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Work-life Balance, Integration, and Harmony: Essential for Well-Being

Those who feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have it but don’t perceive themselves to have it

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Organizations everywhere proudly proclaim that their people are their most important assets. Human resource departments, populated by human resource specialists, are assembled to ensure that the best people are brought on board, given the training and education that they need to be successful, and have an array of competitive benefits.

Over the years, however, as I speak at conferences and conventions, in person or online, it has become quite clear that while organizations proclaim that the work-life balance of their human resources is important, actually it is given short shrift.

Many times, when I’ve been booked to give a presentation or workshop on attaining work-life balance, integration, and harmony — and delivered more than 1060 of them — my session was scheduled by the host organization merely to placate attendees. These staff people then go back to an oppressive work environment, hoping for some type of respite as the weeks progress.

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Misery Leaves Clue

What are some of the hallmarks of a workforce not in balance?  For one, credit card debt per capita remains high, meaning that people are spending more than they’re earning. If they had sufficient funds to pay off their credit cards, and avoid the exorbitant interest, most surely would.

Our workforce is gaining weight, which one might imply means that they have no time to exercise. Most people do have time to exercise but they choose not to, instead indulging in activities that require only armchair-related movement.

Perhaps worst of all, the reliance on chemicals – in liquid or pill form – is at alarming levels. Generally speaking, individuals who achieve a sense of work-life balance don’t need to pop pills for this and that.

Carve Out Space and Time

If your organization values work-life balance, you are fortunate. Whether or not that is the case, here are a few strategies, out of dozens, from my book Breathing Space. These strategies will help you to carve out a little space and time for yourself, if not every day, then at least several times per week:

1) Arrive at your workplace early. Don’t leave home at the last minute required to arrive on time. Depart 10 or 15 minutes earlier, even if not necessary. Why? When you arrive earlier than usual, you have a chance to center yourself, reflect on the day ahead, and make small changes to your immediate environment.

All things being equal, the employee who arrives even five minutes early has a better chance of starting the day more focused than the employee who arrives with only a minute to spare.

2) Is it tough for you to eat breakfast at seven and last ‘til lunch at 12, with nothing in between? If so, bring healthy snacks so that you can take that break as needed and maintain your blood sugar level. Otherwise, you might have a craving for the kinds of foods that you don’t need: highly sugared, salted, or fat-laden snacks.

Yes it takes a little time in the morning to cut carrots or put peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, but the payoff comes over and over again as you feel more productive and energetic at work and your performance reflects that.

3) Linger occasionally, 30 to 60 seconds, before going to the restroom, before and after meetings, before and after lunch, and so on. Those extra seconds can make a huge difference in your mental health for that day, and cumulatively, for the days and weeks that follow.

4) When you’re at lunch, be at lunch. Don’t bring work with you, and don’t fret about what you have to do when you return to work. Consume a good, nutritious lunch.

Actually taste the food, and chew it thoroughly. In short, do everything your mother told you to do several decades ago. It makes a difference.

Perception Matters

The personal quest for work-life balance is based more on perception than anything else. Those who periodically feel like they have work-life balance are better off than those who might actually have a balance between their work and personal life but don’t perceive themselves to have it!

So, acknowledge the good things going on in your career, at home, and everywhere in between. Your recurring positive thoughts lead to even greater positivity.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Family

Spend Less, Owe Less, Live More

If you spend less than you take in, inexorably your debt will decrease

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Society conditions us to consume more than we need and to spend more than we make. However, this kind of lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Taking back control of your finances can help you free up time and make you feel more in control of your life more of the time.

Think back to your high school and college history classes: can you recall a nation in the history of the earth that accumulated huge deficits over a prolonged period of time, lacked a concerted effort towards reducing these deficits, yet was able to sustain economic prosperity for its citizens?

Can a nation, in debt for trillions annually, or a person – namely you – consistently run up huge deficits and expect no consequences?  For decades, tens of millions of Americans have accumulated personal debt via credit cards, loans, and other forms of financing. It’s likely that you have some financial debts.

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Subtle Servitude

Sustained deficit spending eventually erodes your ability to prepare for the future, and worse, to capitalize on current opportunities. The more you owe, the more enslaved you are! In Consumerism, Dr. Judith Schor notes that you’ve likely been taught to consume more than you need.

