Achieving the elusive work - life balance

Neal Whitten, PMP

President, The Neal Whitten Group, Inc.

If you have difficulty in juggling the demands of your job and your non-work life, you're not alone. Many people feel like their lives are overcommitted and see no relief in sight. Nowadays, work-life balance can seem like an unrealistic objective and can seem more elusive than ever.

I have personally wrestled with my own work-life balance issues for most of my adult life, but—as a senior-aged person—I have learned a massive amount of knowledge and, dare I say, wisdom, about the highly important subject of finding a satisfactory harmony across all aspects of life. I have also read the research and musings from many valuable contributors that have opened my eyes even wider on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. My mission here is to sift through the data and present to you meaningful information that can help you to not only better understand your work-life balance, but can also give you ideas that can help you to achieve the integration that is most important to you.

Introduction

I have personally wrestled with my own work-life balance issues for most of my adult life. In my younger adult days, I could easily have been categorized as a workaholic. I was divorced after a 17-year marriage and did not see the break-up coming. I'm not saying that a better work-life balance would have saved the marriage, but a poor work-life balance sure didn't help it any.

For me, the integration of my work life and my non-work life has been a rough ride at times, but—as a senior-aged person—I have learned a massive amount of knowledge and, dare I say, wisdom, about the highly important subject of finding a satisfactory harmony across all aspects of life. I have also read the research and musings from many valuable contributors that have opened my eyes even wider on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. My mission here is to sift through the data and present to you, meaningful information that can help you to not only better understand your work-life balance, but also give you ideas that can help you to achieve the integration that is most important to you.

This paper will cover:

  • Defining work-life balance and why it is so important
  • Taking a self-assessment quiz to provide you with insight into your own work-life balance
  • Identifying actions to take in achieving your desired work-life balance
  • Exercise templates

Why Work-Life Balance is Important

Work-life balance can mean something different to each of us. For the purposes of this paper, work-life balance is about achieving an acceptable harmony or integration between your work life—or career—and your personal life.

If you have difficulty in juggling the demands of your job and your non-work life, you're not alone. Many people feel like their lives are overcommitted and see no relief in sight. Nowadays, work-life balance can seem like an unrealistic objective. Technology allows workers to be accessible every hour of every day throughout the year. With cutbacks and layoffs being a near-constant threat, job loss fears can encourage people to work more hours each week. Work-life balance often seems more elusive than ever.

Studies show that a poor work-life balance can result in unhealthy levels of stress and unhappiness. At risk, are your personal relationships, your career, and your development as a person, to name a few. Moreover, too much time spent working has its own problems. You run the risk of burning out and hating your job, maybe even yourself. You wake up one day and realize you're not happy with your life.

What does matter is that you create a personally meaningful life that helps you feel happy and healthy overall. While balancing work and non-work life might not be easy early in one's career, figuring it out is necessary to achieving lifelong satisfaction. Almost everyone wishes that they had realized the importance of life balance at the beginning of their career. Doing so would have meant less regrets and a more deliberate life. But, whatever your age, you can still seize control and drive toward the balance you most desire.

Work-Life Balance Quiz

Let's take the Work-Life Balance Quiz. The purpose of this assessment instrument is to heighten your awareness of the behaviors that are affecting your work-life balance. The quiz will also provide a means to rate your collective behaviors and present a score that can give you insight into your effectiveness in achieving work-life balance. Go to Appendix A, follow the instructions, and take the quiz. Afterwards, return here.

Now that you have completed the quiz and have calculated your score, let's briefly review what this score means for you.

Your work-life balance score can fall within a very wide range of values from 0 to 5. There are three groups of scores:

The first group of scores is in the range of 4.0 to 5.0. This denotes “Good.” Your life is in good balance. Continue to consciously focus on maintaining that balance.

The next group represents scores in the range of 3.0 to 3.9. A score in this range signals “Borderline.” Your life balance is borderline. Now is the time to take action, before things have a chance to fester and get further out of control.

