Balancing the demands of home life and work life is really hard. In fact, it's so hard that simply saying “it's really hard” is probably the mother of all understatements. Being an effective parent to your young children, taking care of yourself, keeping a marriage strong and still working full time is an almost Herculean accomplishment. Although it used to be mostly women who struggled to have it all and do it all, these days, men have begun to take a more active role in caring for their families and have quickly learned how tough it can be.
On top of the conflicting demands of home, family and work, we are constantly hearing about how prominent executives are finding new ways to approach the balancing act. Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook's COO was recently commended for saying that she makes a point of leaving work at 5:30 p.m. everyday, no matter what. Yahoo!'s new CEO, Marissa Mayer has made waves by taking only four weeks of maternity leave and then having a nursery built in her office so that she can bring her baby to work. These high-powered women make it seem so easy to find new and creative ways meet all of their demands. But, it isn't that these women have figured out new ways to do everything, they have just worked their way up the ladder and now they are able to demand flexibility and make their own rules.
Back in the real world, however, most of us don't have the option to put a travel crib in our cubicles or to strap a baby carrier on our back as we work. To make things worse, it's almost normal for a company to expect one employee to do the work of two or three. Our work weeks are getting longer while our paychecks are getting smaller.
For those of us who can't create our own solutions, according to Fast Company, there are still ways to achieve a better work-life balance:
- "Analyze Your Time" – For the first couple of weeks, it's a good idea to keep a record of how you spend your time. This means keeping track of every minute of your day. Although it's a little more work at first, it will give you a clear picture of how much time it takes to do each task. Often, we overestimate or underestimate how long certain tasks take, making it harder to create a schedule that really works. There are several apps and programs designed to help make this process easier.
- "Schedule--and Stick to--Short Breaks" – Plan for small breaks within your daily schedule. This is especially helpful when you're working from home. There are always going to be other things demanding your attention, so plan ahead and deal with them during one of your scheduled break times. If you aren't able to work from home, set aside time to devote to your family, and force yourself to stick to it. For example, you can have three hours planned for dinner and time with your children each night. Even if you've brought a couple of hours of work home, keep these planned break times sacred.
- "Make Small Changes" – Many companies are becoming aware of the challenges employees face when it comes to balancing the demands of home and work. They are more receptive to the idea of working from home one day a week or offering more flexible schedules. These small changes can make a huge difference. If you aren't able to make any adjustments to your work hours, look for other ways that you can make little changes that will give you more time to do it all.
Finding a good balance between your needs, your family's needs and your career is tough. Instead of burning out, or always feeling overwhelmed, it's better to plan ahead and create a schedule you and your family can live with.
What do you do to make time for everything? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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