Wow – what an exhilarating experience! I just returned from the National Association for Professional Women conference in New York City where I spoke on the topic of work-life balance. Star Jones, former co-host of The View, hosted the conference. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, and Martha Stewart, Founder of Martha Stewart Living and Emmy Award-winning Television Show Host, were keynote speakers.
Balance appeared to be a key theme at the conference. Both Star and Arianna talked about the importance of taking care of self, and the high-powered women on the Power of Networking panel also discussed their challenges and successes with managing work and the rest of their lives.
For Arianna Huffington it took fainting from exhaustion on her desk, breaking her cheekbone and getting five stitches to make her slow down at work. Arianna shared her fainting incident with the audience. Five years ago, she was building the Huffington Post and had taken her daughter on a tour of colleges. Once her daughter went to sleep at night, Arianna would start working. When she came back from that trip exhausted, the fainting incident happened.
That was her wake-up call. Arianna told the audience she’s “rediscovered sleep”. “I’ve made a lot of changes in my life…I now strive to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night. You need time to recharge.”
Arianna encourages the same sort of stress-free living among her employees. She had two nap rooms installed at the Huffington Post offices, and “they’re full all the time,” she says. The company also offers weekly meditation and yoga classes for employees.
Star Jones had her own wake-up call when, at the age of 47, her doctor told her she needed open heart surgery immediately! Star had no idea her health was at risk. She just didn’t feel right. She became very tired, started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Fortunately, Star went to see a doctor, and an echocardiogram revealed she had heart disease.
Star now makes health a top priority and urged audience members to do the same. As a result of her experience, Star is now a National Volunteer of the American Heart Association and is dedicating her “entire life’s work” to raising awareness about the disease.
There’s a key message we can all learn from these speakers. It’s absolutely critical that we slow down and take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we may not have a second chance.
I’m excited to announce the release of my latest book!
Passport to Priorities:
Your Road Map to Balanced Living
Are you a working woman who feels overwhelmed by your responsibilities?
Professional women are working more and more hours resulting in less leisure time. When you add to this the responsibilities of managing a home, raising children, or caring for elderly parents, life can become overwhelming.
Passport to Priorities is for harried working women who want to regain control of their life. The principles presented will help bring more balance, peace and fulfillment into your life.
Learn how to:
- Assess the balance in your life
- Take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually
- Identify and focus on your most important priorities
- Set limits and say “no” to the unimportant
Reformed workaholic, Kathleen Barton, draws on her own experience to help working women live their life according to their purpose, values, and priorities. She shares the journeys of other working women like you who have struggled with balancing work and their personal lives. Through countless interviews, Barton reveals their stories, struggles and successes.
Passport to Priorities provides a clear and simple road map for achieving work-life balance. Barton reveals the three keys to balance that will bring peace, focus and fulfillment. Packed with strategies, tips and tools – including a self-assessment and action plan – this relevant and practical book will help you take action to regain control of your life!
“Passport to Priorities is an engaging read, but the main reason it really stands out is the fact that it’s real. Not only does it deal with specific and practical ways to get a handle on the balance dilemma; it does so in the context of the whole person.”
~ A. Roger Merrill, co-author First Things First, Life Matters and Talent Unleashed
There was a time when employees showed up for work, worked eight hours, and then went home. Not so today. The boundaries between work and home have become blurred. Here’s why:
- Longer hours. Employers often ask employees to work longer hours. Sometimes, overtime is mandatory. In order to move up the career ladder, many employees believe they need to put in more “face time” at the office. In fact, the average workweek today is 49.2 hours.
- Global economy. As more companies outsource or move jobs overseas to reduce labor costs, employees feel pressured to work longer hours and produce more to protect their jobs.
- International business. If you work in an international business, work continues around the world 24/7. Therefore, workers may be on call around the clock for trouble-shooting or consulting. Also, the work day is lengthened by early morning or evening meetings to accommodate people in different time zones.
- Advanced communication technology. With the advent of laptop computers, cell phones, and personal handheld devices, people now have the ability to work anywhere – at the office, at home, from their car, or even on vacation. Advanced technology has increased expectations with regard to response time, so now we’re constantly connected with the office. Some managers even expect it.
If you’ve experienced any of these challenges, you understand how easy it is for work to invade your personal life. If you’re not careful, work can overtake your life. In order to avoid that, you need to set boundaries around work in order to keep balanced. For tips on how to set boundaries on work, please see the article “Setting Boundaries at Work”.
Working overtime can become an obsession for some workers. It’s tempting to work overtime in order to make more money or to prove yourself, but be careful that you’re not sacrificing something more important. For hourly employees, it’s tempting to work overtime in order to earn extra money for your dream vacation or for your child’s college fund. Some people need to work to stay on top of family finances or to pay those extra, unplanned expenses, like major car repairs or medical bills. If you’re on salary, working overtime won’t provide extra cash, but it can help you keep up with your workload. Working long hours may also help you earn a promotion or a bonus.
Before accepting overtime, consider the pros and cons of working extra hours, and the impact on you and your family.
Fatigue – Your ability to think diminishes when you’re tired. Consequently, you are more likely to make mistakes, which lead to rework. This can hurt your productivity and can negatively impact your professional reputation.
Increased Expectations – If you work extra hours as a general rule, you may be given more responsibility! This could create a never-ending and increasing cycle of more work.
Family – You may miss out on important events, such as your son’s championship soccer game, your daughter’s recital, or your father’s 60th birthday party. Missing out on important milestones may hurt your relationships with your loved ones.
Friends – Good friends are an important part of your support network. If you’re spending more time at the office and less time with your friends, then you’ll find it difficult to nurture those friendships.
Sometimes working overtime is important. It’s a choice you can make to catch up on bills or to save for something important. If you work for a company that requires overtime, you won’t be able to avoid it, but you can manage it. If you work overtime for financial reasons or to gain a promotion, do so in moderation. Most importantly, say no when you’re too tired, when it’s affecting your health, or when you have important family obligations.
Balancing work and life is one of the hottest issues of our time. In fact, according to an Aon Consulting poll, 88% of employees say they have a hard time juggling work and life. Not surprisingly, increasing work demands are a primary factor. With recent downsizing, employees are taking on the jobs of two or three people. Here are some statistics related to work pressures.
- Nearly 50% of all US workers feel overwhelmed by a growing number of job tasks and longer working hour (Families & Work Institute study).
- The average work week is now 49.2 hours (according to USA Today).
- 63% of all employees want to work less (Families & Work Institute study).
This quote from one of my coaching clients, Karen, reveals the result of being overworked. “Working 50-60 hour work weeks doesn’t leave much time to take care of responsibilities at home, which increases the stress level on the weekends to get all the household chores done. This leaves little to no time to enjoy hobbies, family, outings, and such.”
When I ask participants in my workshops what are their biggest work-life challenges, I often hear a couple themes.
- There’s never enough time to do everything that needs to get done. When I ask who feels this way, nearly all the hands shoot up. As a result of feeling pressured to do everything, they feel stressed out.
- Over-committing or over-extending oneself. My workshop participants often have high expectations of themselves, and have a tendency to try to do too much. As a result of trying to meet the demands of others, they oftentimes put themselves last. This comment from a workshop participant, Maria, sums it up. “Between work and family, I put myself last. Some days I get so busy, I don’t even take time to eat!”
What about you? What are your biggest work-life challenges? Please share them with other readers.