The last group represents scores in the range of 0 to 2.9. A score in this range is considered “Poor.” Your life is out of balance. You need to take significant and immediate action to move toward your desired balance. Delaying making the needed changes will only make things worse.

Whatever your score, the over-riding factor is you and how satisfied you are with your work-life balance. For example, a low score does not necessarily mean that your work-life balance is unsatisfactory to you. You could be that proverbial scientist working into the wee hours every night on the hunt for a cancer cure—and loving your life.

You also have a strong sense of whether the state of your current work-life balance is temporary or represents something longer term. Over your lifetime, you can expect the integration of your work and non-work life to fluctuate widely. There may be times when those work-life balance speedbumps may, in fact, be okay with you and in your best interest at the time of fluctuation. Or the opposite, when work-life balance changes are not welcomed and your wellbeing significantly suffers.

So, how reliable is your work-life balance score? Your score is not precise and obviously incorporates subjectivity since it is based on self-perception. There is no guarantee that the test nails the issues you could be experiencing, or that your overall score accurately reflects your true state of affairs with your work-life balance. However, the quiz can offer many benefits, such as the following four.

The first benefit is raising your awareness of the work-life balance issues that may be haunting you. Just taking the quiz puts the topic of work-life balance front and center and shows many actions that you take or don't take that can have an impact.

The second benefit from taking the quiz is encouraging you to be more proactive in dealing with any work-life balance issues you may have. The quiz infers behaviors that can be adopted to improve your work-life balance. In fact, you might even be excited to begin changing some of those behaviors so your overall life can benefit.

The third benefit is providing you a baseline score from which to measure your progress over the coming months and years if you choose to periodically retake the assessment. Even if the score cannot be judged to be 100 percent accurate for everyone taking the quiz, it does represent a numerical value whose change over time reflects the impact of your changing behaviors and actions.

And the last benefit to highlight from taking the quiz, is providing you a great tool that can be used for discussion with the people who mean the most to you. Although you are the principle player who must initiate any change, there are people in your life whose support and understanding can significantly help you in your journey to satisfactorily move your life to a more welcomed balance.

Actions You Can Take in Achieving Your Desired Work-Life Balance

Now, the big question to face is: “What can you do to achieve your desired balance between your work and personal lives?” I'm now going to reveal many different actions—or tips—that can help you to satisfactorily integrate balance into your life.

Create a Vision for What You Would Like Your Life to Look Like

Ask yourself what you would like your life to look like, both from a career perspective and a personal perspective, and how you see these two major components integrating. Then, define what you envision a typical, desirable day would look like, beginning from the time you wake up until you call it a day. That day could have interaction with family members, time for exercising, eating healthy, and, of course, time for work activities, personal chores, special events, and some downtime to compose and reenergize yourself. Use this vision as a baseline to ensure that you steadfastly adopt actions and behaviors that move you toward your vision. Then, define the priorities in your life that are important to support this vision—including those priorities that are non-negotiable except for emergencies. Examples could be special family events, sleep, and exercise. The bottom line is that in order to improve upon your work-life balance, it is essential that you have a vision of what you would like that integration to look like.

Appendix B presents a sample work-life balance vision.

Set Your Priorities Each Day

At the start of each work day, create a to-do list that includes the identification of your top three priorities to focus on for the day. If you have timeframes available of 30 minutes or more, do not work the bottom items of your to-do list, focus instead on the top three. Your top three items are so important that they define your overall value, contributions, and success in your job. Work off your top three priorities every 2–3 days and replace them with your next set of priorities. If your top three priorities may take weeks or months to resolve, then, within 2–3 days, put a detailed, trackable plan in place to deal with the priority. Then remove that top-three priority from your list and routinely track your new plan until it is complete.

If, occasionally, you experience a day that is so hectic with “fire fights” and “please handles” that you never get around to working on your top three priorities, that's okay; you work in a complex, demanding environment. However, if you frequently have days where you do not focus on your top three priorities, then you are the problem and need to seek help to effectively manage your workload.

