A new year’s resolution: another look at Work-Life Balance….

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As another year draws to a close and a new year just around the corner, this is generally the time when everyone takes a deep breath and comes up with an impossibly unsustainable new years’ resolution…like going (back?) to the gym, eating out less, or spending more time with the family.  However, one resolution that tends to come up with most of my workaholic friends is striking the right “work-life balance”. 

I first heard of the phrase “work life balance” in the early part of my career as an accountant for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (it used to be the big 5).  The managers and senior managers were always talking about not having time for dinner with their families during the peak of audit season.  In fact, they had not seen their wives or husbands in daylight as they generally left for work before sunrise and when they came home, the whole house was already asleep.  They always said, “I have to get a job with more work life balance, man.”  

What exactly is “work-life balance”?  In a nutshell, it is the holy grail of the art of balancing work (i.e. career and ambition) with life (i.e. family, leisure, health).  This balancing act can be tricky and many of us have fallen into the trap of focusing on the work aspect….leading to the demise of the other.  Burnout and the compounding stress of a never ending workday in contrast with boredom and the compounding stress of always watching the purse strings are just some of the results of too much focus on either work or life.

In Nigel Marsh’s TEDtalk about work life balance, he brilliantly sums the paradox as “it is quite easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work; not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.”

So where does this leave us?  Work life balance is different for everyone but these are some of my thoughts and tips that may help in find YOUR balance:

1.  It was never about Balance

Consider the three words again:  Work, Life, Balance. 

It was just recently that I realized that perhaps I was looking at this phrase all wrong.  Isn’t “work” really just part of “life”?  Why would “work” garner 50% of this equation? In fact, in thinking about this more deeply, MY life would likely be broken down into these components:  work, my family and friends, and my SELF.   All of these contribute to my overall happiness—but certainly not 50% of work!!!

Work is just part of life, such as my family and my health and wellbeing would also be.  Put another way, work is really just a piece of the Pie of Life; we should not give it more (or less) importance as the other parts of our lives. Alas, sometimes, this realization comes too late when our health fails us or when we suffer our first anxiety attack, for example. As far as I know, no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

So perhaps, a change in perspective is warranted since it was never about balance to begin with….it is really about integration of the work in the overall scheme of things.

2.  Beware the Golden Handcuffs

Maybe it was just me but I found that even though I made a good living, it seemed as if it was never enough.  So, I went for promotions that paid me more money which meant more responsibility and more stress; other times, I would change jobs just for the fact that it paid more.  You would think that if I had more money, I could save more and be happier.  Quite the opposite.  Ironically, I found that the more money I made, the more expenses I seemed to have!  So, when finally I realized my happiness was inexplicably connected to my work life imbalance, it was so much more difficult to just throw in the towel and say, ENOUGH! 

Faced with choice—would you quit a job that makes you sick or would you just suck it up?

So beware the golden handcuffs…

3.  Establish boundaries

Employers try to attract talent or keep employees by giving incentives like flexible work environments including work from home, the perks of having the newest smartphones in the market, dress down Fridays, or even a daycare in the premises.  If you come to think about this though, these incentives just make your work day even longer!  I am sure that these employers have good intentions but it is critical that boundaries are set early on or else work will definitely take over all of your hours of the day. 

“But wouldn’t that limit my career?” you are probably asking.  Well, that would be up to you.  I think that you would likely come out to be a more productive and happier employee since you actually have time to BREATHE.  Have you ever worked with someone who always seems to be on edge since they have too much on their plate and everyone is tiptoeing and walking on eggshells around them for fear of being yelled at?  I worked for someone like that—I remember I used to take the longer route to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to walk by his office. Yah, not nice.

So, there you have it, a few thoughts to ponder as a new year is once again upon us.

Do you have any work-life balance tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow me by email so you never miss another blog… sign up below!!!

As always, thank you so much for following and reading my blog and may 2018 be a year filled with smiles, love, much happiness and prosperity.

This is my heartfelt wish from me to you. Happy New Year, everyone!

Debbie.

A New Year’s Resolution…?

My daughter and I went to a small community Christmas concert that showcased wind instruments. Actually, the Oakville Wind Orchestra is Canada’s oldest concert band (it was created in 1866 and it was sponsored by the Town of Oakville on 1881 and it continues to the present day!) so it was a big deal to have something with so much history in our own backyard.

