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Stressed? Want Work Life Balance? Create It.

Your job will not tell you that you need a vacation. Your company won’t tell you that you look tired and it’s time to go home. Your job is like a toddler. It wants and will take more, more, more. You need to decide what you’re willing to give.

Admittedly, I’m terrible at work life balance. I’ve always lived twenty minutes or fewer from my office so that I could easily go in on evenings and weekends. I gained twenty pounds the first year I worked at OppenheimerFunds because I never left the office before eleven p.m., and the only thing around to eat late at night was candy. No one told or expected me to work the hours I did. I put this pressure on myself.

Some of us enjoy working long hours. We love what we do. Work is where we derive a great deal of fulfillment. There is nothing wrong with working long hours and getting a great deal of enjoyment from your work. Just don’t blame your organization when you’re tired, stressed out, or out of balance.

You are accountable for your happiness at work.

Every time you email an internal or external customer on a weekend, take a work-related call at 8:00 pm, or check your email while you’re on vacation, you’re training the people you work with that you are always available.

Some of my clients’ employees tell me they feel taken advantage of by their organization and feel leaders’ expectations are unrealistic. As a result employees work more hours than they want to and miss vacations and evenings with their kids. The managers tell me they’re not expecting employees to work the hours employees say they feel pressured to work, so where’s the disconnect?

I suggest talking with your manager about her expectations.

The conversation could sound something like this:

“I want to make sure I’m meeting your expectations. When are you expecting X project to be done?

How are you evaluating my success? What does a good job look like?”

Or, “I’m stressed and am finding myself working evenings and weekends. I’d like to get a better understanding of your expectations about X project. I might be putting this stress on myself.”

I’m not suggesting being lazy or cutting corners. Work hard. Do good work. And know your limits.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In, Sandberg shares a story from her career when the manager of one of the McKinsey & Company offices, where Sandberg worked, realized that every person who left the organization blamed burnout and exhaustion for the reason for their departure. Upon some research the manager discovered that each of these exiting employees had unused vacation time.

Here are my work life balance tips:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Under promise and over deliver.
  • Work reasonable hours, then go home.
  • Recharge your batteries in whatever way fills you up.
  • Get enough sleep. Everything feels and works better when we’ve had enough sleep.

See yourself as accountable for creating work life balance. Stop waiting for your boss to tell you you need a break. Send yourself home.

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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