If your personal life is as chaotic as your work life, consider creating the to-do list for non-work activities as well.

Track Your Time

For one week, keep track of where and with whom you spend your time during your waking hours, both at work and in your personal life. Record in increments as small as 5 minutes, say, for a phone call. The objective is to identify time well spent that supports your priorities and interests, as well as time that—looking over the big picture—was not considered to be put to good use. This exercise is invaluable as you look for ways to fine tune your behaviors throughout each day. Experience shows that you will likely experience some “ah-ha” moments as you look more objectively into your routine behaviors.

Limit Time-Wasting Activities and People

Limit time-wasting activities and people. This action will free you to spend more time on the important activities and people, and will likely provide you with additional time that you did not realize you had. Not only will your productivity benefit, the quality of your work and the satisfaction you get from your work will also likely increase. Many people spend too much time on things that don't really matter. Arguably, time is the most valuable commodity in life: it is the one thing you cannot buy more of; therefore, don't waste it.

The last tip we had discussed, “track your time,” can help here. Also, as your day unfolds, get in the habit of consciously questioning if the time you are about to spend or the time you just spent is, indeed, an effective use of your time. After a while, this can become second nature and you will more effectively choose the areas where you dedicate your time.

Learn to Say “No”

Ensure that your commitments mostly support your priorities. Your inability or unwillingness to say “no” can easily allow you to lose control over your day and those things that matter most to you. If you need to buy some time to think about your final decision of whether or not to say “no,” then do so—even sleeping on it. Use whatever methods will help you better control where you commit your time. If you do not seize control over the commitments you make, your time will be surrendered to others… and you will not like the impact to you. You have far more control over your day and how you spend it than you may realize.

Disconnect

The workday never seems to end, largely because of the growing prevalence of technology. There are times to just disconnect from your tether and enjoy the moment. For example, refrain from using your cell phone while in family mode. Robert Brooks, co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life, states, “by not reacting to the updates from work, you will develop a stronger habit of resilience. Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress” (Brooks & Goldstein, 2004). I would add to learn to leave work at work. When you arrive home from work, pause for a time to clear your mind of work issues before you open the door to your home. If you must conduct work at home, create a space reserved for this purpose and unless you are in the home work space, focus on non-work activities.

Manage Your Email

Many people allow their email to control a good portion of their day. When not properly managed, email, can harm your productivity and raise your level of stress. Reserve blocks of time to check and respond to email. Don't sneak a peek every time a message arrives. The rest of your world will function just fine when you break your codependency with email. Also, keep your emails short and your responses short. If you need to get verbose or there is excessive emotion at play, call or visit the person. Oh yeah, and don't be afraid to hit delete.

Managing your email is a great example of where you can seize control: you have all the power you need to manage your email…or you can consciously abdicate and allow your email to manage you.

Minimize Time in Meetings

Minimize time in meetings, especially unstructured meetings. Most people spend a large portion of their time in meetings. Obviously, some meetings are important for you to attend, but many may not be providing you a sufficient return on your invested time. For starters, consider only attending meetings if they satisfy one or both of these conditions:

  1. Information you need to perform your job will be disclosed, or
  2. You have information that someone else needs to perform their job.

If you have information that someone else needs, consider turning that information over to the dependent person before the meeting starts and don't attend the meeting. If you feel you must attend the meeting, then do so only for the time necessary to disclose the information—say five minutes. Work with the meeting leader to determine the specific time when you should attend.

For meetings that you must attend, consider having a buddy, who must also be in the meeting, cover for you and afterwards, inform you of what you need to know. And you reciprocate by covering for your buddy in a different meeting that you both must also attend.

