Tag Archives: Balance

Finding My Way Back

Young woman flying with an umbrella under Paris

It’s been months since I’ve sat down at a keyboard to write a blog post.  Part of that was planned, okay really only the first couple of weeks, and the rest of the time is due to my desire for balance.  Back in early February I wrote a post and then planned on a week to two week absence as my family and I traveled to Washington DC for my father-in-laws burial at Arlington National Cemetery.  I figured that once I got back home we would get back into a routine and I would pick up writing.  Well, as they say the best laid plans…..

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start working with a new client company right after we got home which changed the balance of my days.  Between my commitment to the client and my dedication to helping my family settle in to a new routine I found it difficult to carve out time to write.  As a result I made the decision to take a break for a while.  My family needed me and my work was very demanding and rewarding.  The next thing I knew 7+ months had passed.

In all honesty I’ve missed writing my blog and capturing my thoughts about leadership, personal development, time management and whatever else came to mind.  However, I decided that I needed to spend my time differently for a while.  It was very intentional on my part to step back from blogging, as well as actively participating in social media forums like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn.  At the beginning of the year I spent a couple of hours a day in these activities and I made a choice to spend that time elsewhere.  While I missed the interaction with my friends and colleagues I am glad I chose to focus on my family and my client.

Balance and Intention

I’ve learned several important lessons over these months about how to create a balance in my life that is fulfilling and rewarding.  There will always be too many demands on my time and I have to pick and choose what I do, who I spend time with, and how I live my life.  I found I could focus on what was important, what was urgent or what was interesting.  Sadly it’s easy to just go with the flow, keep doing what I’ve been doing and let the outside world dictate our time.  This leads to frustration, disappointment and regrets.

To find a balance that worked for me I had to keep in mind what was important to, what actions supported those things and I had to say no.  I found the following actions critical to making this work for me:

  1. Be Clear on Priorities: When you know what is most important to you and where your priorities lay you can make choices that work best for you.  These can, and will, shift over time so think about what’s important to you right now.
  2. Weigh Demands against Priorities: Check requests for your time and attention against your priorities.  Are the demands aligned with what is most important right now?
  3. Do the Things that Matter Most: There will be things you want to do that just don’t align with your current priorities.  Be intentional about what you do and how you spend your time.
  4. Say No Kindly: You will have to say no to people and requests so be kind and considerate to those making the requests.  Remember the request is being driven by what’s important to someone else so be respectful of their request.  You don’t have to say yes just because it’s important to them, just say No kindly.
  5. Never Apologize: Taking care of the things that matter to you is something you should never apologize for doing.  Saying “Sorry I can’t help you” opens the door for others to negotiate or push you into helping.  Instead say “I wish I could help you, unfortunately I can’t at this time”.  This is respectful of their request while saying no.

When I stepped away from the keyboard back in February it was done to focus on my family and our healing.  It was absolutely the right thing to do.  When I started working with my client I wanted to give them my full attention so my days became focused on meeting a tight schedule and I decided to keep my evenings and weekends more open for my family and personal needs.  This meant that my time on social media was cut down drastically as my priorities shifted.  As I focused on the things that mattered most to me at the time I found I was happier than when I was stressed out over getting all the things done that I wanted to do.

To find balance in your life it’s important to be very intentional about your actions.  What do you intend to accomplish, what are your priorities and shift your focus to the things that matter most.  This applies across the spectrum of your day, from what you do at home and at work.  When you are true to what matters most to you it will feel like your life is in balance even when you are crazy busy.  That’s because you will be crazy busy with the important things.

To get started ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s most important to me right now?
  • Are the things I’m doing aligned with my priorities?
  • Which things should I stop doing to free up time for the important stuff?
  • How can I be more intentional in my actions?

Be intentional about your goals and your actions to find a better balance in your life.

How do you create balance?  Please share your tips in the comments below.

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Carol Dougherty

 

 

 

Looking forward to seeing you around much more frequently!

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Filed under Personal Development

Are You Managing, Leading or Doing Both?

See SawCareer development is a series of phases.  The first step is to learn to manage you.  This means learning to take control of your time, make good decisions and improve your communication skills.  The next phase is where you start to move into managing others.  In this phase you will start to take responsibility for building effective teams and managing multiple priorities for you and your team.  Then you move into leading others.  This is where you start to move beyond just managing tasks and responsibilities to setting a vision for others to follow.  As you advance towards this phase it is important to take the time to develop your leadership skills.

Peter Drucker says it best “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  Yet you don’t completely drop managing as you start leading.  You still have to be in control of your behavior and you may still need to direct the actions of others.  Becoming a leader doesn’t mean you stop managing it means you add new responsibilities to your plate.

Too often managing is treated as an ugly behavior that adds little value to people or organizations.  This is maligning a much needed function in business.  All activities have quality levels that must be maintained and customer demand to meet.  Someone must keep an eye on the details of getting things done on time and on budget.  This is the role of a manager.  The title for this person maybe supervisor, project manager, manager, director or some other option.  Yet the role is critical to the success of the organization.

Leading and managing don’t have to be mutually exclusive and probably shouldn’t be treated separately.  Leaders need to set the direction and the vision for what people will be doing.  Part of that includes setting expectations for what success looks like for the team.  These are guidelines the managers and people can use to determine what needs to be done and when.  Leaders who ignore the importance of those parameters will leave their team struggling to meet the leader’s vision.

Managing people without paying attention to the needs of the team is a dictatorship.  To successfully manage it is important to take the time to understand the people on the team, what motivates them, enable them to see the purpose of what they are doing and help them achieve their goals.  This will drive engagement, improve quality and productivity, all things good managers want to achieve.  These are a result of leading the team more than just managing results.

Take the time to pay attention to the people and the business results improve.  If leaders focus solely on making the people happy it can lead to a decline in business results.  When you have more than one person working on something there will be complexity and complications that must be dealt with to ensure productivity.  This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a function of human nature.  The trick is to balance an engaging and inspiring workplace with one that produces to customer expectations.  This means businesses need managers and leaders, and in particular people who can wear both hats at the same time.

How do you balance the goals of the organization with the needs of the people?  Do you find it difficult to lead people and manage results?

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Filed under Leadership, Personal Development

What is Your Approach?

Conflicting WaysWhen you look at your long-term goals how do you plan to meet them?  Are you one of those folks who have a detailed step-by-step plan to get where you want to go?  Are you someone who sets your vision and then figures it will all fall in place as it was meant to be?  Or are you somewhere in between?  Leaders need to have a balanced approach to making their vision come to life.

Personally, I am somewhere in the middle.  I like to have some idea of how I’m going to achieve my goals and yet I like to leave some wiggle room for the unexpected detours that always seem to come along.  This gives me flexibility to adapt to new situations and opportunities.  I’ve done a lot of adapting over the years and some of the best experiences where unplanned.

I know some great people who have everything planned out and it’s great, until the unexpected happens.   When things don’t go according to plan they fall apart, it can show up as anger, panic or complete withdrawal depending on the person.   This can be a very rigid approach to life.

As well there are other fantastic folks I know who just go with the flow.  They ride along with a general idea of what they want and where they are going but they let things happen.  At times these people struggle because life isn’t going in the direction they envisioned.   They become confused and sad at the direction their life is taking.  This approach can lead people to become perpetual victims.

The approaches to reaching your goals that are at both extreme lead to additional stress as well as dissatisfaction with life and what you’re doing.  Neither is healthy in the long run.  Life is about finding balance in what you are doing.  As a friend recently said he found that balance meant doing less of some things instead of trying to fit more stuff into his life.

If you are more rigid in your approach to life goals cultivate some flexibility and adaptability to the things that life throws your way.  You never know, you may find a new path that is exciting and interesting.  Sometimes really interesting and fulfilling opportunities appear in unexpected ways and places.  If you focus too closely on one path only you will miss these chances.  Who knows what might be out there.

If you are more likely to go with the flow cultivate proactivity.  Start identifying steps you can take to reach your goals.  It’s not necessary to plan every step in detail, look for 3 to 5 things you can do in the near future that would move you forward.  Write them down and go do them.  You may be surprised by the doors that open in response to your initiative.

Creating the future you want means knowing where you want to go, taking the initiative to get the journey started and being flexible enough to seize new opportunities that arise along the way.  This is a balance approach to taking control of your life.  Leaders need to develop a vision, get things moving and adjust to circumstances along the way.

