sharing tasks with neighbors or friends (carpools, picking up dry cleaning, running to the post office, etc.) You might be surprised where you can find a few extra hours.

Finally, it’s so hard, but factor some relaxation and fun into your life. It’s easier to do this when it’s already built into your schedule. Join a class or a team, or make a commitment with a friend. It’s harder to skip out on fun when you can’t really cancel the commitment. For example, once a week, I play intramural soccer. Not only do I get to spend time with my friends, but it’s also fun and a workout (triple win!).

Information a blend of personal insight as well as from these sources:

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/5-strategies-for-life-balance

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/work-life-balance/WL00056

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