Embrace “Good Enough”

Let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism is overrated. Providing it can cause your productivity to suffer and your overall value to your team or job to diminish. Instead, it is usually better to strive for excellence and the concept of “good enough.” In the business world, being a perfectionist can cause products to cost too much and their availability to take too long. As you increase the percentage of time you allocate to your personal life, perfectionism can become even more out of reach. That's good. Learn to let things go when they are “good enough.”

Focus on One Thing at a Time

Significantly reduce multitasking. Although a certain amount of multitasking is inevitable, we often make it far worse. Immerse yourself into one thing at a time. If possible, complete that task before going on to the next task. From my experience, here's how the multitasking process works. Say you have five tasks to perform and each task will require one full day to complete if you could dedicate your time fully to each task. But when you multitask across all five one-day tasks—working each task for an hour or so before having to move on to another task—your productivity nosedives. Consequently, what could have been done in five one-day slots, now may require 30 percent or more time to complete as you start and stop each task many times before it can be completed. You need extra time allotted when simultaneously working across multiple tasks—a cost that is easily and often overlooked. By the way, multitasking not only harms productivity, it can also cause quality to suffer as well.

Build “Me Time” Into Your Schedule Each Day

Don't forget to take time for yourself. While planning your week, reserve two hours per day of “me time.” The “me time” should include scheduling one thing you look forward to each day, including on your days off from work. Log the item on your calendar and don't view this time as an easy giveaway. Actions that might qualify are reading a book, checking in with a good friend, taking a walk, time to catch up on loose ends, enjoying a 15-minute power nap, or simply being alone. A little “down time” to recharge your batteries can go a long way, especially on days that are exceptionally hectic. Doing nothing can sometimes be what your health and life needs. This recharge time can make the difference between a dreadful day and a satisfying day. Also, consider doing something special for yourself at least one evening a week.

Maintain One Calendar

Integrate your work and personal calendars into one. This can help you maintain a fairer perspective over both areas of your life and more thoughtfully take into account your priorities in both camps. For most people, it's all about an integrated life, not just work or non-work.

Put Yourself First

Put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Look out for yourself. This advice goes against what many of us learned growing up. But think about it. By putting yourself first, only then can you be your best and give your best to others. An example is when you are on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop due to a potential emergency. You are directed to place the mask on yourself before helping someone in need next to you. You must make sure that you are in a position of strength before you can be your best for all that comes your way and all those who may have a dependency on you.

Another example of putting yourself first is protecting your private time. Don't be so quick to sacrifice your private time for other work and personal events. Your private time may be essential for catching your breath, recharging your energy, and reaching a level of understanding and acceptance with yourself and all that is going on around you. If you have serious work-life balance issues, not putting yourself first was likely a major cause of the dilemma you now find yourself embroiled in.

Let Them Judge

I like what Kris Carr, best-selling author of Crazy Sexy Diet and Crazy Sexy Kitchen, had to say about this topic: “You can't please everyone. When you are too focused on living up to other people's standards, you aren't spending enough time raising your own. Some people may whisper, complain and judge; but for the most part, it's all in your head. People care less about your actions than you think. Why? They have their own problems! However, when you do get the stink eye, it's because folks are jealous of the gutsy risks you take. They're too scared to look in the mirror and take action. Thicken your gorgeous skin, and move on (2015).

I would add that what other people think about you should never be more important than what you think about yourself; if it is, then you will be stopped in your tracks, immobilized. Don't give that power over you to someone else.

Get Adequate Sleep

You know the optimal sleep your body requires to function at its best. Protect your sleep needs. Insufficient sleep can significantly harm your productivity and overall effectiveness. It also can negatively affect your focus, mood, enthusiasm, anxiety, confidence, and overall well-being. If you routinely do not get adequate sleep, you are short-changing yourself from experiencing your true abilities in life. Life has enough challenges; you don't need to make matters far worse by facing those challenges when you are not running on all cylinders.

