Is it possible to strike a balance between our work and personal lives? Some experts insist it’s possible.
Rather than searching for a work-life balance, think about your job in terms of achieving a work-life symbiosis, said Brian Mohr, co-founder and managing partner of search firm Y Scouts (www.yscouts.com).
Work-life symbiosis means working at organizations where you can do what you love.
Take cues from technology
We can’t compartmentalize different areas of our lives as people used to do, Mohr said.
Most of us carry our work around in our smartphones, where text messages and emails follow us everywhere, Mohr said. “Because the workplace never shuts down, it’s very difficult turning off work when we leave the office,” he said. “We should drop the idea that ‘work’ and ‘life’ are somehow separate. They’re not.”
Easy ways to achieve a work-life balance
Putting semantics aside, creating a work-life balance is more feasible than most people think, said Lucy Sternburgh, manager of employee and community health promotion, employee wellness for Beaumont Health Systems in southeast Michigan.
Most people spend about two-thirds of their waking hours at their place of employment. In order to stay healthy, we need to find ways to incorporate physical activity into our workday. We have many opportunities to do so. An easy way to find them, Sternburgh suggests, is to look at our daily routines and consider the following:
Technology has made our lives easier. But it’s also made our lives more difficult, especially in the workplace. Back in the old days, your parents’ day to be precise, it was a lot easier separating work and our personal lives. Many, maybe most, led very structured lives. We worked nine-to-five jobs, the rest of the time was spent either with our families or having fun and pursuing other interests.
Today it’s different, largely because of technological innovation. For many career builders, separating work and our personal lives is very difficult, for some, impossible. Hence, the issue of finding a work-life balance has become a topic of concern for both career-builders and the organizations that employ them.
Over the past two decades, career builders — especially high-energy fast-trackers — have come to realize the importance of finding a comfortable harmony between their work and personal lives. In concept it sounds simple. But achieving it can be difficult, especially if you have a high-power job demanding most of your time.
Yet many experts say it’s possible if you are willing to make some adjustments to your lifestyle.
“The most significant issue impeding productivity is the feeling of being overwhelmed,” according to Josh Davis, director of research for the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of “Two Awesome Hours.”
Computers can run endlessly and become more efficient, “but humans are complex biological creatures that require the right conditions to perform at maximum potential, at which point they’re capable of achieving incredible feats of comprehension, motivation and creative thinking,” Davis said. “Under the wrong circumstances, productivity lags, and quality of work suffers.”
To achieve a work-life balance, Davis suggests following these tips:
· Recognize daily decision points and then tackle what matters most.
· Learn how to direct your attention rather than focusing on how to avoid distractions.
· Nourish and take care of your body to set yourself up for success.
· Make your workspace work for you.
There’s more to say about finding a work-life balance. Look for my next blog on the subject.
With companies becoming more particular about the candidates they hire, the job market becomes more competitive each year. In light of market realities, few people would argue against the value of a bachelor’s degree. Most employers will say it’s mandatory. Work experience is equally important.
But as the cost of a college education increases, career builders are having second thoughts about post graduate degrees, especially the MBA. Unquestionably, higher education has its benefits, but there are better ways of preparing for a career than starting off tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
What better examples than successful entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Marc Zuckerberg, and Ted Turner, to name a few, created global empires without a college degree.
Unquestionably, “higher education has its benefits,” but based on experience and data, there are better ways of preparing for a career than starting off tens of thousands of dollars in educational debt, said Ed Basler, veteran entrepreneur and author of “The Meat & Potatoes Guide to Business Survival: A Handbook for Non-MBA’s & College Dropouts.”
Value of MBA questionable
Hard work, working smart, and learning from those who’ve been successful opens career doors, Basler said.
But, nearly 70 percent of graduates from public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, which averaged $28,400 per borrower, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.
Basler said “College doesn’t necessarily impart those attributes to students. The price of an MBA is certain, but its value is not.” Instead, he suggests following these seven principles:
1. Respect the power of your vision. It may sound like a cliché, but not to dreamers like Walt Disney — another giant who succeeded without a degree — Basler said. “Those who criticize the dreams of visionaries are those who’ve either failed or never dared to dream in the first place.” Basler’s success formula: Big vision = big results.
2. Don’t listen to naysayers.Listen to those who have something to say, including those who fully support your dream, and offer constructive criticism.
3. Plug into information. You don’t have reinvent the wheel. Instead, take of readily available information, such as joining your industry’s trade association, for example. It is a wealth of ideas, information and networking opportunities.
4. Never pay retail. Basler equates a college degree with paying retail prices. An expensive college degree does not guarantee a great job. But “you certainly pay a financial price,” he said. In business, frugality pays off. “The easiest and most frequently cited price is usually one that can be improved,” Basler added. “You can buy office furniture at a store, or you can cut those prices by half or more by going to an auction. Always be on the lookout for a more cost-efficient way.”
5. Use a checklist. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth including on your daily to-do list, according to Basler. Put the most important items at the top and then check them off once done. This lets you know that the task has been accomplished and it’s time to move on to the next.
6. Deadlines help achieve goals. Ambitious deadlines are powerful motivators to accomplishment more,” Basler said. Human beings’ attention spans are prone to wander. Deadlines, however, keep us focused so that goals are achieved.
A few more thoughts about the survey, “It Matters How Old You Fee: Antecedents and Performance Consequences of Average Relative Subjective Age in Organizations,” published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
The research team of the survey posed this question: “If mindset is critical, then isn’t how old you really are what matters?”
That’s a strange conclusion. The assumption is that all or most older workers are concerned about how old they feel. Maybe they came to that conclusion from reading all those ridiculous stories about 60 being the new 40, and 70 being the new 50 (maybe those numbers are off, but you get the idea). Did the pundits ever consider that many older workers are just thrilled to be working and taking home a weekly paycheck? More likely, they’re angry, better yet, pissed off, because they have to jump through hoops to get a job. Maybe the last thing they’re thinking about is old they feel.
Survey findings: Employees who felt younger than their chronological age were more successful in achieving their goals. Companies that employed “young at heart” employees also tended to perform better, be more efficient and earn more. The survey also found that organizations were more likely to have more “young at heart workers when they offered both age-inclusive policies and, on average, their employees felt that their work was more important and meaningful.”
I give up. I have no idea what that last finding meant. The researchers went on to say that the “cross-sectional study can’t prove the causality, but it’s possible that the optimism and possibilities afforded by meaningful work can make us feel more vibrant, and active policies that challenge stereotypes and extend opportunities to older workers help remove the sense of age being an issue.”
That’s the essence of the survey. I find the conclusions farfetched. The “young at heart stuff” struck me as farfetched and, well, silly. It’s enough that boomers have been brainwashed to believe that looking is young is far better than looking old. The majority of boomers are having a hard time dealing with aging. Hence, the obscene amounts of money spent on anti-aging remedies and cosmetic surgery. Why aren’t we putting forth a new, more realistic and honest view of aging? Obviously, many seniors have to contend with serious health issues — a fact of life we can’t do anything about. Yet, many boomers are living rich, meaningful lives. A significant number are enjoying the most productive and creative part if their lives. And there is the physical thing; older people’s changing biology. Despite all the quick-fix stay-young remedies, we can’t fight our biology.
With those givens, why don’t we see the positives? Why is the aging body seen in negative terms? Why isn’t old viewed as beautiful, and the aging process as sort of a coming of age — a time to reflect, ponder, achieve fulfillment, and take stock of our lives. In other cultures, elders are seen as a priceless resource, a source of knowledge and wisdom.
Enough of this “young at heart” stuff. It’s time to get down to the real, the important issues of aging.
Every time I think I read the last grandiose, back-slapping story about baby boomers, another pops up. This one was picked up by son-in-law, my top unpaid consultant who I’ve programmed to send me anything about baby boomers. Unfailingly, he always dredges up studies and surveys I missed. A recent survey, “It Matters How Old You Fee: Antecedents and Performance Consequences of Average Relative Subjective Age in Organizations,” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Written for organizational decision makers and recruiters, the big message is that if companies want to build a dynamic workforce, they ought to stop searching for young, hotshot fast trackers, and look for candidates who are young at heart. The study was based on a survey of more than 15,000 employees from 107 companies. The researchers’ goal was to find out how “subjective age influences workplace performance.”
In the past, it was widely believed that younger workers are more likely to make significant contributions. But, the evidence, according to researchers, is patchy and incomplete. It was based on the belief that young career builders are focused on getting ahead and moving up the career ladder, whereas the oldsters are all about maintaining their positions. I don’t know who came to that conclusion, which is wrong. Sounds like another myth or stereotype about older workers.
Since age discrimination is a fact of life, it’s safe to conclude that many boomers are delighted to just land a job. It takes many boomers up to two years to find a job — if not longer. Out of sheer frustration, many abort their job search and drop out of the job market. That doesn’t mean they’re finding work. But it’s often not in their fields or professions. They wind up taking whatever they can find; often they’re paid off the books. So they are invisible to the government, and are not part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics.
That said, there are many older workers who are fortunate to find jobs in their fields, and rather than report to work and get their work done and head home come 5 o’clock, they throw themselves into their jobs, work long hours, and make significant contributions.
There’s more to say about this survey. Look for my next blog on the subject.