Starting your career can create problems with your work-life balance. Here, we look at how you can stay on track and be successful.
Sometimes I wonder how much faster my career would go if I didn’t have all the chores around the house. This is the dilemma of the work-life balance.
If I didn’t need to plan meals, schedule in the cleanups, do laundry, dishes, water the plants, and stay amiable all at the same time. If you feel like it’s time you re-evaluated your time priorities and put more focus on your career, read on.
A couple of months ago I completed an online course with the title Women in leadership – outsmart the work-life balance by Cornell university’s online education department.
And although the course was specifically designed to provide advice and practical tools for women, I believe the main takeaways are universal.
Basically, the course structured some deep thoughts and practical tools on how to build your career and have a life, too.
In this article, I organised some core ideas into three steps which talk about creating opportunities, building a team, and managing your emotions.
Step One: Create Opportunities For Yourself
Sometimes we let our insecurities get in the way of our success. We may overthink, depreciate our achievements, or think that we are not ready/not good enough/not experienced enough.
In a world where everyone is focusing on themselves, being shy may not be the best strategy. So if you want to get your foot in the door, sometimes you need to be a bit rebellious.
Are You A Rule Follower?
In her TED talk, Sheryl Sanberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, talks about an audience of young people she once presented in front of.
During the Q&A session, many students wanted to ask her questions, so, naturally, there were a lot of hands in the air.
When the time allocated for the Q&A session was up, many hands disappeared. All the ladies played by the rules and put their hands down. But not the guys.
They kept their hands up and the speaker allowed for some more questions.
The moral: Don’t always play by the rules. Persevere and keep going. Sometimes it’s ok to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
Maintain Weak Ties
You’ve probably been in a situation when someone texts you out of blue with a favour to ask. If that happens to me, my initial thoughts are something along the lines of “So you’re only texting me when you need my help? Wow.”
From situations like that I made it a personal policy to maintain weak-tie friendships with previous co-workers and acquaintances. This makes it simpler for both of us to ask for help if needed without it feeling out of place.
So if you want to nurture your weak-tie friendships, some of these tips may come in handy:
- Comment your friends’ posts on social media.
- Send a short ‘this reminded me of you’ text or a meme.
- Send them a link to one of the Youth Time opportunities or articles.
- Ask for a quick professional opinion or personal advice that takes a couple of minutes to respond to.
- Write an email with the latest professional/personal updates in your life.
- Invite them for a virtual happy hour.
Whatever you choose, don’t force yourself to give more than you’re comfortable with. Communication is about exchanging the good vibes, information, and emotions, and it should be balanced.
Step Two: Create A Support System Around You
A couple of years ago, I was trying to do everything on my own. If someone offered help, I would gracefully reject it and continue carrying a load myself.
After several workshops on how to ask for help and better communicate with people, I finally got it. The act of asking for help/offering help makes both people happy.
With this in mind, let’s now talk about learning how we can accept help from others.
Make Your Partner A Real Partner
From a closer look, it seems ridiculous that it is expected of women to both work full time and take care of all the household chores. I personally realised that I was stretching myself too thin when I came up with an additional schedule for chores throughout the week on top of my work schedule.
That’s when I knew something had to change.
In order not to let the chores get in the way of our relationship, my partner and I agreed on some ground rules:
- We divide the tasks based on preference (I do the dishes and laundry; my partner does the vacuuming and takes the trash out).
- If you see something you don’t like, you fix it.
- If the other person forgot to do their share, simply remind them of that.
The initiative to start this conversation should come from us. And for the most part people are either willing to help or find a solution to the problem by delegating it.
Ask Yourself These Questions
To do a quick check of areas of responsibility, here are a few questions that will start you off.
- What are your roles/responsibilities? If you have a pressing project with deadlines and need more time, who can you delegate some of the tasks to?
- Who’s on your team? Your allies could be your partner, your extended family, close friends, neighbours, and hired help.
- If your personal resources are stretched too thin, what tasks can you delegate? It may be that you need to accept help and support from others.
Check Out A Few Flexible Arrangements
Depending on the industry you’re working in, flexible work arrangements (FWA) may help you improve your productivity and schedule your day in a way that allows for a reasonable work-life balance.
FWA may vary depending on time, location/connectivity, amount of work, and continuity.
However, you need to be aware of potential downsides of FWA. Some of the pitfalls of flexible working hours include the following:
- Negative impact on social interactions within the team
- Job creep, i.e. taking up more tasks that are within your scope
- FWA may potentially slow down the trajectory of your career
To see if FWA will work for you, you may opt for a trial period. During this period, make sure to analyse your productivity, communication with your boss and colleagues, and whether this mode fits you.
The desire to keep everything under control can put additional expectations on you and, as a result, make you feel pressured to constantly perform at your best. Let’s talk about the emotional side of trying to juggle all the tasks.
Step Three: Re-evaluate Your Priorities
Sometimes we get caught up in all our to-do lists, commitments, and events we said yes to. But have you noticed that sometimes you’d be busy all day ticking tasks off your to-do list without feeling like you’re moving forward on your goals?
If that’s the case, you could prioritise your tasks based on the four categories of the MOSCOW Method:
M – must have
S – should have
C – could have
W – won’t have
More often than not, we get bogged down by the little tasks that would be nice to complete. But they are not essential. With some practice, I’ve learnt to let go of those ‘could have’ tasks that won’t bring the most results.
In our constant race to have it all, we sometimes forget to check in with ourselves. Remember to ask yourself, “Is this something I want? Or is this someone else’s goal I’m trying to achieve?”
Juggling the work, life, personal commitments, and everything in between is a constant decision-making process.
Sometimes you will have a perfect balance. Other times you will focus all your attention on your business, letting your team take care of the rest. But remember this:
Productivity is not the hours spent.
Perfect is the enemy of done.
Beware of unrealistic expectations in your head.
If you’re saying yes to something, is it an enthusiastic yes? Or are you saying it out of obligation?
Remember to take care of your body and soul, too. One of the most important parts of work-life balance.
To get the work-life balance right, sleep is just as important. Here is how to get that right too:
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