Dinesh Kumar Biran, senior captain at Air India said, “We are the generation capable of doing many things at once, without enjoying any of them.” At a recent business event, the folks at my table were discussing “busyness” and the need to be better at multitasking. Juggling work and personal demands seems to be an ongoing challenge for most of us. When asked, “How are you?” how often do you find yourself automatically answering, “Busy!” In today’s world almost everyone is busy. It seems to be the new status quo.
A wise business and life coach friend says that being busy can be difficult to change because, in America at least, our society seems to put high value on being busy. This same coach says that even when we love what we do, working too much without breaks to have a life can cause serious stress. Women, in particular, seem to burn the candle at both ends with busyness until exhaustion takes over.
I asked my coach friend how folks who live in the fast lane can begin to find the work-life balance that’s best for them, and she shared some tips that seem to present themselves again and again:
- Keep track of time. Pay attention to daily to-dos, including both work-related and personal activities. Consider doing only necessary tasks and things that bring satisfaction.
- Manage time. Get rid of or delegate any activities that can be shared. Pass on things that you just can’t handle. Organize personal tasks like running errands, etc. into batches. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
- Make lists. Put all personal events on a weekly calendar, and keep a daily to-do list at home and at work. Having a plan helps to maintain focus.
- Break the habit of saying “I’m so busy!” Experts say that when we keep saying we’re busy we set ourselves up for not slowing down. At the same time, don’t take on everything that’s asked of you. Learn how to say “NO!”
- Leave work at work! In bygone days, it was easier to do this. Today, technology connects us to work from virtually any place at any time, so it can be difficult to keep boundaries between personal and career.
- Reduce email access. This is a hard one for many. My coach friend suggests that you should check email no more than three times a day. Frankly, this is one thing I find almost impossible to do. It’s not that I’m addicted (well, maybe a little) but in business I believe that customer emails need to be answered quickly.
- Shorten commitments and minimize interruptions. We have a hard time sustaining a maximum level of concentration for more than 90 minutes before our ability to retain information begins to decrease. When interrupted during a task, the time to return to full concentration is doubled or tripled.
- Get better sleep.
- Don’t create unnecessary anxiety. While none of us can escape stress, look for stress relievers that work for you.
- Enjoy simple things. Laugh often.
My coach friend says there’s no single strategy that works for everyone for finding that healthy balance between busyness and relaxation. She also reminds us that accomplishing a healthy work-life balance doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a continuous process as work, family, and life changes. She suggests that we should periodically look at our priorities so we can make changes to stay on track.
Two wise women have addressed the work-life balance like this: Dolly Parton said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life,” and Lily Tomlin said, “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”