Work-life balance is the theme of this blog by Change Management Consultant and ADA Mentor, Auriel Majumdar.
Recently I’ve taken the bold step of taking all my social media apps off my smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the conversations that I have on Facebook and Instagram (twitter not so much, that’s another story) but lately the wave of notifications has felt like the final straw in my busy life. As I have been talking to the ADA Fellows that I mentor, this theme has come up time and time again – people are telling me stories about how much work there is to do and how little time there is to do it. It seems that I’m not alone in fighting a constant battle against ‘all the stuff’. I like being busy but what I’m noticing is that there’s a tipping point where busy-ness turns into overwhelm and at that point we stop performing at out best and our satisfaction with what we do diminishes.
What’s the answer? Practical steps like removing apps and turning off notifications can certainly help. So can a ruthless approach to setting priorities – only focusing on those things that are urgent or important and not ‘sweating the small stuff’. But this can only take us so far. Often priorities are set for us by the organisations we work for and our control over these is limited. Or maybe we have competing demands that are all equally important and urgent and impossible to choose between.
What really helps me is something more profound than prioritisation and something that I can actually control. For years I had a fundamental assumption, born from childhood experiences that I had to please people, had to always say yes, never disappoint. My boundaries were almost non-existent and so my energy was frittered away on making sure that I met everything that was asked of me. I managed like this for years before I realised that I was exhausting myself and decided that the impact on my quality of life was just too much. It took some serious work with my coach to realise that its ok to think about what I want before saying yes to things. In fact, not just ok but essential. I was not raised to put my own needs first but learning this skill has been a revelation. Having good boundaries means that I can think about my needs and interests and my current energy levels and then say yes or no to work requests accordingly. It means I don’t accept invitations and then duck out at the last minute because I’m too tired. It means that I think of myself as a precious resource that I need to take good care of. It doesn’t magically reduce the amount of work there is to do but I do feel more in control and can stop and think before adding to my To Do list.
So, if you’re noticing that you can’t keep up with everything that’s being thrown your way take a step back and think for a moment. Are all of these things yours to do? Can you delegate? Are you doing some things out of guilt or obligation? What do YOU actually want? Hopefully this will help you develop clearer boundaries and realise that actually “No, that doesn’t work for me right now” is sometimes the perfect answer.