The Work-Life Balance Challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had plenty of friends and family get on my case about my work-life balance. As always, they’ll ask me what’s new in life and I’ll go off on a tangent, telling them all the different things I’ve been involved in or what I’m currently learning. Once I catch my breath and the glazed-over look leaves their eyes, they feel the need to express their concern for my work-life balance. “You need to give yourself a mental break,” my family will say. “You need to get out and have a life,” my friends will add. Of course, this annoys me to no end. It might seem like I’ve dedicated my whole existence to work or networking or blogging or whatever else to help my career, but such is not the case. What they don’t realize is that I can accomplish all of these things easily in a 40-45 hour work week. Therefore, the balance is fine- I’ve just learned how to make the most out of my time.

No, I’m not a superhuman by any means. I’m just a woman with a type A personality and a slight obsession with whiteboard calendars. My whiteboards and my intense scheduling skills are another thing that my friends and family feel the need to critique but these things are what help me accomplish as much as I do within a reasonable time. Maybe not everyone is great at working their lives around a schedule, but here are the things that help me:

  • Determine necessary time for each task: Take a couple weeks to determine the appropriate time each task takes you to do. This can help you regulate how much time you would need to block off.
  • Schedule accordingly: every person has their favorite way to schedule things, such as phone task apps, email calendars, and so on. Although I use those forms of technology, I still like to keep it old school. Writing it down and seeing it in front of my face each day can help reduce any anxiety about potentially forgetting something. It also keeps me on track. I literally have three whiteboards: monthly, weekly, and daily.
  • Set realistic goals: the reason why I put things on a schedule is because it automatically makes it feel like a goal that I need to achieve. Nothing motivates me more than seeing all my “to dos” crossed off on my list. It also makes me feel like I’m making steady progress.
  • Give yourself wiggle room: I usually set my to-dos to be completed at least a couple days in advance. I also try to give myself a few minutes in between each task. Life is crazy and you never know what can happen that could potentially knock you back a bit. Giving yourself some wiggle room can help you still accomplish your things on time without stressing, even if an unexpected situation occurs.

Maybe some of my friends and family don’t get it at this point in time but doing these things have honestly allowed me to progress in my career, professional development, and professional education. I spend less time running around clueless and more time getting things done. And like I said earlier, it might seem like I have a lot going on but setting up my days like this have truly allowed me to be the most efficient that I can possibly be. I work hard but I get things done within the 40-45 hours a week which allows me to have plenty of time to “relax” and “live a little” like I’ve been advised to do. Take these tips and test it out. See if it makes a difference in your life, whether it is for work or your own personal goals.

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Maintaining the Work-Life Balance

Have you ever worked late or on the weekends? Have you incessantly checked your phone and emails while relaxing or involved in social events? Have work-related thoughts clouded your mind and disrupted your attention outside of work? Have you stopped a conversation with a friend or family member to take a call? I know I’m definitely guilty of all of these (sometimes even simultaneously). As technology becomes more widely and regularly used, this has become a common issue in the daily lives of the employed.

Overworking yourself can actually make you LESS productive at work than taking a break to breathe and rest your mind. Additionally, it can seep into your personal life, causing issues. So how can you keep your balance? Check it out:

Set Boundaries: technology and mobile devices make it easy for you to be available non-stop. You need to set boundaries. Turn your phone on silent outside of work. Only check your emails/voicemails for an hour a night after you finish your shift. Only respond to things that NEED to be responded to.

Schedule: I literally have a white board for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and to-dos. I work extremely hard to stick with that schedule. Having this schedule will make sure I don’t over-do it and actually reduce time worrying about whether or not I’m forgetting to do something. It saves a lot of brain power.

Prioritize: living in the instant gratification age could make it seem like if you don’t respond or aren’t present every second of the day that the world may end. It won’t- trust me. Deal with any fires that need to be put out. Then, prioritize whether or not something needs to be done ASAP or if it can be put on the backburner. Do this regularly to ensure you’re managing your time well.