Right now, how would it feel if all your credit cards were paid off? How would it feel if you paid your monthly rent or mortgage several months in advance? How would it feel if your car loan was paid off? How would it feel if you were actually able to pay some of your utility bills for months in advance? For most people it would feel great. You’d feel in control of your time.

We all know the arguments about losing the (minuscule) amount of interest you could have earned if you let your money sit in the bank instead of paying the electric bill three months in advance. Ah, but wait. A month after you’ve paid your electric bill three months in advance, you receive the next month’s bill. Guess what? It shows that you have a huge credit and that nothing is due – you’ll smile when you see these kinds of bills!

A Moratorium on Spending

To reduce your personal debts, place a moratorium on optional spending, regardless of what items entice you, until your credit cards have zero balances.

Paying for material things which you don’t need, and certainly don’t save your time, might be satisfying, but ultimately can be draining.

Here are some strategies and tactics for controlling your checkbook, and hence reclaiming your life:

1. Write out checks to pay bills in advance of their due dates. Then, keep an advance file with a folder for each day of the month. Place the check in a sealed, addressed, and stamped envelope. Then put the envelope in the folder of the day it’s to be mailed. This way the money is allocated in advance in your checkbook, and your bills are paid on time. If your checking account pays interest, you don’t lose interest.

2. Occasionally, overpay the balance on your continuing accounts, or pay early. This gives you the aforementioned psychological boost when you see a credit on your next statement, and gives you a good reputation with your creditors, which is handy!

3. Keep a stick-on note in your checkbook for an immediate reference that lists what’s coming in this month and what needs to be paid. This provides you with a running mini-cash flow list to which you can refer at will. Update it weekly, or daily, if needed.

4. Review old checkbooks and see what you paid to whom for what. Do the same thing with your monthly credit card statements. Put a red mark next to all those expenditures that you didn’t need to make, or that you could have done without after further consideration.

5. Now, considering expenditures on the horizon, which ones can you do without?

Spend Less, Save More

As author Roger Dawson says, “It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making; if you’re spending more than you take in each month, you’re headed for trouble.” If you spend less than you take in, your debt will decrease, even if only a little at a time, and one day perhaps  disappear.

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Life

Ignore Much of What Pundits Have to Say

Can we be confident in advice we receive from people who have not mastered what they teach?

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When the opportunity arose, I attended a lecture by one of the most well-known authors and speakers in America. I had previewed his CD and read two of his books prior to his lecture; in person, he lived up to my expectations. So, I was intrigued when a friend, involved with bringing this speaker to our area relayed a personal incident to me. 

Directly following the speaker’s presentation, my friend was responsible for driving him to the airport, and accompanying him until his flight departed. That summer afternoon, it was rainy and the skies were dark.

As it turned out, the author was a nervous flyer and took several drinks in the airport lounge prior to boarding the plane.  I found this incident to be amazing because I had so often heard him say things such as, “Everything in this universe is perfect.” It struck me that, in many ways, the speaker wasn’t practicing his philosophy. Nevertheless, all human beings have their faults and foibles and, as time passed, I forgot about the incident.

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High-Priced Gurus

One morning, I had the occasion to pick up USA Today. In the lifestyle section, there was a feature on a relationship guru and author of international best-sellers on relationships. She had won the “Oscar” of infomercials, earning $24 million in a single year.  

In this published interview, the reporter asked her why we should listen to a relationship guru who had been married five times. Five times? I couldn’t believe it! She had wedded her fifth husband, some 11 years her junior, only a short time before producing her award-winning infomercial on having a successful relationship. 

In the infomercial, she is featured as having a loving relationship with her husband. Okay, but in no way does the infomercial tell us that he is her fifth husband and that she had married him three weeks ago.

Not Walking their Talk

I had a flash from the past: I recalled the story about the nervous flyer author. Yet, nothing prepared me for the revelations about the relationship guru, a self-proclaimed expert, using the slickest 21st-century marketing available to sell her information and products.  

She was well-versed in her subject matter. Upon hearing her advice, I recognized that it did seem sound. However, the larger issue is, “Can we be confident in the advice we receive from those who have not mastered what they teach, or who do not even remotely walk their talk?”

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