Estimated reading time: 3 mins
So we have a lot to do. And so we do it in our OWN TIME, for the sake of a critical project, a happy boss, or to avoid being top of the list when the next round of cuts emerges. But ask yourself this; is it sustainable? Is it fair? Is it RIGHT? Maybe it’s time to restore our work-life balance?
We all have the choice to work more hours than we’re paid. We can exercise that right, and expect a return on our time ‘invested’. Sometimes, though, we become a slave to work – with no measurable benefit. This is time WE lose, and our EMPLOYERS gain. And it’s time that we don’t get back. It’s hardly a fair transaction!
And you know what? Most ‘free’ time given to our employers is willfully done. Yes – WE make the decision to give it, rather than our employers decide to take it. We feel the pressure, we take the action to work late. There is rarely, if ever, the direct request from our employer to carry on grafting. So what do we do, if WE’RE the ones who decide to tip the work-life balance against us?
We have to DECIDE to restore it. Everything depends on us actually making the decision to make the change…
I found a great quote from Ricardo Semler, who puts the problem many of us face into perspective.
“Every one of us can send emails on Sunday night, but how many of us know how to go to the movies on Monday afternoon? If you don’t know how to go to the movies from 2 to 4, you’re in trouble because you’ve just taken on something that unbalances life, but you haven’t rebalanced it with something else.” – Ricardo Semler.
Great point, huh?
So to rein our lost time back in and restore our work-life balance, we gotta take action. It starts with the most important of all…
- ACTUALLY decide to restore your work-life balance. No maybes. No ‘trys’. Decide to make it happen. Hold yourself accountable, from this point, that your life will be more in your own favor by a certain date. Don’t underestimate the power of your DECISION. Your decision isn’t an idea, or a whim, it is something you will DO. Once that is tangible, then it becomes real for you.
- Be clear on your boundaries. Form a clear picture of what you will accept, and won’t accept when it comes to working above and beyond your paid duty. Make this as measurable and simple as possible. You’re not saying that extra work is impossible in the future, but that it will be considered when it meets certain conditions. E.g. Tuesday only.
- Stick to your boundaries, but change if need be. It’s no good having boundaries if you drop them in an instant. Stick to them. Test them out. Learn from situations where you have turned away extra work, or not. Give yourself an opportunity to understand how you have coped with your decision. BUT don’t be closed-minded. You may choose to make exceptions, but it’s YOUR CHOICE.
- Communicate your boundaries. Especially to your boss and colleagues. When they know where you (and they) stand the whole business will be easier. Be as clear as you can in your conversation – don’t water it down with ifs, buts and maybes. There are two reasons why this is particularly effective:
1) other people will be much clearer about their own expectations of your working extra. Requests become objective, and straightforward, rather than by insinuation and hints;
2) your own ‘guilt complex’ about not working is reduced (if not eradicated) – and it is this that will give you the freedom and fortitude to turn away extra work without emotional pressure.
- When you’re not working, then don’t work. This includes switching off your cellphone or Blackberry. If something about work is on your mind, then write it down, and forget it. It’s real important to not leave work issues swimming about your head, as work is then still stealing your own time. This discipline may take time to embed, but persevere and you’ll overcome it. This was a very tough thing for me to do, but I eventually learned how to cope with being detached from my blackberry and emails.