Feel like you are riding the big teeter-totter of life with work on one end and home and family on the other? One minute, you’re on top of the world and the next you’re crashing to ground with a big thud.
You’re soooo not alone.
The struggle to find a comfortable balance can drain the joy out of life, but you’ll be relieved to know you’re only a change of heart away from getting the most of both career and family.
I thought this dilemma was only a Western phenomenon until I recently came across a story in the International Herald Tribune. In China, young people are turning away from the traditional emphasis of building wealth no matter what the personal cost. Instead, they’re interested in developing a value-system that maintains the importance of home, family and cultural roots.
Young Chinese don’t envy the wealth of North Americans. They have “iPhones” and other gadgets so accumulating more material things doesn’t move them. What they’re looking for is balance.
Then, on the net, I stumbled across Randy Siegel, a management consultant and futurist. He believes money is no longer the chief motivator in getting job candidates to sign on the dotted line. Prospective employees are attracted to employers who are committed to encouraging employees to maintain a work/life balance. Young people are focused on professional development, being involved in decision making, childcare, and finding meaning in their work.
I often hear concerns about work/life balance from women who are members of a mentorship program I am involved with at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. And, I understand completely.
When working as a senior executive with PotashCorp, I struggled to raise two daughters while maintaining a rigorous travel schedule. Technology has ramped up the speed considerably since I was rolling my suitcase up to the hotel executive check-in line.
Email and cell phones mean you are now expected to be available 24/7. How does one balance work and life in the web 2.0 world?
The answer comes from within. If your world is out of whack, start by balancing your energy within yourself. Focus on the things that energize you and rid yourself of those things that deplete you.
Whether you are at home with the family or at the office, there will be things that make you feel like a bigger, fuller human being. These are the projects where you step outside of time and space. Swim with the current, not against it.
Managing your energy is just like the 80/20 rule of business. It says that you get 80 percent of your business from 20 percent of your customers. It’s the same with your energy. If you are doing what you were meant to do – the things that give you great joy and energy – you’ll get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your effort and you’ll avoid burnout.
Identify the activities, situations and conditions that give you energy. Stop and check-in with yourself throughout the day. Then spend your time with the individuals or doing the activities that create energy – those that make a deposit in your energy bank account.
If an activity or person is making huge withdrawals – watch out. An energy overdraft could be the first step toward energy bankruptcy!
Energy comes from where we find meaning and that is what propels us forward. It gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us internal reserves that we didn’t know that we had. Meaning is what keeps a career from becoming a job. As Buddha said, “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
If you can find what gives you energy, then the work/life balance isn’t an issue and life becomes a joy again.
Companies that recognize employees need to believe in something greater than the bottom-line will have a more energized workforce. Furthermore, when employees are well-placed in positions for which they have a natural flair, they will be more energized. The two go hand-in-hand. Experts say that companies who pay attention to this will have higher productivity, lower turnover and increased loyalty.
As winter turns to spring it reminds us that change is constant. Whether the change is of our own choosing or foisted upon us, the key is to stay balanced through it all. To find the golden fleece of work/life balance, find meaning in your life, and you’ll discover that you have lots of energy!