Meditate

Meditation is an effective method to reduce and control stress; especially when self-doubt and panic strikes. Starting your day with as little as 5-10 minutes of meditation can help you to begin your day in control of your thoughts and help ensure a deliberate focus for the day. I like the age-old story about Buddha who was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing. But let me tell you what I have lost: anxiety, anger, depression, insecurity, and fear of old age and death.”

Meditation can help you get in control and increase your likelihood of maintaining that control. If you haven't tried meditation and given it a chance to work for you, you are missing out on a proven technique that will serve you very well.

Exercise

Exercise is effective at reducing stress. As those people who regularly exercise can attest, exercise also helps lift your mood and makes you more alert. The data on exercise continues to grow about its great benefits on both mind and body. Google director, Mike Cassidy says, “With the exception of one or two days a year, I work out every single day. Fitting a workout into the work day reduces stress, keeps you healthy, and is great for getting “alone time” to work out business and personal problems. Work out at lunchtime and then eat at your desk.”

By the way, if formal exercise is not your thing, then find a means to exercise that does work for you such as walking or playing a sport.

Take Time for Loved Ones

At least once per week, find special time to spend with your partner, each of your children, and connect with an outside family member or close friend. The time you invest now in these relationships will not only give you pleasure, it will be an investment that will pay handsomely over the years. Senior-aged people commonly note that the most meaningful part of their lives is the time spent with loved ones and close friends. Studies show that people who have built a close social network are mentally and emotionally better able to deal with life's challenges.

At the End of Your Day, Assess How Well Your Day Went

At the end of your day, assess how well your day went. Pause and sit back to catch your breath. Then, identify the actions you took that supported your quest for work-life balance. Give yourself some kudos for taking these actions. Also, identify those actions that harmed your work-life balance. Imagine how your day could have been more productive and meaningful had you not engaged in the harmful actions. Ask yourself what you could or should have done differently so that you can change your behavior the next time a similar situation arises. See yourself incrementally growing stronger day to day, week to week.

Appendix C presents a template that you can use to help assess how well your day went.

Live in Your Present Moments, the Now

Many people integrate their past and their future into their present moments. Resist doing this. It diminishes your concentration and focus in your present moments. Let's look at an example. Say you are at work and you have the ability to concentrate 100 percent on the task before you, but you are feeling guilt about something in your past or worrying about something in your future. By allowing yourself to spend brain time in something other than concentrating on your present moments, you are not fully in the moment. Your reduced concentration in your present moments causes you to be far less effective at whatever you need to focus upon.

Your present moments are really all you have. The ultimate goal is to be fully present in whatever you are doing and you are not sharing your present moments by living partially in your past or living partially in your future. If you're constantly thinking about what you already did, or what you need to do later, you will never get to appreciate and fully experience the now.

By living in your present moments, you will find yourself more energized, focused, alive, and effective. And resist getting into the pattern of getting through one thing in order to get to the next thing. Doing so can cause you to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the perpetual treadmill. Live fully in the now.

Look at the Big Picture

Think about how much time and energy you spend on the things you do and the people you encounter. You have invested a lot of time and energy to create the life you have. Ask yourself whether or not you believe that you receive a satisfactory return on that investment. If the cost is excessive for the return, then consider changing your behaviors in that area. For example, if your excessive work habits allow you a grand lifestyle that includes expensive toys such as muscle cars, boats, and luxury vacations, would a more frugal lifestyle be more appropriate if it means working far less overtime hours and a big reduction in stress?

Closing

You are now armed to revisit your work-life balance and take charge in moving it to the point you most desire. But before we end, I want to share a few more thoughts on work-life balance.

You get to define what work-life balance means to you. Balance is an individual thing and everyone must find their own. It's not about what others think; it's about what you desire for you. You achieve work-life balance by first defining the balance you most desire. Then you examine your current life and decide if that balance is being achieved. If it's not, then, starting with the ideas presented in this course, you can put a plan in place that will deliberately move you into the desired direction. Then, periodically revisit your work-life balance situation and adjust your actions and behaviors where and when needed.