Be realistic: we have become multitasking masters, which can sometimes make us believe we’re capable of doing the workload of 3 people all at once. It’s a nice thought but unrealistic. Sometimes you need to say no to people (do it nicely, though!) and if you do say yes to someone, make sure you set realistic timelines and expectations. Give yourself some extra time in case something more pressing comes up and cuts into your time. This can help you avoid the need to cram things in to meet a timeline you set.

Sometimes our lives make work and personal life blend too easily but you need to regularly take a step back and remind yourself that your brain needs a break. Do yourself a favor and follow the steps above and see if it makes a positive difference in your life.

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More Links:

The Quaint Notion of the Work Life Balance

Work, Life and Peace

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Managing Gen Y in the Workplace

One of the topics that I’m interested in and passionate about is Gen Y (Millennials) in the workplace. Being a Gen Yer myself, it is interesting to read about some of the qualities that I possess that seem to be the norm. It’s also been interesting to see how my fellow Gen Yers are challenging the current practices and procedures that workplaces have been doing for years. Many companies are starting to realize that Gen Y will be dominating the workplace and have started to restructure in a way that will work well with this generation.  Therefore, today’s post will discuss how to manage Gen Y.

Last month, I wrote a post about what Gen Y wants from an employer. As a refresher, the main points I made were as follows:

  • Gen Y values company culture.
  • Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback.
  • Gen Y wants workplace options.
  • Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact.

Although those are only a few off of the long list of qualities that this generation hopes that their employer has, these seem to be the most common. In order for a company to know how to properly manage this generation of workers, they must know and understand these. Additionally, they must find a way to tie them into their restructured management style. Here are some tips on how to manage Gen Y effectively:

  • Show them a connection: Gen Yers know that more often than not, they are bound to leave their employers within the first few years of employment. One of the main reasons they leave is because they do not feel that the company culture (something they value) is aligned with their own personal values. To ensure you are hiring and retaining quality talent, be sure to discuss the culture and what the company has to offer. Ask the candidate what they highly regard and what would be a deal breaker down the line. Determining the connection of company offerings against candidate values can help reduce turn-over in the long run and increase employee engagement if the candidate is hired.
  • Set clear rules and expectations: Gen Yers can be extremely self-sufficient and driven; however, gray areas can hinder some of their performance. The best thing a manager can do is to let the employees know what the rules, expectations, and goals are straight out of the gate. Additionally, they should place this information in an area that is easily accessible for employees’ reference.  Having these clearly defined can help the employees know exactly what they can and cannot do, and go from there without second guessing themselves.
  • Provide useful feedback on a regular-basis: Receiving regular feedback is not just expected by Gen Y, but it is demanded. This generation of workers is focused on finding solutions and making improvements. In order to get valuable insight and discover resources to do so, they rely heavily on the feedback from their peers, clients, and managers. Making this a routine task of management can prove to have significant benefits for the organization.
  • Get your scheduling done ASAP: Gen Y is an expert at multi-tasking. They grew up in the technology era, which makes doing three things simultaneously a breeze. However, they are only able to take on this much work by learning how to schedule things properly. In order to ensure that your employees are keeping up with their abundant workload, be sure to stay on a set schedule for meetings, quotas, goals, and so on. Also, if you need to schedule something that isn’t part of the norm, try to give them a time and date as soon as possible so they can reschedule and plan accordingly.
  • Track their performance: This generation wants to know that their efforts and contributions are making a difference. They want work to be meaningful and feel like they’re doing something for a reason. One way to make them feel that way is by keeping track of their performance and incorporating those details into the regular feedback you provide. Gen Y is also goal-driven so be sure to show them how their performance ties in to their career path and goals. If necessary, give them additional mentoring in areas they need to improve. Showing that you are invested in their professional growth will help gain their commitment and trust.

Gen Y can be tricky to manage if you don’t take the time to understand how they think and why they do the things they do. In order to manage this generation effectively, managers must create an open, two-way communication with employees. Participative leadership style may be key in keeping up with them. This can help managers learn what the employees need from them in order to get the best response and performance. Lastly, please listen and try to follow through with any promises you make. Trust me; they’ll hold you to it.

More links on the subject:

Manage Gen Y and Interns.

Managing Gen Y Infograph.

NBC- Managing Gen Y Effectively.

Leadership Development for Gen Y.