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5 Skills to Manage Your Workload and Work/Life Balance

Posted on July 16, 2019 at 1:50 PM



According to a recent survey by LinkedIN, the top two challenges for US employees are "finding a work-life balance" (38 percent) and "managing their workload" (31 percent). I too struggled with these issues in my career. Then I learned these five powerful tips to manage my workload and work/life balance from five very different places.


1 - Ask for Help - According to that same survey, 35 percent of US employees admitted they are too scared to ask for help at work. Incredibly, a third of respondents said they would rather work six extra hours than ask for help! I too used to be reluctant to ask for help. I was too proud to look weak or admit I didn't know something. I had an epiphany about help while walking the ancient Camino pilgrimage trail across Spain on vacation, however. I stopped for lunch in a small village in rural Spain and saw these three older gentlemen across the street eyeing us pilgrims (see photo). When two other hikers went the wrong way after finishing their lunch, I saw these guys leap up and yell (nicely) to point them in the right direction. I realized these guys were waiting for the chance to be helpful to pilgrims. They were strategically positioned across from the only restaurant in the village. When I left, I acted like I was lost too just to give the men a chance to help me. I smiled when they did.

 

LESSON - Ask for help because it isn't just good for you, it gives others the gift of feeling helpful. People like to feel smart and have their skills and expertise acknowledged. Asking for help is a win-win way to do that. 


2 - Use the 80/20 to Prioritize - On my first day working for one of the big three strategy consulting firms, we all got a speech from the managing partner about the keys to success at the firm. I never forgot one piece of advice because it was a totally new concept to me - "Find the 80/20." Because they charge expensive rates, consultants are trained to prioritize their work to maximize the value they return to clients. They do that by using the Pareto Principle, often called simply the "80/20 rule." This is a common phenomena in nature where 20 percent of potential causes produce 80 percent of the results. For example, people typically wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of carpet area typically gets 80 percent of the wear. Once you figure out the 80/20 of a problem, you can focus on solving the 20 percent of potential issues that will give you 80 percent of the value.


LESSON - "Don't sweat the small stuff." Ruthlessly focus your time on the 20% of activities at work that are most essential to achieving your results and de-prioritize / delegate / drop the 80% of things that are not. 


3 - Delegate Meetings - According to a 2007 survey, 46 percent of companies were concerned about their employees' ability to delegate. (Ironically, only 28 percent of those companies offered training in delegation.) If you are a manager, meetings are one of the biggest and easiest things to delegate. Identify the meetings you, and only you, must attend because of your role - e.g., meetings with your boss, one-on-ones with your direct reports, meetings you chair, places where you vote or approve. Keep those on your calendar. The rest are candidates for delegation. Purposely skip one of those meetings and send one of your deputies as your delegate. Give them marching orders on how to represent and debrief you. Make clear the delegation is conditional. If done well, your team member will appreciate the extra exposure and responsibility. And if you keep it up and find other meetings to delegate, you will appreciate the time you reclaim.


LESSON - Delegating is like teaching a kid to ride a bike - it is a skill in letting go that is scary but can be a game-changing process improvement for everyone involved. Before they taught me to ride a bike, my parents had to take me everywhere. Once they taught me to bike, I started transporting myself - and freed up a lot of their time. 


4 - Set Daily Goals - Two things I loved about playing football in high school were the scoreboard, and the time clock. They gave us a clear goal and feedback. I would give it my all during the game, but after the clock was done, it was time to recover. Setting a daily goal at work is a great way to put your workload into perspective and put closure on a day. Define one thing you want to achieve each day that will make you feel like you put points on the scoreboard. Maybe it is finishing, or starting, some task that has been on your plate for a while. Maybe it is getting a desired outcome from a meeting you run. Maybe it is getting a weekly task done. Pick something small and end your day on a high note by finishing it.


LESSON - Rome wasn't built in a day - but it was built one day at a time. Set a daily goal at work and toast yourself for its completion at dinner-time away from work. 


5 - Set Communication Boundaries - Our smart phones are amazing communication tools that connect us at work. But when we don't control them, they can become weapons of mass distraction. At work, they can divert your focus, killing your productivity. After work, smart phones can enable work to creep into your free time, killing your work/life balance. Figure out rules to set boundaries with your communication tools. Turn off non-essential personal notifications on your phone that distract you at work. Turn off work email notifications at night. Keep your work phone in your bag when you get home. Shut your phone off during family time. Whatever works for you, figure out ways to turn the switch off when you leave work.


LESSON - When a restaurant gives you a buzzer to let you know your food or table is ready, you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. View your work phone the same way. Once it has done its job for the day, put it away or turn it off.

Categories: Work - Life Balance, Career Planning, Performance Management