If you are thinking that you are powerless or near powerless to make the needed changes in your life, don't go there. If you are thinking that you are too important, too busy, or too committed to change now, again, don't go there. Although you may be at a point at work or in your life that you cannot introduce significant change—if that's what's needed—this is only a speed bump that will pass. You will find many opportunities to move on with the life you most desire. However, you might not like your immediate choices, but choices do exist and they are a starting point. You do not have to accept that you are a victim. You may want it all, but can you accept not having it all without putting yourself through a heavy dose of regret, guilt, and trauma?

The goal for most people is to create a personal life that has meaning and leaves us happy and healthy overall. Writer Eric Barker said in his article, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” that the happiest people are not the people who don't have a care in the world. Those people are bored. Research shows that the happiest people are busy—but don't feel rushed. Anxiety is reduced by a feeling of control. And what do studies say about work-life balance? The same thing—a feeling of control is key.

Your work-life balance is something that can easily be put off for another day, another week, another year—but you already know that. Now is the time to seize the control over your life and to make it the life you most desire. It's possible that this paper could be the catalyst to change the rest of your life.

It is my hope that this paper was helpful to you, either in exposing you to new and useful ideas or reinforcing ideas that you may already have in play. I am not looking for us to agree on all ideas, but I do believe it is healthy for us to put ideas forward for their examination and then for each of us to think for ourselves and arrive at our own conclusions.

Note

This paper was derived from an eLearning course called “Achieving the Elusive Work-Life Balance” available through PMI's eLearning products at http://learning.pmi.org/.

Appendix A. Questionnaire for Self-Assessing Your Work-Life Balance

The questionnaire has 45 questions. These questions have been designed to heighten your awareness of the behaviors that are affecting your work-life balance.

For each question, choose the closest response to your assessment. If you don't have an opinion or you feel you do not have sufficient data to draw an opinion, then select “No comment.” Do your very best to respond with a position that carries some measurement.

When you have completed the questionnaire, add all the numbers that represent your answers—there are 45 questions. Therefore, there are 45 numbers to add. Then divide by 45. The result will be a score in the range of 0-5. Then return to the section called “Work-Life Balance Quiz” to determine what the score means to you.

1.   Do you feel that you are wasting your time if you are not accomplishing something?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

2.   Do you feel that you never have a chance to catch your breath before you have to move on to the next project/crisis?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

3.   Do you take at least one consecutive full week of vacation each year?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

4.   Do you use all of your vacation days and personal days each year?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

5.   Do you frequently delegate work to others?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

6.   Do you work more than one hour per day while on vacation?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

7.   Do you look forward to starting your day each morning?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

8.   Do you feel boxed in; that is, you do what you do because others depend on you for support?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

9.   Is your work satisfying and rewarding?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

10. Do you feel burnt out, exhausted, and unable to give your all to any area of your life?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

11. Do you feel that you are reasonably in control over your work day?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

12. Are you impatient and short with your coworkers or your family?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

13. Do you dedicate time to having lunch each day (versus multitask while you eat or skip lunch)?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

14. Are you satisfied with where you are at this point in your journey of your business life?

5-Very; 4-Satisfied; 3-Somewhat; 2-Hardly; 1-Not satisfied; 0-No comment

15. Do you reserve at least 30 minutes of “me time” each day?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

16. Do you start your day tired?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

17. Do you feel you are missing out on the things that mean the most to you?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

18. Do thoughts of work interrupt a good night's rest?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

19. Do you bring work home with you?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

20. Do you reply to texts while in the company of others?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

21. Are you satisfied with where you are at this point in your journey of your personal life?

5-Very; 4-Satisfied; 3-Somewhat; 2-Hardly; 1-Not satisfied; 0-No comment

22. Do you have a hard time saying “no” to requests at work?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

23. Do you miss special family events?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

24. Do you feel you don't have time for yourself or for your family and friends?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

25. Do you prioritize your to-do list each day and, especially, focus on your highest priority items?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

