by Larry Richardson
Over and over, time and time again, when I've been asked to present on the topic of work/life balance, attendees have expressed considerable frustration over their ability and practice to strike the proper balance. They express their consequent angst and understand they are experiencing a diminishing quality of life. Yet, they lack either the tools or resolve to effect change to find the right balance. Why?
Charles E. Hummel wrote the Tyranny of the Urgent in 1967. It is still widely appropriate when applied to the work/life balance discussion in present day. Hummel stated that we become "prisoners" of that which we feel is important, yet in reality is not truly urgent. Without thinking, we default to a ‘yes’ over all requested meetings, tasks, projects, appointments, leisure activities and even our community volunteerism. This is safer, avoids conflict, and takes less time than pausing and thinking first. We love the adrenaline rush and have become addicted to the speed of our own lives. Hummel understood this in 1967, but the evidence has grown today when we are connected by technology 100% of the time – if we choose. Hummel exhorts us to ask “why this” vs. “what’s next?”
HR Reporter (March 13, 2013) reported 56% of respondents defining career success as work-life balance! Really – is that how we behave? Maybe not, but recognition of this balance being important to our success and quality of life is the first and most important step to effect change.
Some key points to understand that will differ for each individual when seeking to strike the correct balance. First, it will vary over time. For me, now bordering on the "empty nest," the time balance is much different than when my wife and I were in the throngs of raising three children. Second, balance does not mean equal. Again, it will vary over time and vary with circumstances. The key is, what are your habits of behavior over the long haul? Third, it will be different for each of us. Life does happen and its events or challenges can sometimes sneak up on us, for which we then must choose how we respond.
Hummel encourages us to conduct our lives in his defined Quadrant II: doing work that is important, yet not urgent. This will not prevent those issues that come up as life happens that will be urgent that we will have to engage; but it will prevent our lives from becoming a trail of unfinished tasks and our emotional mindset of ongoing anxiety that is the product of working in the other quadrants outlined by Hummel: Quadrant I of that which is important, but not urgent; Quadrant III of that which is not important and urgent; or Quadrant IV of that which is not important and not urgent.
Jared Brox in Refresh Leadership provided some useful tools and tips for maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
- Leave work at work. (Turn off your phone or at least the mail function when you go home).
- Learn to better manage your time by defining how you will start and end your day. (I have learned to start and end my day with quiet time in devotions and prayer).
- Plan time for fun/relaxation. (Build this into your schedule and record it. It is a tool/function of the smart phone that works to balance you!)
- Exercise. (This assists your mental, spiritual, emotional and physical well-being and you must be intentional to schedule.)
- Make a change. (This speaks to your resolve. Do you want to be relieved of chasing that which you believe is urgent yet is that which is causing your imbalance?)
Finally, to assure the urgent does not rule our lives, develop your own personal mission statement that will define that which is important in your life and provides a filter for your decision making in areas of work/life balance. That is the ultimate tool and for another discussion.
Larry Richardson is the current President/CEO of the YMCA of York and York County, which is 159 years old in 2014. Larry has served in York since 1994. He is also the President of Y Community Development Corporation, the YMCA’s community development arm. He currently serves on the boards of Better York, United Way Public Policy Committee, Chair of the State Alliance of YMCA’s Public Policy Committee, President of the Foundation for the West York School District, and is a past board member of Metro York, Downtown Inc, Beautiful York, and a past elder at Grace Fellowship Church. He has an MS in Education from Mansfield University and a BA in Psychology from Lafayette College. Larry also is serving in his third year as a volunteer mentor in Leadership York’s Mentorship York program.