Prior to 1969, an impossible thought was landing on the moon and mankind achieved that feat. So with the utmost respect achieving balance in your life in 2011 is absolutely possible. And the good news is that you don’t need to be a NASA rocket scientist, you just need to have a plan and remain disciplined.
Before you even start accepting the challenge of balancing your life and your work, you must want to. This sounds very basic and even quite ridiculous. But when we lay the Prochaska’s Behaviour Change Model next to many people who fail at creating balance it is because they are not ready to create the change. They think they ‘should’ or are in the contemplation stage. To create permanent change in our behavior, individuals must be in the ‘action’ stage.
Prochaska states, people progress through the behavior changes with education. Which means that the more you read and the more you learn the more you are ready to create change and you will be very successful at creating the balance.
Another challenge we all face every day is that we live in a world that seeks instant gratification and owing to the communication technology, instant responses. As a result, there is a degree of societal pressure to be always working or at least checking our Blackberry or i-phone.
How do you create balance?
Step 1 - what does balance look like for you? This is a very simple step to think about but the hardest to articulate and possibly then maintain. But there is little point saying you want to make changes to create balance, if you don’t know what balance would like to you. For example:
• Make sure I am home by 6pm every day;
• Work out for 45 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30am;
• I want to read 30 minutes every day;
• I want to spend Saturday afternoon with the kids.
Challenge yourself to now write a plan for a week for yourself and include all tasks and activities you want to complete in an average week. Colour code the plan with categories: work, family, others, and me. Hopefully, there will be an even number of colours. Remember, this is about what you WANT the week to look like in the future not what it IS currently.
Share your plan with people that care about you and you care about too: spouse, kids and maybe even your boss! These people will then help hold you accountable to what you planned and show you the support you need to stay in balance.
Step 2 – how quick? Notice how quick not how slow or by when?! Please realistically consider when you think this week you have designed could come to fulfillment. You need to be realistic as you probably won’t be able to go cold turkey on work-life chaos! So consider perhaps some steps you need to go through to achieve the Perfect Work Week.
Write these action steps down and pop some dates next them, so you can work towards them.
Step 3 – transfer your theoretical week into your diary. Now that you have an idea of what your week should look like for you, transfer all the details for the next 12 months into your diary – Outlook, Google Calendar or even your paper diary.
This step will show your commitment to your week. Make sure they are recurring appointments and consider them ‘locked’ in for the year.
Step 4 – Set some new rules and share them. For example start with some communication rules:
• No checking emails when I am home;
• If you email me after 5:30pm, you will not have a reply before 12pm the next day;
• “I will reply to all emails within 72 hours” is on the bottom of my emails;
• “Please leave your name and number and I will return your call within 2 days” is my voice message.
This sets the expectations for anyone that leaves me a message or emails me and it takes the pressure of me to reply instantly.
FYI – I have used the last 2 messages now for over 3 years and many of my regular clients know exactly when I will contact them. But I have never lost any business opportunities owing to these communication rules.
Step 5 – Commitment! You just can’t say you want balance. You have to be committed to achieving balance. So set small goals and even rewards when you stick to your plans. The rewards reinforce the behaviour you want, so they don’t have to be big just gentle reminders.
If you follow these 5 steps you are creating a vision for your balanced life and some public expectations to support your vision.
JT’s 30 Day Challenge: Don’t check any emails after you leave the office. Can you do it?
Justin Tamsett has been a small business owner since 1993 and contracted a stress induced illness owing to poor work life balance. He is a corporate speaker ensuring work-life balance with an innovative YENO Wellness Quotient. Check out his blog www.JustinTamsett.com or follow him on Twitter @JTActiveMgmt as he strives to lower health care costs!