Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Balance’

The book I mentioned in my last post, Overwhelmed, had some great points. I skipped a lot of the book because it seemed to overly focus on how stereotypes between men and women placed more pressure on women than men, and I wasn’t looking for an equality speech (can’t we women at some point take responsibility for ourselves instead of automatically blaming men?). But she did have some excellent points once I got past that. One of which, was the ideal worker.

The ideal worker basically is how there is a certain expectation that I think anyone who works in a career of any kind is familiar with – that, if you want to make it, you will dedicate more of yourself to your work than any other part of your life. The one who gets promoted, be it women or man, is the one who puts in the most hours, makes it the number one priority, never complains, etc., etc., etc. That is becoming, I feel, a little less of a problem in today’s society – more and more people and employers are finally realizing the benefits of a work life balance, but it is still hard to shake the old idealism even with the best intentions.

I can see it in my current job – both the new and the old ideals clashing together. All the managers put in long hours, are always traveling, always busy, and if they aren’t at work they are running off to a child’s sports game or something else. It doesn’t matter how much time they work, they are paid the same (they literally told us they don’t care what we put on our time sheet if we are salaried as long as we actually work/put in the minimum 40 hours). But, at the same time, they allow us to telework on a limited basis, give us tons of PTO, great benefits, and try to encourage team building events. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure those who actually use all the PTO they give don’t get promoted as fast as the ones who don’t.

But it is more than the expectations – it is almost as though, if you aren’t incredibly harried or busy, always late to the next meeting, and constantly working, you aren’t working hard enough. That is literally the impression you get at work. You must be busy enough to be harried if you are actually working as hard as you ought to. In addition, you must be good at multitasking. Preparing a report while answering emails within 5 minutes (I’ve literally had my manager come to me within one minute of sending an email to ask if I got it), and participating in a conference call where they are upset you couldn’t make it in person all at the same time.

I have three daily meetings, five weekly meetings, and five monthly meetings. Do you know what that means? ~85 meetings in ~20 workdays, not counting the quarterly meetings and one-time briefings. 90% of which is to give status updates on the work I barely have time to do. That demonstrates a world who is desperate to appear busy.

In all the reading I’ve done, I’ve come across multiple references to studies that say the more work/life balance you have, the better your actual work is. According to Overwhelmed, “Research shows that forcing long hours, face time for the sake of face time, and late nights actually kills creativity and good thinking and the ensuing stress, anxiety and depression eat up health care budgets. . . [A research study finds that] the team with [regular] time off increased learning, improved communication with their team, worked more efficiently, and were ultimately more productive than their ideal worker colleagues.”

The book later states that a person cannot be productive for more than 90 minutes at a time and after 90 minutes, they should take a break to refresh their mind before starting again. Another study I found awhile back introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique. It essentially says that you should work in 25-minute bursts. Set a time for 25 minutes and concentrate only on one thing – multitasking hurts both your work and your productivity – then take a 2-5 minute breather, and then start again on either the same task or the next one. After five “Pomodoros”, take a break of 15-30 minutes. I’ve been slowly implementing it and I really think my productivity has increased significantly. I am not as good at the longer break unless it is actually lunchtime, but even the short bursts of concentrated activity have been very helpful.

The other thing many articles talk about is e-mails. We get so freaking many emails, most of which interrupt our workflow. Every pop-up we get pulls us out of our concentration and then we have to refocus. The recommendation I’ve seen most is to turn off pop-ups and only check email at predetermined times. I’ve been trying to get better about that too by not looking every time I get a new e-mail until I reach a break in my work, and that has helped – until my manager comes over when I haven’t responded within a minute or two. But I think he is starting to get used to my response that I am in the middle of a project and haven’t looked at my e-mail. *crossing fingers*

All of these various things have been slowly working their way into my own life. I figured out work/life balance a while ago, I think, and finally decided I would rather be home half my life than climb the career ladder faster, and I’ve been much happier since. (I’ve also become a rather annoying advocate – anytime someone starts talking about working late or on weekends I tend to scold them) Since implementing the Pomodoro Technique, my productivity has increased significantly, and I have very recently begun only checking my email in between tasks, as previously mentioned (though I fail in that a lot, like today – I’m sorry, but I can’t bring myself to turn off the pop-ups, and it’s hard to ignore them!!).

But, all in all, I think that, though these are all valid points, I don’t think they are the biggest time suckers for me since I have actually been working on it. It was nice to get validation though for my continued quest for work/life balance.

The rest of the pointers outside of the ideal worker really struck a chord for me though, so more on those later.

work life balance

Read Full Post »

Apparently my previous post was a little too sobering for anyone to read/like/comment on – which is fine – I am still glad I pushed away my fear of confrontation enough to bring it up. It’s what so many introverts/writers struggle with, isn’t it? That fear someone is going to attack you for your beliefs, standards, work, you-name-it.

