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Top Ten Signs that Your Work-Life Balance is Out of Balance


A businessman throwing document in office
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For the last eight years, I have been working a "four-ten" schedule, and while I love having Fridays (for the most part) off, I sometimes find myself really worn out on Thursday evening. Because of the long schedules Monday through Thursday, I often find that my work-life balance suffers during the week and I get myself into better balance on the long weekends.

But for those who run their own businesses or have jobs that consume their lives, those feelings associated with being out of balance happen much more frequently and often with greater intensity. Without time and focus to restore balance, we find ourselves experiencing symptoms of stress, dysfunction, relationship friction or just plain burnout.

For those who might feel out of balance and that work has become the very dominant component of that delicate relationship between work and life, you may want to ask yourself these ten key questions that will help you diagnose your work-life balance and identify strategies of coming back into a positive state of life-equilibrium.

Are you out of shape? If the extra hours and your poor eating and exercise habits have been taking their toll, you may be finding yourself packing a few extra pounds and getting out of breath just going up a couple of flights of stairs. Letting yourself get out of shape can impact your quality of life negatively and lead to feelings of being out of balance. You might consider some steps like:

Are you constantly overbooked? When a friend calls to chat, do you tell him that you just don't have time? Maybe you find yourself not being able to fit in that soccer game or dance recital because your schedule is just too tight. If you are finding yourself with an unmanageable schedule and if the really important things are getting lost in the shuffle, you should try to:

Do you focus too much on getting it just right? A big part of learning to better balance life and work is to be willing to sacrifice a few good things for a few better things. If you spend a lot of time and energy on getting a lot of little things "just so," you may want to rethink that strategy. Tending to be a perfectionist can get in the way of better life balance. So if you tend to stress over the small stuff, you may want to check out:

Is your workspace out of control? Years ago, I really got into looking at the offices of successful people to see how they designed and managed their personal workspace. I saw relatively few offices cluttered with papers, reports, old candy wrappers and the like. Instead, workspaces that were clean with papers filed and that were well designed seemed to be the norm. A lot of clutter will tend to lead to overload, burnout and lack of balance. The old rule of taking any given report, file, or piece of paper and then "TRAF'ing" it (Trash, Refer, Act or File) is good advice. David Allen of Getting Things Done fame suggests putting everything in an in-basket and following a carefully laid out way of processing. If your desk, office, workplace or table needs some help, these resources would be good for your consideration.

Do you stay at work late just to prove your worth? In today's competitive work environment, sometimes we fall into the trap of staying late (or coming in early) to impress others with our commitment and dedication. But for every positive impression you are creating with that strategy at work, you are creating a negative one at home. It is not all about the hours you spend, but how effectively you perform during the hours you have. Bosses tend to be more impressed with performance than long hours. So work a little smarter and check out these ideas for being a more productive employee.

Is your social life on life support? When we get out of balance, we tend to ignore friends and family before we give up on other time consuming activities. When was the last time you spent time with friends? When was your last "date" with your wife or significant other? Scheduling time on your busy calendar for socializing at work, at home, at church or in another setting with people will help you make time for others. Making social life a priority is an important key to helping keep it all in balance. These ideas might help you enhance your personal social network.

Do you find that work is your activity of choice? When you find yourself with that rare hour or two that is not programmed, so you head into work to get caught up or even work at home? If you do, it is a great sign that you are out of balance. While work is often the most consistent demand on your time because it cries the loudest, it usually can wait just a bit while you focus on other aspects of life that should be more rewarding. So if the siren call of your employer or your business seems just too irresistible, check out some of these ideas for non-work activities.

Is your temper is flaring more and more? Being out of balance between work and personal lives often leads to stress and anxiety which manifest themselves in angry outbursts. If you are finding the kids or your partner getting on your nerves more than usual or finding your fuse short with others at work or in other settings, you may be struggling with work-life balance. These resources might help for avoiding the anger trap and keeping your life a bit more in harmony.

Do you have a hard time sleeping, or sleeping well? I find that when life is out of balance and I am worried about work more than I should be that my sleep is not restful or I stay up too late either working or trying to unwind. If you are finding sleep hard to come by or just not finding enough hours in a day to sleep well, you are selling yourself short and may need to evaluate your life balance. These ideas might be helpful to you in getting a better night's sleep.

Do you have to repeatedly reintroduce yourself to your family? The wife of former Colorado governor Richard Lamm related the story of one rare evening where the Governor returned home before his children's bedtime. His young son ran up to him, jumped into his arms and yelled, "Daddy!" After seeing this, Mrs. Lamm commented that her son was a literal genius. "He meets a man once in his life and remembers his name!" she said. If you are feeling like a stranger in your own home and with your children, it is time to set aside more time for family and regain your balance. Try a few of these ideas on for size if you need a little more focus at home.

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