It’s not like one of those big production kind of things either!  The tickets were $20 per person and $10 for students. So for a total price of $30, we got to enjoy concert band music on a nice wintry evening. The musicians were very talented and you would not have believed that the group of 45, ranging from 16 year olds to seniors, were students, teachers, lawyers, accountants, wives, husbands, etc!  My daughter and I were really quite enthralled once they started playing.

My daughter plays the flute so it was quite understandable that she gravitated toward the flute players and was particularly captivated with how the musicians’ fingers seemed to lightly fly over the little tiny holes in the instrument…

However, what really caught my attention was the percussionist who was playing the xylophone.  Actually, she had different types of xylophones. http://www.guitarcenter.com/Orff-Xylophones.gc. 

I thought, “Wow!  I didn’t think that a xylophone could sound that good!  The only xylophone I know are the ones with the rainbow coloured bars that always seemed to be the favourite of all toddlers! Definitely no rainbow colours here!”

This evening also made me rethink –perhaps learning an instrument in 2017 would be a worthy endeavour.  I’m thinking that it would be a good New Years resolution…

My choices were:

Piano? Nope, I used to take piano lessons when I was small…I have not-so-fond memories of my piano teacher’s stern look when she realizes I didn’t practice…

Violin? Maybe not a good idea since I have this fear that I might get a crick in the neck that I will never recover from…

Flute?  Nope–I already have a flute player in the family…

Guitar? My fingers are not that long…

Ukulele? Hey!  It’s small and compact and short fingers are a non-issue..and I recall I bought my daughter a ukulele when she was somehow inspired by Grace Vanderwaal (the 2016 America’s Got Talent winner)….haven’t seen it lately but I’m sure it’s around somewhere….so no additional financial outlay there!

But somehow, telling people that learning to play the ukulele as my New Year’s resolution seems rather unusual. Not that it should really matter what other people think….

…or maybe I should consider learning a language instead…? French? Spanish? Italian?

Here’s to your New Year’s resolution…whatever it may be!!

Debbie.

“Patience, Grasshopper…”

I think if I were a mindfulness teacher, that is the first thing I would teach.

Patience.

This was my homework for the year (aka my New Year’s resolution, you could say). Cultivate patience. I realized from the get go though that I am definitely not a patient  person.  Some memorable instances I noticed these past months:

  • Pressing the elevator buttons more than once, as if it will make the elevator come any faster
  • Getting antsy when my computer doesn’t boot up fast enough in the morning
  • I interrupt people mid-sentence. Ugh. I hate this particular one. So very rude of me.

These little tidbits made me realize that I definitely need to work on this virtue.

I honed on to the act of impatience that really resonated with me–interrupting people.  Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

So these past months, I resolved to not interrupt anyone. Let them finish their thought and respond at the right moment.

As part of this journey, I eventually noticed that my bad habit of interrupting generally revolved with either of these two thoughts:

  • “Why are you talking so slow?! Can you hurry it up?  Talk faster?  I’m so busy! I don’t have all day, you know.  Gosh.”  This is generally accompanied by creasing of my brows and my shoulders tensing up.

Or

  • I already have a preconceived idea and cannot wait to tell the person. It’s like “I HAVE TO TELL YOU NOW!  NOW!  NOW!!”

So, like a little grasshopper, I can’t seem to stand still. I’m jumping all around…jump, jump, jump!

I tried different ways of ceasing my fidgeting.  Taking deeper breaths (this didn’t work out well since it seemed to always come out as sighs), blinking a few times (this usually made the other person uncomfortable), or doing little unnoticeable movements (moving my toes, crossing, uncrossing my legs).  Then one day, I actually thought, ” What is your hurry, Debbie?  YOU are always in a hurry!”.

This made me pause.  “Yeah, WHY do I always feel so rushed, so much in a hurry?”  Hmmm, interesting.  I am not sure–definitely something to think about.

Anyway, after this eureka moment, I don’t interrupt anymore. Oh, ok. I may slip once or twice but recently, I have been a very patient person.  I realize too that it makes me feel better since the other person actually feels that I am listening….and I am.

So, patience little grasshopper…there is really no reason to hurry, is there?

Debbie.