Thursday, June 11, 2009

Avoiding Work-Life Conflicts: Keeping Your Work at Work

Share Priorities with Your Boss. I have found it helpful to talk with my boss about the things that are important. And for me, that includes family time. We talk regularly about projects I am involved with and the timelines involved. But he also knows that there will be times when I need to be with my family. Actually, keeping my family important and giving them time after work makes me a less distracted employee at work.

Schedule Family Time.
Put appointments on your Blackberry or your electronic calendar at work for family events and keep the appointments. Or consolidate all your family commitments with an online family calendar that can be synced with your work calendar.

Have Realistic Expectations. Millionaire publisher Steve Forbes often counsels his executives to "not be slaves to your inbasket. Just because there is something there doesn't mean you have to do it right now." Recognize that your job is likely never done, and never will be, no matter how many hours you work.

Create Rituals. One friend has a large tree in his front yard near the door. Each evening when he returns home from work, he touches the tree and figuratively transfers his work concerns and stresses onto a low tree branch before he enters the house. The next morning, he touches the tree again and picks them up as he leaves for work. That has worked for him for years keeping work "outside" his family's home. Find a ritual that works for you.

Cut or Use Commuting Time.
If you live far away from work, consider commuting by transit so you can transition from work to home with less stress. If possible, move closer to work and shrink your commute so you have more time at home.

Set Limits on Venting. If you have a tendency to come home and dump your work frustrations on your family, it's OK but don't let it go all night. Set a 15 minute limit on talking about work frustrations, and make sure you allow your spouse the same privilege. Then quit and focus on family.

Turn Off the Electronics. Unless you are in the midst of a crisis at work, turn off the cell phone and Blackberry when you get home. Or at least set them on silent and put them on a shelf until the kids are in bed. Even in the most demanding jobs, there are few things that can't wait until morning.

Schedule Work-Free Times. One friend I know sets Monday and Wednesday nights from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. as work free zones. No calls are taken, no text messages or emails are read during these times; he is a dad and husband during those hours. He lets people at work know, lets his friends know, and lets his voice mail take the calls. Others set aside Sunday all day as a work free time. Some families make sure they set aside one night each week for a family night Consider setting some hours that are sacred and committed to your family.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia