Harvey Schachter's periodic review of ideas and news on balance from the blogs:
What's the battery level in your phone? Tablet? Laptop?
You probably have a good idea of how fully charged it is, and have checked recently to make sure these crucial electronic devices don't run down. But what about your own energy levels?
"We are taking care of our smartphones better than we are taking care of ourselves," Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington noted recently.
That observation caught the attention of New Zealand wellness coach Louise Thompson, who in her blog described the panic we all feel when our phone's battery is down to, say, the 12-per-cent level.
"The day I collapsed at work from extreme fatigue, never to return, I was down to, what, 3 per cent of my battery? But I never stopped and prioritized recharging it. I just sort of assumed my own personal battery was infinitely recharging. Like I am sort of a one-woman Duracell Bunny," she writes.
She considers her behaviour stupid and suggests you act with more intelligence, scanning your body regularly to determine your "battery level." If it needs more energy, respond as you would with your phone: Charge up.
To build this habit, she recommends that you check your personal energy every time you check your electronic device's energy. "If it's running low, give it a quick boost with a walk round the block. A chat with a friend. Five minutes quiet time. Going to bed early. Ditching the coffee for a peppermint tea. Little recharging pit-stops that keep your battery topped up. Take care of yourself better than your smartphone," she concludes.
Align your goals
Competing goals can create stress, time pressures, and impatience.
Bryant University professor Michael Roberto on his blog points to a study by three academics (Stanford University's Jennifer Aaker, Duke's University's Jordan Etkin, and Rotterdam University's Ioannis Evangelidis) that found:
· People experience more stress when they are trying to juggle conflicting goals, such as staying late at work to get a project done or coming home early to attend a child's concert.
· People feel more pressed for time when they experience conflicting goals – even if those goals do not compete for their time, such as choosing between an eco-friendly car or a safe gas guzzler.
· People are less patient when they have conflicting goals, for example, they're less willing to wait in line or on the phone.
· Since they have less patience, they are willing to pay more to save time.
He urges you to be aware of how conflicting objectives can distort your behaviour, important when considering work-life balance, where conflict can be built in. "If we set too many goals, we may not accomplish anything," he warns.
Balance in 3-D
The standard illustration of work-life balance is a scale. But Cali Williams Yost, a consultant based in New Jersey, wanted a different concept for the redesign of her firm's logo. The result was a far less static depiction, showing the flexible, 3-D, always-changing, multifaceted fit between our work, personal lives and careers. It shows our life both connected and pulling apart, which you may find all too accurate.
Let things happen
Stop being a time slave, says Massachusetts-based wellness adviser Bethany Butzer. Each day has 24 hours, and she says we have become obsessed with trying to feel every second with preplanned, important activities.
Even on vacations, she likes to have a jam-packed schedule. She crams in visits to tourist attractions and assorted other to-dos. When she took a week-long break and tried to leave the schedule completely open – other than a mid-week dinner with her husband – she found it very difficult.
"Before opening my eyes in the morning, my mind would be desperately trying to plan events for the day," she recalls on her blog, her mind calculating when to go to the beach, what to eat for breakfast and how that would synchronize with lunch, and on and on and on. Her to-dos had her in a "death grip."
As she gently released that urge to fill up every minute of her time, serendipity allowed her to fill her days in amazing ways she would never have imagined. She took writing and herbal apothecary courses, saw meteor showers and wildflowers, and let events take their turn.
"By releasing my need to plan everything, I entered into a beautiful flow in which the universe took care of my plans and provided more amazing opportunities than I would have come up with on my own. Eventually I lost track of what time it was and what day it was. I just existed in the moment," she said.
Another tip from her recent newsletter: Embrace winter. Many of us shy away from going outdoors in this season but she is trying to be outside as much as possible, since fresh air is good for the soul.
Social media, time stealer
Let's close with a simple piece of advice for our social media era from Toronto-based consultant Dennis Ford, on the Clear Concept blog: "The concept of work-life balance begins with you. Every tweet, post and 'like' infringes on your precious family time and personal life."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org