I was asked to do a talk on “Work-Life Balance” the other week. “Work-Life Balance” is the new catch phrase that’s being used instead of “Burn-out Prevention”. So in essence my focus was on preventing burnout. Burnout occurs when someone had once really loved what they do at their job but started giving more and more to the job until it took over more and more of their lives. After this process starts, the individual then usually starts to resent their work and job to the point where they start to do less and less quality of work. This usually results in low work performance and increasing resentment for not getting any past rewards they use to get for doing a good job. It really is a downward spiral if there is no intervention.
The idea of “Work-Life Balance” is getting more to the root issue in that one must have balance and perspective with the roles they possess in order to not experience burnout. A good exercise is sitting down and listing all the roles you possess. If there are roles you don’t want then you may want to take them off the list. If you can’t get rid of the role then keep it, such as the role of “house keeper” if you are single parent and cannot afford to hire this role out. So once you have the list of all the roles you have, then list one task to do for each of those roles. Next get your calendar out and place that task on a day and a time to accomplish it.
This is just one way to help maintain balance during the week, but you will start to feel overwhelmed if you forget the role of “caretaker of self”. You can’t forget to schedule in time for yourself to do something nurturing, like an hour to read, get a massage, see a movie. You need time to reconnect to what relaxes and/or inspires you so that you can recharge and be able to do these other tasks in your calendar. Don’t forget that you need time to let go of the other roles and remember yourself.
January, the time of resolutions. Just checking out Facebook or talking to friends or coworkers you are bound to hear about new projects people are attempting. Eating better, exercising, losing weight are big ones. Also many people this year are de-cluttering and working on simplifying their life. Some are doing away with bad habits like smoking or other dependencies.
Most of these resolutions are very admirable and when people first decide on them you can hear the optimism and hope in their voice. But come March or April, how many are still focused on these resolutions. How many in August? December? It’s difficult maintaining change and progress, especially if change is incremental. So how does one maintain focus and progress?
I strongly believe that setting solid goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and with a deadline is the best place to start. In counseling we use the acronym “SMART” to guide us in making goals with clients. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. So if the goal was to lose weight then you would want to set a deadline to lose a certain amount of pounds. You would need to do some research to find out what is a healthy amount to lose a week (usually no more than 2 lbs is advised) and make sure your amount and deadline are realistic and attainable. Then you would set small weekly goals and research the best options to lose weight to choose your strategy.
The next step would be incorporating supports. Would you benefit from joining weight watchers or finding a friend to exercise with? Do you need to track your diet in a journal or use an app like Myfitness pal..?
The third step is then identifying obstacles like donuts at work or eating leftovers from kids’ plates. Then you develop strategies for each of these obstacles; like having alternative snacks handy at work or having kids clean up their meal themselves so you are not tempting to grab a bite..
Fourth is evaluation and noting the progress and setting fourth another goal. This is where most people throw in the towel actually. The idea of seeing failure is sometimes enough to call it quits. I like to think of failure as an opportunity to really understand what didn’t work. What obstacle do I need to prepare more for and what are my options for this obstacle? This is where breakthroughs are made but so many times we are too fearful of feeling like a failure or we are burned out on the task at hand that we really don’t learn from it or keep the progress we really did make.