Friday, April 1, 2016

Is Work Life Balance Achievable?

Important read for those just about to join the work-force. Congratulations graduates!

"Ngarag na ngarag na ako."

"I stayed up late coz I finished some work."

"Wiwi na lang ang pahinga."

Familiar? These are just some of the things I regularly hear from friends and I honestly try to emphatize (hehe). It does get annoying though when it's the same thing day in and day out because I believe that work is just work and you shouldn't let it eat you alive.

My Dad used to come home before sun set and I don't remember him coming home late from work (like never!). This meant that we all had to be home by sunset as well. It was really annoying for me when I was in college so I purposely came home just in time for dinner (7pm) [because I'm really stubborn].

What I learned though from my Dad was one should not work beyond work hours because beyond work hours is time for family and yourself. Looking back I rarely burned the midnight oil. I only stayed up late because I was reading a novel. I rarely did overtime much to the consternation of a previous boss who believed that one should be chained to your office desk. I just really believe that work should not be your life and that a company just pays you 8 hours per day to work. The other 16 should be spent doing your own stuff and sleeping.

"But there's so much to do at work."

Know your limits is the key to having good balance. It took me years to understand what "You don't have to do much to make an impact" meant. I used to work on a gazillion projects and I eventually realized that doing a lot didn't meant it was productive or impactful. It didn't mean either that my manager was happy about it. If it didn't sync with our targets, then it just didn't matter.

Find out what's important to your boss and make sure that's what you work on. At the beginning of each quarter I sit down with my boss to find out what is important to him. Oftentimes he just gives me general directions so that's when I figure out what to deliver by end of the quarter. I still work on other projects which are important to me, but what I highlight are the ones that hit the target directly.

Work on a process to hit your targets. I still get overwhelmed. I even hyperventilate at times when a goal is too moonshot. What works for me is when I break down the big hairy goal. When I know what exactly I need to deliver I then break it down to a process and then a schedule.

So is Work-Life Balance Achievable?

Of course it is! Discipline though is key in achieving this. I cut off work at 6pm and time after that is my time. I tried to attend late evening global meetings, but it was detrimental to my health (very bad for my heart) since it takes me several hours to cool down before sleeping. Weekends are sacred to me. I turned off email notifications on my phone and I made it a point to snooze my work hangout. I don't entertain work related messages on my FB so don't be offended if I respond to you by asking you to send me a message on my work email (I am not a millenial!).

Compartmentalize. I generally don't blur the lines between work and non-work. It's very hard though since I work with communities, but I think most people I work with get it and they respect that. I noticed that sometimes I lapse and I end up very stressed when this happens.

Have a get back to the happy path exercise. My doctor said that work stress cannot be avoided. It's there and will never go away. What helps is having a plan on how to manage stress. I recently hit the peak because I traveled for 2 straight weeks, then my big boss visited (that's always stressful!), then hubby arrived for a long visit. I didn't get enough rest so I ended up in a rut. To reboot myself I took a day off since my whole body hurt and I couldn't get out of bed. I slept and then when I was up I tapped on my creative side and quilted. It quickly got me out of the hole I was in.

And two important things to do to have balance: (1) Avoid negative people; and (2) Pray (having a rosary app on your phone helps!).

Achieving balance is a mindset. You have to choose to do it.