26. Do you feel that your personal needs are secondary?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

27. Is clutter building in your office and at home?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

28. Do you feel you spend too much time reacting and too little time thinking?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

29. Do you feel stressed out most of the time?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

30. Do you feel guilty because you can't make time for things outside of work?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

31. Do you hire people in your personal life to handle some of your chores such as yard work and other home tasks?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

32. Do you squeeze every bit of productivity you can out of each day?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

33. Do you lose sight of who you are and what you're doing?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

34. Do you experience actions at least monthly that allow you to de-stress and rebuild your energy?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

35. Do you spend too much time doing things you don't want to do or spending time with people you don't want to?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

36. Do you feel overwhelmed and over committed?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

37. Do you find it hard to relax and just do nothing, even when you are away on holiday?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

38. Do you frequently feel anxious or upset because of what is happening at work?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

39. Are you satisfied with your work-life balance?

5-Very; 4-Satisfied; 3-Somewhat; 2-Hardly; 1-Not satisfied; 0-No comment

40. Do you take time off from work and do fun activities?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

41. Do you work more than you think is reasonable?

1-Always; 2-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 4-Seldom; 5-Never; 0-No comment

42. Do you read and finish at least one book for pleasure every 6 months?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

43. Do you find time to exercise, eat properly, and keep yourself healthy?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

44. Do you feel relaxed and comfortable when you are at home?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

45. Do you get adequate sleep most nights?

5-Always; 4-Almost always; 3-Sometimes; 2-Seldom; 1-Never; 0-No comment

Appendix B. Sample Work-Life Vision

Here is an example of what a work-life vision might look like. Of course, no two people will have the same vision. And there is no right or wrong vision and your vision will likely change over time. It's all about you and how you imagine and hope your life will unfold. You may even find it fun to create a vision and then discover if it bears any resemblance to your life now and where your life appears to be headed.

Please don't read anything into this sample vision. There are many different scenarios of life visions that I could have created. Readers of this paper will come from widely varied backgrounds in terms of age, relationships, family situation, work interests, spirituality, education, hobbies, passions, etc. It's important that your life vision fully represents your own personal desires. For example, you will notice that the sample vision I have created below integrates both work and non-work lives, not necessarily favoring one over the other. However, you are free to define your balance however you choose.

The sample vision is in the first person.

Here's the sample work-life vision.

I have a job that I enjoy and find myself motivated to get out of bed in the morning and get into the office. It's a job that pays at least US$80,000 a year at today's dollar value. This is enough money to live a comfortable standard of living, but still save for old age, emergencies, and occasional opportunities. The job requires an average of 45 hours per week, whereby many weeks, 40 hours are adequate, but occasionally a burst of overtime is required. I am able to work from home at least half of each week if I desire to do so.

My spouse works 20-30 hours per week from home, but for an outside business. I have two children and there is almost always a parent home during the day and evening. Two nights per week are dedicated to children's activities. One night a week is dedicated to something special for me and my spouse. At least another several hours is typically spent on a special hobby or interest, even if only to spend quiet time to catch my breath and reflect on my life and all that is going on around me.

I take all my vacation and personal days each year. This includes a least one full week of uninterrupted vacation and several long weekends.

The family has meals together most days of the week.

I am selective about the people I spend my time with each week and month. I choose to include people in my life that are positive and enjoyable to be around.

I do not have a problem saying “no” either at work or in my personal life. My private time is special to me and I do not easily give it up.

My job has a number of high-tech elements to it, but I am able to disconnect from email, texts, and other communications almost all of my non-work hours.

I have good work and time management habits. I embrace the concept of “good enough” (versus being a perfectionist) and mostly am able to focus on one thing at a time. I make sure that most days at work have some “me time” built in to catch up on loose ends and allow myself to slow down and think (versus stay in react mode).

I maintain one calendar that integrates my work and non-work lives. I see the harmony between both to be essential and focus predominately on living a full life that includes both elements.

