10 Tips for Balancing Work & Life

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As today’s workforce deals with an ongoing struggle to find the right work/life balance. Crowe Chizek and Company LLC is attempting to address this issue through one element of its Women Into Leadership (WIL) program. At a recent event, Crowe personnel discussed what tactics work in their lives. From this, Crowe has compiled the following 10 tips to help other people find their appropriate work/life balance.

1. Use technology to help balance work/life, but don’t let it consume you
Cell phones and Blackberries can be your work/life friends in staying connected to the office from home when necessary, like when weather emergencies close children’s schools or when you need to catch up on some work after the kids go to bed. However, technology can force work/life integration out of balance as well. Crowe Chizek thought leader Greg Stump says he takes his Blackberry and cell phone with him wherever he goes, but when he’s with his kids he always asks if it’s an emergency. If not, he lets the caller know he’ll call him or her back. Greg advises, “always use those tools wisely or they’ll consume you.”

2. Build a support network
Support networks include parents, neighbors, coworkers and friends who you can call if you have an unexpected work event and cannot pick up the kids. Crowe Chizek thought leader Mindy Herman says, “They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think that’s true, especially for working parents.”

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“It starts by proactively helping others first, then when you find yourself in another city when a child needs to be picked up, it’s easier to call the neighbor to help you,” said Herman. Once that support network is in place, make sure to use it and to help others in the network when possible. No one should be expected to do it all.

4. Plan ahead
Professionals plan ahead when it comes to clients or colleagues, but to have a health work/life balance professionals must also plan ahead when it comes to their family. Crowe Chizek thought leader Diana Devlin says she plots time on her calendar for activities with her children up to a year in advance. “That way if other things come up, and they always seem to, you already have time committed for the things that really, really matter,” Devlin said.

5. Don’t expect perfection
Crowe Chizek thought leader Marilee Hopkins says, “It’s important to realize that nobody’s life is perfect, even if it looks that way from the outside. You do the best you can. No one expects perfection from you, so don’t expect it from yourself.” Lose the guilt. Devlin says, “You can have it all, you can be a working person and a wife and a mother, but you might not get 100 percent of it all. You may not have a spotless house. Part of that is accepting my spouse’s definition of ‘clean.’ Be willing to accept a different definition of it all.”

6. Focus on where you are and what you are doing, whether that’s at home or work
Herman says she went through a time that when she was at home she would think about work and when she was at work she would think about what she should have been doing for her kids. “I finally realized how ineffective I was at both when I had a lack of focus. I also found that I have to carve out time, even if it’s just a half-hour, to free up my mind and gain a broader perspective,” said Hopkins.

7. Work with your coaches and colleagues to design a system that works for all
It is important to design a schedule that works best for you and your family. Stump’s wife is a teacher who needs to be at school by 7 a.m., which means he is responsible for getting their children ready for school in the morning. “I typically don’t get to the office until 8:30 or 9 a.m. to accommodate our situation. I work later in the evening or do some work on weekends, and I rely a lot on my work team. We plan ahead and I have a lot of trust in them,” said Stump.

8. Set expectations with your family
Devlin and her family share their expectations. “I won’t work on the weekends. That’s a deal I made with my family. I will sometimes work during the week after my kids go to bed to protect my weekends,” said Devlin. “Also, twice a year, we try to go away for a week where there are no cell phones or Internet to really disconnect from the office and focus completely on my family.” Professionals should also acknowledge the sacrifices their family members make to allow them to succeed and should thank them often.

9. Take advantage of your options
If your employer offers job-sharing, flex hours, a compressed work week or telecommuting, take advantage of these options. The flexibility of opportunities like this may provide busy professionals with more free time and take away some stress.

10. Remember what is truly important
Hopkins said, “If I had to do it over, I’d worry less about how clean my house was.” She said a school principal shared with her some research that indicated high performing children had one thing in common. It wasn’t activities or IQ scores or working parents vs. non-working parents. “The only commonality among all was that one parent had dinner with the child nearly every night. Just knowing that relieved a lot of stress in my life. My kids don’t remember if the house was clean, but they do remember when I was room mom, when I went with my son on his golf outings and that I had dinner with them. If I would have thought about what our memories would be, I probably would have saved myself a lot of stress.” Also, remember, it’s not necessarily the amount of time you spend with your family, but more importantly the quality of time you spend with them.

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