Harvey Schachter's periodic review of ideas and news on balance from the blogs:
Your brain only weighs three pounds but consultant Wally Bock notes it's still crucial to everything you do. "From time to time you want to treat your brain like it's special, because it is," he writes on his blog. A good time for that is your next long weekend. Try this:
· Give your brain some sleep: Don't set the alarm clock. Sleep until you wake up naturally (and if your body tells you it also needs naps, take them). A long weekend gives you an extra night to catch up on sleep.
· Give your brain some slack: Even on weekends, we tend to be overly busy. Take some time to sit or walk or do anything that doesn't require mental effort. That break might unleash some creative thoughts, as the brain does its thing.
· Give your brain something different: Find an unusual pastime to refresh your brain. "Read something different. Go to a museum or take nature walk. Even if you think a lot about your 'different' activity, your brain will find it invigorating," he suggests.
Crazy at work? Have a dialogue about it at home
When things get crazy at work, Wharton School professor Stew Friedman recommends holding "stakeholder dialogues:" Conversations with the people who matter most about your mutual expectations and how best to meet those, not just immediately but in the long term.
On Harvard Business Review blogs he says that would start by explaining the context, why your work temporarily demands your attention to an extraordinary degree. But keep it short. It's not an excuse but making sure the reason is known. As well, explain the purpose of what you'll be doing and why you believe it's important, for you and for others.
Ask about the consequences on others. A good question might be: "Can you tell me how this will make things harder for you?" Press for specifics, and don't minimize the difficulties they will face – just inquire, compassionately.
Express remorse, being specific to show your understanding of how your actions are causing problems. Then mutually explore alternatives to minimize the negative impact. "You're likely to discover possibilities for actions you can take that won't cost you much, but will help to minimize any damage caused by your work spike. You might even improve the quality of your relationships with your family, friends, and others in your life," he writes.
Get everyone involved in your home-based business
In some jobs, of course, work load spikes aren't the problem so much as the fact the pressure is constant and family members start to resent your business. Entrepreneur Lisa Kanarek, who writes the workingnaked.com blog for those who work from home, says you need to bring them into the business so they will support it instead of fight it. One step is to ask their opinions, since they may have helpful ideas from what they see – even young kids.
Perhaps you can put them to work, as she did when her third book was published and her sons helped package and mail books to those who ordered. And celebrate success together. "Whether you get a new client, finish a proposal you've been working on for weeks, or launch a new product, make a big deal about it and celebrate with your family. The point is to have fun. When you make your family part of the celebration, they'll know you appreciate them," she writes.
Even Jeff Bezos said he sleeps
We're told to make sure we get sufficient sleep. But if you need some support in defending sleep time, cite Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com Inc., who says he needs eight hours to feel and work his best. In the early days of his company, Inc.com reports, he avoided early morning meetings to not only get proper sleep but also have a healthy breakfast with his wife. "I wanted her to get the best hours of my day," he said.
Need a break? Book a meeting with yourself
To cushion yourself from the stress of the day, book regular Ready, Set, Pause meetings with yourself. Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of Digital Royalty, embraced them after a day in which she was drowning in meetings, 15 back-to-back. A friend, who knew about that wicked day, suggested yet another meeting – but a healthy one, eight minutes, in which she was to put on some headphones and listen to a Spotify playlist they had developed. "To my surprise, after the two songs were over I felt calm, energized and ready to tackle the rest of my day. That quick pause allowed me to release the tension that had been building with each meeting and to take a hiatus from my buddies, stress and anxiety," she writes in Fast Company Now eight-minute Ready, Set, Pause meetings are a feature of every day.
Live below your maximum output capacity
Through those pause sessions, you are improving your chances of "living with margin," which Donald Latumahina in his Lifeoptimizer blog says is critical for handling stress. "Margin is the difference between your maximum capacity and the capacity you use. Living with margin means living below your maximum capacity. Think of your life as a bucket of water. If you fill the bucket to capacity, then even a small shock can cause the water to spill out. But if there is enough space between the surface and the top of the bucket, the water won't spill out," he explains.
There are essentially two ways to increase your margin. You can improve your capacity, becoming better able to handle responsibilities, through exercise, quiet time, nurturing supportive relationships and learning tactics to handle the situation. Alternatively, you can reduce your load, eliminating items from your load, delegating or organizing better.
"To avoid stress, living with margin is key. Don't fill your life to capacity; spare some space instead," he concludes.
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter.