A Delicate Balance

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Figuring out how to juggle your time at work and what you do for leisure can seem impossible. With an ever-increasing workload, which leads to even more stress, it’s hard to find (or make) time for friends and family. That’s why it’s important to have work/life balance.

But the phrase “work/life balance” is becoming a cliché for some people, and they see it as something else entirely.

“I like to look at this whole topic as work/life integration,” said Tiffany Mason, motivational speaker and author of “The Power of Adversity: A Guide to Finding Your Greatest Gift in Life.” “A lot of experts out there are saying you need to turn off at the end of the day so you can be with your family, which is really important, but at the same time, it’s seeing how we can integrate both our work and also our family life together.”

Mitzi Weinman, president of TimeFinder and author of “It’s About Time,” doesn’t believe in work/life balance.

“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as work/life balance,” Weinman said. “It’s ‘life balance,’ or, in reality, finding quality time to be with people you want to be with, doing activities you seem to not have time for and feeling like you’re not being pulled in too many directions by too many people.”

Whether you choose to call it work/life balance or not, the overall goal is to have a more stable life. Doing too much of one thing can have a negative effect.

“I look at it as an infinity symbol,” Weinman said. “It flows but sometimes the bubble is bigger on one side and then it shifts, depending on what’s going on in your life. If it gets stuck on one side, then you want to address that. If it’s too much time being spent at work and not enough time being spent with your family, then you need to take a step back and say, ‘This isn’t working.’”

As an owner or manager of a quick lube, being able to take time away from your work does more for you than just recharging your batteries.

“Work/life balance, for me, has two components. One is presence, and one is time,” said Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime.com and author of “Personal Productivity Secrets.” “Even if you love your job, get totally motivated by working and it feels inspirational to you, you can’t get a fresh perspective on your work and be the leader your company needs if you never disconnect from it. If you’re working 10-12 hours a day and then sleeping for the other part of the day, there’s very little time for you to disconnect, which means you never get that fresh perspective you need.”

If you’re a self-proclaimed multi-tasker who thinks you have this work/life balance issue down, you might want to reconsider just how effective multi-tasking is.

“When we’re distracted, whether by personal or professional items, we are not working at our best,” Thomas said. “We call it multi-tasking, but it’s really task switching. The human brain can’t hold more than one conscious thought at a time. So, if you’re putting together a quote but you’re interrupted every time an email comes in, you’re switching between tasks. Studies show the more we switch between tasks, the longer things take us and the lower quality of work it produces. I’m not suggesting you be out of touch for days, but take 10-20 minutes so you can finish the task at hand in a thoughtful way and then move on to the next thing. You’ll do it faster, and the quality of work will be higher.”

You may be completely aware there’s a disconnect between the amount of time you spend at work and the amount of time you spend with family and friends. Simply recognizing the problem is a good step in the right direction, but if you’re unsure of what to do next, consider these options.

“One of the things I suggest people do is to really look at where you are currently spending your time,” Weinman said. “I think most people acknowledge what their priorities are, but sometimes the amount of time they’re spending in different areas is not balanced with what they’d like it to be. It’s looking at how to carve out time for the things you want to be doing.”

Mason suggests delegating some of your responsibilities to other employees.

“You have to understand what your responsibilities are,” Mason said. “More times than not, business owners take on so many different tasks that they’re spread too thin. Taking a step back, breaking down all of the responsibilities you need to do at work and then being able to differentiate what your strengths are, what you enjoy doing and what you can delegate to other employees is a start.”

If there is no one to whom you can delegate other tasks, there are outside resources to help you manage things, so you can have more time to work on what really needs to be done.

“I think a resource a lot of small business owners ignore is outside, online services or even in-person services; things like Elance and oDesk,” Thomas said. “Business owners might think, ‘Not only do I have to run the business and manage the staff, but I also have to get the website updated, I have to check the Google Analytics and do all this stuff I don’t necessarily know how to do, and I can’t delegate it to my manager because they’re too busy.’ Well, you know what? Sometimes for $50 a week, you could have somebody checking your website and analytics and looking for broken links. People don’t know about these opportunities or they think it’s going to be too expensive. But $30 here or $50 there to be able to reclaim an hour or two hours of your time a day or 10 hours a week, that’s huge, especially for a business owner. There’s a little bit of an investment upfront, but it’s worth it to reclaim that time.”

Life is a balancing act. When one aspect of our life becomes overloaded, we become unbalanced, and that can lead to problems. Take a moment to reflect on your priorities for both work and leisure, make a plan of attack and execute it.

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