Anyway, that actually isn’t what I’m writing about today. The day before yesterday I had an epiphany. Well, okay, maybe not an epiphany, but God talked to me about some stuff that has [hopefully] helped with  . . . well, me.  As anyone who has been reading my posts know, I started a new schedule in January (as I do basically every year of my life) to ensure I had time to work out and write and still have a little bit of an evening – it involved getting up at 5:00 AM. I have been having an awful time with it.

My body has been refusing to adjust to this new time frame. I can barely make myself go to bed early as I internally argue that I am a night owl, and it is ridiculous to go to bed at 9 or 9:30, and that is like when the peak of my energy often happens. Which results in little sleep as I very crankily rise at 5:00, and rush through calisthenics/stretches, getting dressed, doing my hair, putting on makeup, finishing assembling my stuff, and rush out the door to beat HOV hours, grabbing lunch and breakfast on the way and feeling generally very disorganized and extremely upset that I have to do this. I usually calm down around 6:15 as I sit down in Starbucks to do my devotions, have a fairly good day, and become cranky again around late afternoon as I realize I have to do it all again the next day.

I felt like I was SERIOUSLY living for weekends, and told myself over and over again I could get sleep then and that that is when I could live, and around Saturday evening, inevitably becoming depressed that the rush and lack of sleep would start again in less than 48 hours. And then thinking ahead to when the next vacation/day off might be that I could be on a “normal” schedule for a day or so.

It hit a peak on Wednesday. Having gotten started on calisthenics about 5 minutes too late, I didn’t have time to even do makeup, and as I walked out, I looked at Daniel and said, “I can’t keep doing this.” I knew I had to figure out something that wouldn’t make me dread every day of every week.

As I sat down to devotions about 25 minutes later, I had a hard time concentrating, the frustrations still welling up inside me overwhelmingly and the obvious suddenly occurred to me – this was NOT temporary. Not if I planned to remain in this job, keep early hours, and wanted to work out and write. I would be doing this for the foreseeable future, and my heart sank like a rock. I just couldn’t. I rather distractedly finished devotions and went to work halfheartedly.

Now, my work has a wellness program – you get points that translate to money if you do things that they consider good for you. One of those things is watching weekly short videos on how to improve your health and your life in general. I began this week’s video as I scanned my e-mails and thought about how I didn’t want to work – and that is when God decided to use a secular means to hit me with a 2×4. This video has nothing to do with Christian life or ethics, but as I listened to their “pep talk” on being healthier, they asked, “What are your excuses in life? It can be anything that might convince you not to work out or eat healthy.” And that is when it occurred to me. My excuse was that I am a night owl. Therefore I shouldn’t be forced to get up early. I should be able to stay up late all I want. As I reluctantly conceded this internally, they continued, something along the lines of (significantly summarized):

Change is not fun. It is not easy. It takes sacrifice and courage to keep going. If it was easy everyone would do it. What type of attitude/emotional reaction do you have to your challenges? Negative reactions will elicit [insert multiple bad physical reactions]. But when you look at something as a challenge instead of an obstacle, you have a different reaction – your hormones rise to the challenge and seek to overtake it. So instead of letting excuses and negative emotions get in your way, look at it as a challenge and rise to meet that challenge.

It was a lot longer than that, obviously, but that was the essence of it. And as they talked, I recalled the verses I am currently memorizing in Philippians 4. Whatsoever things are [honest, true, just, lovely, of good report] . . . think on these things. And I realized that the same thing they were trying to teach – that you should look at challenges in life as a positive instead of as obstacles to get frustrated with – was essentially what God teaches us to do as well. In the same chapter we are instructed to be content in any state of life. So at that moment, I decided to change my thought pattern. I would view my weight loss, writing, and working goals as challenges to achieve –  challenges I would have to work hard for, sacrifice for, and in general act like one of those heroes and heroines I love so much from books who always (somehow in a few paragraphs or pages!) overcome physical difficulties through sacrifice and striving.

I recalculated and realized I would only need to rise 15 minutes earlier (yes, 4:45 AM) to still accomplish all I wanted to, get  home in a timely manner, and not be rushed. So, VERY long story shortened-a-tiny-bit, I have implemented that, along with a more joyful attitude, since Thursday morning (yay! Two days!) and what an incredible difference it has made already. While it is has been difficult to go to sleep early because my body is so used to later hours, I haven’t been chafing inside at the need to do so, and, it is probably partially God’s strength, but getting up at that insanely early hour really hasn’t been bad. I’ve even been cheerful. And I have the appropriate amount of time I need to accomplish everything I need. And when I start to feel that familiar dread, I remind myself that it is a challenge I am trying to overcome, not an obstacle.

Now, I totally realize it has been all of 2 days and next week I could be right back where I was before – but I pray I am not. I pray I take this to heart, because I am pretty sure God is firm on having a good attitude, no matter the situation, and especially when you are trying to be wise with your time and health. Being happy or unhappy is a choice. My choice. And I choose joy.

Joy

 

 

Read Full Post »