This may come to a shock to many people, but your co-workers have lives OUTSIDE OF WORK. I know this may be startling information, so I’ll let you have a moment to take that in. Sometimes it’s really weird to think that your cubicle mate is someone more than an HR coordinator, a payroll specialist or an administrative director. But they are. We all have roles that exceed beyond the 8 hour work day. In some instances, these outside roles are often more important to us than our work roles.
Increasingly, there has been a shift between work and life roles, changing from a balance of the two to an integration. Try as we might to avoid, work is brought to life and life is brought to work. No longer is it the era of compartmentalization, our work environment must be as fluid and dynamic as our workforce.
But how can you create a perfect merger between work and life? Is there a way to really integrate the two? Luckily, there is- and with a little bit of practice the following skills will become second nature to you.
1. Say "No" to some so you can say "Yes" to others. Government employees are a bunch of go-getters, take on more-ers, and do so with less timers. All of this is grand, but it can lead to burnout and exhaustion which, in the end, doesn’t produce your best work. By attempting to do everything, you can’t do anything as well as you should. Learn the value of saying “No” and have the word in your arsenal. My favorite technique to employ is “The Pause.” If you’re unsure if you should say yes or no to something, take a break. This can be a pause in a sentence or even a hesitation to reply back to that email/voicemail. Often times the other end doesn’t notice the hesitation, turning the priority into a response you can give at your own pace.
2. Slow Down! We all are guilty of doing too much too soon too fast. When we do this, we are compromising our time and trying to fulfill expectations while running at full stride. We have no time to learn from our actions (or inaction) to pause, reflect and determine if our response was indeed the right one. A reflection gives us a chance to catch our breath, consider other options, and learn. When we don’t take time to reflect, we make reactive responses and decisions, not informed ones.
3. Set Boundaries. Increasingly our boundaries are getting stretched further and further. What once was considered rude is now considered the norm. The best example I have is cell phones - before we never had them around, now employees bring them everywhere. Technology can help us save time, but it is also one of the biggest culprits when managing the work/life merger. Take simple actions to combat this problem. One of my favorites at home is the “No tech at the table” rule. Another one I’ve heard recently is to turn off your email notifications and only responding to emails at designated times. Whatever these boundaries look like to you, make them a priority.
4. Take time for those significant in your life. Relationships are important, and not only the ones you have created on Facebook or Twitter. The real life interactions are actually just as important, if not more so. When you are running a hundred miles a minute, there’s a great need to have strong relationships in your life to fall back on to gain support when needed.
5. Take time for YOU. We hear this all the time, but if you don’t make yourself a priority, who will? You can’t continue to operate on all cylinders if you are always running on empty. Adapting a sentence I learned from Michelle Seger’s book “No Sweat,” what energizes you energizes others. Filling up your personal tank on a regular basis is as important as eating, drinking or laughing. Whatever brings that balance back into your life, make sure you take the necessary time for it.
Work life integration may look a bit different for everyone, but these simple guidelines can help you gain a basis of where your integration point needs to be.