I have learned that putting myself first was not a bad selfish thing, but a good thing. The more content and fulfilled I am, the more I can give to others in my life.

Although I would like others to respect and like me, I know that that is not always possible. I live my life treating others with respect and dignity, but do not require their approval to function.

I need about 7.5 hours of restful sleep a night to be at the top of my game. Therefore, my schedule supports this need most nights of the week. I start each morning with 10–15 minutes of mediation and occasionally mediate at work or in the evening if I feel the need to do so. I exercise for 45–60 minutes at least four days per week. Usually, I use my lunch period to work out and grab a bite afterwards and eat at my desk. Overall, my diet is nutritious and supports an active day, but occasionally I will leave the nutrition wagon behind and enjoy some less nutritious goodies.

Extended family and close friends are important to me. I ensure some contact several times a month, even if, sometimes, it's only for a short call.

I strive to simplify my life and resist clutter and baggage both at work and at home.

I will seek help if I truly need it and do not let pride keep me from making good judgments.

At the end of a day, I will often assess how well my day went. I remind myself of those actions that served me well and where I could use some improvement. I work at learning and growing, so that I can see continuous improvement in most areas of my life.

Occasionally, I will consult a mentor, someone who is a subject matter expect in some area where I am looking to improve. I am prepared to call on a qualified professional if I believe that doing so will help me through a tough situation. I have done that twice to date; once when my mother died and another time when I felt I was struggling to decide the direction to move my career.

I live in my present moments—the now—and give my full energy and attention to the task at hand. I do not live in the past or in the future. However, I am open about lessons from the past and I appropriately consider and plan for the future.

I have a hobby that allows me to mentally and emotionally escape and reenergize.

I have convinced my boss to allow me to take a one-month sabbatical from work each winter to work on something with potential for the business. This has given me immense satisfaction, enhanced my reputation, and makes me more appreciative for the opportunities that surround me.

Although I am disciplined in starting each day with a to-do list, especially identifying my top three priorities to work each day, I am also known for occasionally walking away from the to-do list to seize upon opportunities which can include having fun either at work or with my family.

I fully believe that I am in charge of my life and, for the most part, create my own destiny and opportunities. I don't blame others for any aspects of my life. I cannot always control what happens, but I can control my response to what happens.

Appendix C. Exercise Template: Assessing How Well Your Day Went

At the end of your day, assess how well your day went. Pause and sit back to catch your breath. Then, identify the actions you took that supported your quest for work-life balance. Write those actions in the space provided below. Give yourself some kudos for taking these actions.

Now, identify those actions that harmed your work-life balance. Also write those actions in the space provided below. Spend a moment reviewing each action. Ask yourself what you could have done differently so that you can change and improve your behavior the next time similar situations arise. Also, imagine how your day could have been more productive and satisfying had you not engaged in the harmful actions.

The objective of this template is to get comfortable recognizing good behaviors that support your work-life balance, as well as recognizing poor behaviors that harm your work-life balance. Over time, it is hoped that your raised awareness will serve you by helping you to make more beneficial choices when future challenges and opportunities arise.

In the beginning, consider assessing how well your day went several times a week. But once your awareness level has been raised, you could back off to once a week until you believe you have your work-life balance issues mostly under control.

Actions that supported my quest for work-life balance:

Actions that harmed my work-life balance:

Barker, E. (2015, June 18). Barking up the wrong tree. Observer/Opinion. Retrieved from http://observer.com/2015/06/how-to-achieve-work-life-balance-in-5-steps/

Brooks, R. & Goldstein, S. (2004). The power of resilience: Achieving balance, confidence and personal strength in your life. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Buchanan, L. (2010, March). 15 ways to be more efficient. Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/ss/15-ways-be-more-productive

Carr, K. (2015, June). How to do less and live more. Retrieved from blog at http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/how-to-work-less-and-live-more/

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2015, Neal Whitten, PMP
Originally published as a part of the 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA

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