Work-Life Balance: There is More to the Decision

Four Strategies for Success in Gaining Back Time

I read articles, Facebook and LinkedIn posts, and hear conversations about work-life balance. In most instances, the conversation revolves around the employer. The employer was either “great” for giving time off or “completely uncaring” for denying time. It is as if this is a clear-cut, right or wrong discussion, centered around a particular point in time. However, I believe there is simply much more to it than that. You must first determine if you’re in the correct job AND if you are working for the correct company. If you can relate to this dichotomy, I would suggest asking yourself these questions:

  • Do your job functions bring you joy and fulfillment?
  • What schedule did you commit to when you were hired or promoted into your position?
  • What schedule did you commit to with your boss for an ongoing basis?
  • Does this schedule work well for your personal life?
  • What does your need for time do to the rest of the team around you?
  • Are you concentrating on building your career, or is your career there to enable your personal life?
  • Have there been changes in the business or industry that has forced changes in the organization?

There are occasions where an employer is simply unaware, uncaring, or downright selfish. In those instances, the real question may need to be “Am I working for the right company,” not “How do I get work-life balance?”

Once you figure out that you are in the correct job with the correct company, THEN you can figure out how to make it all work together. At this point, much of the work-life balance is truly in YOUR hands. Is the amount of time that you have for your personal life acceptable? If not, what are the root causes? I tend to put them into these four main categories: career growth, delegation, support network and infrastructure & tools. 

  1. Career Growth – There are times in my career when I try to gain experience and increase my network. During these times, I take on any project I can, I volunteer to help as many people as I’m able to, and I spread myself and my talents about as thin as they will go. These are typically shorter-term periods that are helping me reach a goal, but they are still taxing. In these periods, I calm myself and press on by focusing on the goal and the finish line. Keeping in mind why I am doing what I am doing and how far I must go before I can take a break. Keeping my eye on the prize helps to lift my spirits and light the fire if it has started to smolder a little.
  2. Delegation – OOOHHH this is a big one. It is a hairy beast with fangs and scary eyes. Our ego tends to feed into this issue and blinds us to our own insecurities and need for purpose. We don’t always see that we’re causing our own pain. If I put on my Mom hat, I can tell you I do this with my kids. I walk to the sink, grab the dishes, and tell myself about all of the other things I should be doing rather than loading their dirty dishes into the dishwasher. If I were really wanting to get that time back, I could. I only have to leave the dishes where they are and take action by holding the proper person responsible for completing this task. Why do I continue to clean up the dishes? Does doing them make me feel like my kids need me? Fill some sense of purpose or the need to be Super Mom? I have been putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher for years, complaining the entire time and not doing anything different to get a different result. Guess what, in that scenario it will never change. The same can be applied to work. If you don’t have time for yourself because you are always doing everything on your own or going behind others and cleaning up their tasks for them, then it is YOU that needs to make the change. This has nothing to do with management or your employer, you must learn to either delegate tasks properly or communicate needed changes in behavior to the people responsible. Management 301 (I say 301 because it is not a 101 class of action), these steps take time, effort, experience and fortitude. Things that we typically learn as we grow in our career.  
  3. Support Network – Dream Team, do you have one? Who is there for you to pass the ball to? Have you surrounded yourself with competent people that are all working as a team, or are you part of the dysfunction that grows from someone that hires people that will not be a threat? If you are the coach or a player on the team, the team must be there. If not, you end up with an over-worked all-star that carries everyone on their back. At some point, the load will get too heavy and something will break. If you are the coach, then step back and look at your team. Make sure you have the right talent in the right positions. If you are a player on the team, then talk to your manager. Figure out if changes can be made to get you some help, or if you need to join a new team to get the relief you need. 
  4. Infrastructure & Tools – The last bucket in my sort pile. What is taking your time that could be done in half of the time if you just had a different tool or infrastructure to process tasks? Now, I know change is not easy, and initially the task may take three times as long to do because you don’t know how to use the new tool, system or infrastructure. However, over time this will change. You’ll get comfortable with the new and begin loving your newfound time with all of the efficiency gained. 

If there’s one over-arching theme I can leave you with, it’s that you have more control over your work-life balance than you may be letting yourself believe. Take ownership of the responsibility, identify the tasks that are consuming your time, and address them. Then, voila! You can gain back some of that well-deserved, precious time.

You have more control over your work-life balance than you may be letting yourself believe.

– Tammy Baker, Vice President of Client Experience at Parker Technology

If you’d like to learn more about how we manage work-life balance here at Parker Technology, and the core values that guide our company, please visit our about page. Or, if you’re interested in joining our team of All-Stars, please visit our careers page.