How to Balance Work and the Rest of Your Life
How many “hats” do you wear? Mother or father, employee, son or daughter, sister or brother, coach, husband, wife, what else? … . Do you feel that you have just the right number of hats? Too few? Too many? Most of the people I know struggle with too many hats. They have “role overload.” Also, their roles frequently conflict with one another.
In addition, you’re constantly changing hats. In the morning you may be a parent and a spouse – then you shift to employee. It’s a little hard to get started at the office when your mind is on the homework your son didn’t finish – and the guilt because you were visiting your elderly parents the night before (another hat) instead of helping him with homework.
You bring office work home so that you don’t get behind and realize that you forgot a volunteer meeting (another hat). Transitions from one role to another can leave you frustrated and grumpy. This “spillover” from one role to another makes you less effective in each role.
Why Does Role Overload Happen?
Experts cite several factors that are driving role overload and spillover:
• The pressures of dual career families
• The historic and continuing influx of women into the workforce
• The demands on single parents
• Increasing longevity and extended elder care taken on by the so-called
• The “Superparent” myth – that one can do it all
• The “Workaholic” myth – that important people work eighty hours a week and
have their calendars filled for the next five years
• Increased workloads in “leaner” workplaces
• Employers’ demands that employees always be available through cell phones,
beepers and voice mail
• The invasion of the office laptop into previously personal time.
What Companies Are Doing
Some organizations are beginning to realize that all of this isn’t good for their bottom line. Unbalanced lives create problems for business. Role overload and role spillover affect:
• Absenteeism and tardiness
• Recruitment, retention and training costs
• Employee morale, loyalty and job satisfaction
• Corporate reputation
Employees at some companies are able to take advantage of one or more programs such as these:
• On-site or off-site day child care
• Parental/health-related leave
• Employee assistance
• Elder care assistance
• Transfer and relocation
• Flexible schedules/alternative work schedules
• Compressed work week
• Job sharing
• Wellness and health education
• Emergency time-off pools
What You Can Do
Take some time (yes, just take it!) to step back from everything and look at the big picture. What is your life really about? When it’s all over and you look back, what do you want to be able to say about your life? Decide where family, work, education, money, health, faith and spirituality, friends, personal growth, etc. fit in.
Establish priorities that keep you connected with what’s most important in your life. Then, make choices that fit your priorities. It’s probably not realistic to make an “about face” in your life. But, one at a time, you can start making the choices that will get you where you want to be.
While you’re getting your life headed in the right direction, there are many little things that you can do along the way. Here are some of them:
• Check to see what family-friendly programs your company offers.
• Learn to say “No.”
• Create transition time between roles. Talk with friends and family about what
you need during transitions.
• Set whatever limits you can at work.
• Have fallback strategies for the events that tend to create crises in your life.
• Use technology (cell phones, beepers, voice mail, etc.) to save time and work
for you – instead of being victimized by it.
• Be aware of every choice. Remove the things that interfere with the important
• Delegate. Make a “don’t want to” list and delegate as many items on the list as
Life coach Cheryl Richardson says, “If you don’t pilot your own plane, someone else will. Don’t let others determine the quality of your life – take charge of that process yourself.”