Achieving work-life balance is something oft’ talked about. Some suggest it is a misnomer in certain work environments eg high performance workplaces. Others call it different names like work-life ‘fit’. Regardless, the concept of balancing the demands of work and life can be challenging. Can you really achieve it … or is it a pipe dream?
Category archive: Lifestyle
What matters most in life is different for each of us. It becomes more important when an aspect our life is threatened though. When the things we take for granted are shaken – not stirred. This happened to someone I know recently.
There is a wave of technology that is about to wash over us. Some organisations are already tinkering at the edges, others have fully embraced it. It is the rise of the robots. Artificial intelligence. And, it is coming to a workplace near you!
In an earlier blog post Is it time for a new job? Part 1, I looked at the five signs it is time to leave your job. This post looks at how to turn things around so you have a choice about taking a new job or not.
Is it time? The five signs
To recap, the five signs it is time to leave your job are:
- You are not learning
- You hate your boss
- You are just doing it for the money
- You are under-performing
- You feel under-valued
Now we take those five signs and turn them around. In the process, you get a new lease on your current job. After that, the choice is yours: stay, or go.
From You are not learning to You create your own learning
Create your own learning opportunities by rekindling your curiosity about things at work. “Why is this so? Could we think about this in a different way? How could we improve our outcomes?” Identify something to improve and do the research on how to achieve that.
Would it help to do a course? There are many free courses available through MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses). What about reading about developments in professional/industry publications? Many of these are available online with free access. Do your own social media research. Use Twitter, LinkedIn and associated platforms to find out about the latest trends and developments, as well as case examples.
If you find it hard to be curious about the content of your job, focus on knowing your people. How well do you understand the needs of your clients? Could you spend a little more time ascertaining their needs, and then servicing them better with what they actually want? Then there are the people you work with. How well do you know them, the way they think, their reasoning behind actions? One of these people is your boss.
From You hate your boss to You respect your boss
Seek first to understand, then to be understood (the fifth of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). This usually requires listening in a new way. It means listening without judgement or interpretation about your own view of how things should be done. Moreover, it is listening to hear what is, the way things are and the reasons for things occurring. Very often we don’t appreciate all the factors in situations. We have one perspective – our own. We creates a lens through which we view the world. What can you do to understand the lens through which your boss sees the world?
From You are just doing it for the money to You gain satisfaction from your job
Sometimes we get into a negative mindset about work, and “lose sight of the satisfactions it once offered”. This often happens following sustained periods of heavy workload, long periods without a holiday or work taking precedence over other things in your life. I offer two pieces of advice here: (1) get perspective on job satisfaction, and (2) achieve a functional work-life balance.
Get perspective on job satisfaction
Try keeping a satisfaction journal. Each day, record at least one aspect of your work that was satisfying. At the week’s end, review the satisfaction achieved. Periodically eg after a month, reflect on your growing journal entries. Has there has been a ‘shift in your perception of your own satisfaction’?
Sometimes you have to look for and recognise these moments that are easily lost in negativity.
Functional work-life balance
Work-life balance need not be a Utopian concept. All workloads vary over time, with periods of greater “busyness” that mean higher workloads. Keeping it functional is the key. Blow-outs in work time may occur – but they are not the norm. After a blow-out, ensure you return to functional work timetables. That means maintaining boundaries around other activities important for your well-being. They vary from person to person but may be about exercise, relaxation, healthy diet, time with loved ones and spiritual/religious time.
The balance comes from giving your brain a break. Undertaking a different activity from that done at work, provides a change of focus and enables the brain to “rest” by thinking in a different way or doing a different activity. We know that your brain benefits from exercise. So to, does your performance.
From You are under-performing to You are performing your job well
Usually we know if we are underperforming. Some tell-tale signs are that we are defensive when our performance is addressed. This in itself can be stressful. It is a conversation you know that has to happen, yet, you want to avoid the pain of it. So – do that. Lift your game. Do your own performance review and make a plan to turn things around.
To change your performance at work means taking a look at what you are doing. Often apathy results from a negative attitude. Get some feedback on where you need to lift from someone your trust and respect. It may be a co-worker. It may be someone outside the workplace altogether. Create a list of things your would like to work on and a list of your desired outcomes. Then chunk it up. Work on one thing at a time. Work through that list. Tick them off. Seeing your progress is important to encouraging you to keep your focus. See if others notice.
From You feel undervalued to Your valued contribution makes a difference
With all of the above, you will be building your own sense of self-worth as a contributor. What needs to happen now is getting acknowledgement from others. Unfortunately, this does not always happen spontaneously. Can you work out a way to get some feedback from your coworkers or supervisors, about your value to the team/workplace? Two points that are important here: (1) prepare the territory, (2) frame your questions well. The end game, is to get the feedback you seek without putting anyone in an awkward position or coming across as overbearing or needy.
Prepare the territory
The skill here is asking questions without putting someone else in an awkward position. Give before you expect to get. Offer feedback on team achievements or the work of others. Start with the positive, then move to the constructive. It needs to be authentic, thoughtful and offered with the intention of improvement. In the spirit of reciprocity, you can expect this in return.
Frame your questions
When questions are framed well, the person asked is provided with a way of responding that is non-threatening. If they have a way of responding that is less risky, they are more likely to provide a substantive answer. How do you do this?
Try the third person approach. Depersonalise the question. For example, you might say: If someone wanted to know how they were progressing in their role, how should they approach … or What would it take for someone to be considered for promotion from … to …
Focus on aspects of the job, not on people. For example, you might say: I am interested in your assessment of my contribution to the team. In areas A, B and C how am I shaping up to expectation? Or … from a team perspective, what else could I be doing to add-value to the team?
Turn yourself around and you just might like it
Turn your performance around, find things to like in your job, notice the little things that often go by unnoticed … all of these and their flow-on effects, can change your perspective on your job, your boss and your workplace. These are the things that can change the colour of your workday. If they provide you with a choice – to stay or to go, it is better than feeling like you have no choice, or worse still – a forced one.
Has this happened to you? What did you do? Did it work?
Source: Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. 5 Signs It’s Time for a New Job. Harvard Business Review. April 7, 2015.
A few years ago I attended a conference presentation by Dr Adam Fraser, a psychologist. He talked about working with elite athletes who trained hard, and rested well so that they could perform again the next day. He used that analogy for people working in high performance workplaces, suggesting we all need rest to be able to keep on performing our jobs. Do you get enough rest?
In the busyness of the world we live in, multi-tasking can become the norm. With so many distractions available to us – emails that ping, text messages that ding – it is easy to be lured into it unwittingly. How do you stave off the multi-tasking lures?
Stress is part of life. Sometimes it is a force for good – being functional, keeping us challenged and engaged. Most times when people talk about stress, it is the dysfunctional kind. Chronic stress is the most debilitating, creeping up on us as we try to “cope”.