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Filed under Leadership, Time Management

September Reading

These are just are some articles that I have read recently that got me thinking about time managment.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

A great look at what gets you moving towards your goals from PPM Blog.  Learning to Understand Your Motivation

Do you take time off so that you can stay focused on what you need to do?  This is an interesting take on why vacations make you more effective.  By Tony Schwartz from HBR Blog  More Vacation is the Secret Sauce

Suggestions on how to regain control over your to-do list from Simple Productivity Blog.  Can’t Keep Up – 10 Ways to Simplify Your To Do List

If you work from home this is a great list of how to manage being productive while being your own boss.  By Timo Kiander on LifeHack.  5 Critical Elements of Successful Work at Home Productivity

This is a fresh look at time management ideas on The Organized Executive.  It’s a two part series.  The New Time Management Model Part 1 & The New Time Management Model Part 2

Finding time to stay sharp and keep learning.  From Franklin Covey Blog.  Balance Beam – Finding Time to Sharpen the Saw

Happy reading.  What have you read that inspired you to do / be more?

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Filed under Time Management

Managing Solo Projects to Avoid Burnout

What do you do when a project relies mostly on your ability to get all the work done?  On your solo projects do you dive in and immerse yourself in it until it’s completed perfectly or do you take it one small step at a time and whittle away at it seemingly forever?  These are the two extremes of handling projects that are solo acts, the real key to being satisfied with the results is moderation, an approach that is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

Right now I have several solo projects that fall so I have to find the right balance in each one.  The biggest of the projects is one that I personally would love to have done tomorrow.  That is totally unrealistic and I would be so burned out nothing else would get done during and after while I recover.  To help me keep things in perspective, I’ve taken some time to remember how to divide up the work in practical chunks.  These ideas are:

1.      Know the deadline.  When do things really need to be completed?  Obviously some things have hard deadlines, while others are in the category of “when you get time”.   For the things that have no hard date, set a target date that is realistic for you given all that is on your plate. 

2.      Keep deadlines realistic.  If you are setting a target date for some of you projects make sure you stop and think hard about when you will be able to finish it.  Setting a date too soon will push you too hard and setting a date too far out may keep you from making any progress.

3.      Divide up the work.  Stop and take a hard look at what has to be done, how you will divide it up, what gets done first, second, and so on.  Plan the steps; this can be formal or as simple as making a list of all the steps to get it done. 

4.      Set milestones.  Once you divide up the work you can set target dates for each step along the way.  Again make sure they are realistic and can be accomplished by that date.  This will help you track your progress towards the goal.

5.      Get help.  If you can get help, take it.  Your days will be more manageable if you have someone to share the load with when possible.  Help is not always available, so use it when it is.

6.      Take a break!  To keep you energy up, along with your productivity, take some time to step away from the project.  When you are totally immersed in a project you lose perspective and your productivity.  It becomes a grind that will wear you down too fast.

7.      Celebrate your success.  When you have gotten it all done, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have accomplished.  It’s good to sit back and rest on your laurels, at least for a short amount of time.  Recognizing what you have done and enjoying the sweet taste of success will energize you to complete the next project.

Solo projects can be very rewarding while often being the most challenging.  Taking the time to plan the work first can help make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

How do you avoid burn out on solo projects?

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Filed under Time Management, Uncategorized

Work- Life Balance

I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently about the age old issue of work-life balance and the gender issues.  I find this really interesting as my experience is that work-life balance impacts everyone, not just women. 

The reality of working is that without some form of balance between hard work and relaxation, performance suffers.  Focusing too heavily of work creates stress which can be very productive in the short haul, however over time it becomes destructive.  If work is something that doesn’t matter then there is no urgency and this leads to lack luster performance.  Balance between intense focus and downtime leads to optimum performance.  That balance is uniquely personal.

As most time management programs say it’s critical to identify what is most important to you.  This means both at work and in your personal life.  When you understand what’s important you can determine the time to allocate to each of these things. 

The key to creating maximum performance is to pay attention to the needs of the individual while keeping an eye on the organization’s goals.  This means each team member must balance personal and organizational goals and needs.  Creating a culture that values this balance will allow everyone to achieve their best.  To do this encourage people to stay true to what matters, respect the entire individual’s needs, stay focused on the goals and flexible on methods for achieving the goals.

The article on this issue that really struck home for me was “Having it All” Is Not a Women’s Issue, in the HBR Blog.  Stew Freidman illustrates the proven value of creating a culture that allows for improved performance while honoring the individual’s needs for balance.  This is a proven recipe for success.  Hopefully, the new discussions on this topic will help more companies embrace the potential created by balancing the needs of both the individual and the organization.

How have you created balance in your professional / personal life?

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Filed under Leadership, Time Management