The Key to Juggling Work and Family

published by the Nashville Business Journal

These days only weird weather calls for more conversation than the hot topic of work-life balance. People are grappling with the constant tension between work and family time. Most professionals can achieve a reasonable balance but it takes discipline, planning and commitment—lots of it. With a new year upon us, there’s no better time to start working toward more work-life balance. 

Analyze the past year. Go back through your calendar to list and count key personal events like vacation time, long weekends, holiday events, family birthdays, celebrations, etc. Then go back and do the same analysis of work-related events—big meetings, conventions, annual industry events, company celebrations, etc. Now you have good history. Work through each item and note how you might want to handle things differently next year. Then review your notes and thoughts with your spouse or others close to you. 

Build a plan. Get out next year’s calendar and start by plugging in work events that you are required to attend. Then inquire with higher-ups about other events that might be planned or in the works so you get as clear a picture as possible. Add in birthdays. Discuss family vacations with your loved ones. What can you afford and where would everyone like to go? Do the research, build your plan and mark your calendar well in advance. 

Share your plan. Spend quality time with your spouse and family talking about the plan and then adjust as it makes sense. If you have young children, set a reasonable goal of four family dinners a week and then keep track of your success. If you feel comfortable you can even share your plan with your boss, who then is more likely to be supportive throughout the year. Getting acknowledgement and “buy in” from those around will only help you achieve your plan.

Stick to your plan. Now comes the hard part—actually achieving your life-work balance goal. You might try holding yourself accountable by posting your plan where you can see it every day. You can also task family members or trusted co-workers with reminding you about keeping a balanced mix of time. If you have not been balanced in the past this will become a moderate to severe lifestyle change, which requires diligence and consistency. It’s up to you to stay with your plan and only deviate in the most important circumstances.

I have found this life-balancing format to be effective throughout my career while working for a variety of bosses—some who did not care and some who did. I hope this formula works as well for you as it did for me.  

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