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Small Business Digest


Work-Life Balance - Tips for Staying Focused and Productive

Twenty four hours. That’s all people get. No amount of wishing, complaining, or creative time management will ever change that.

Each day contains only so many hours, each week just so many days. Yet the amount of work people must try to squeeze into those hours can be mind-boggling. Not to mention the family responsibilities, household maintenance, social commitments, and life in general.

The pressure and stress of work for many continues to build, as does the number of people who work long hours.

The nature of work is changing because of a more global market and the increase in information and communications technology. Technology advances are changing the way in which companies compete.

The place and time of work is becoming more ubiquitous as cell phones, the Internet, PDAs and the 24-hour global economy seem to control our working and non-working lives.

Those who have achieved work-life balance are better positioned to handle today's demands. They are more satisfied with their work and home lives; better able to fulfill their responsibilities at home, work and in the community with less guilt or regret; more healthy physically, emotionally and socially; have a sense of control and make better informed decisions rather than forced sacrifices and trade offs.

People sometimes comfort themselves with the notion that it will get easier as they become more established. Once they've landed that corner office or taken their business to the next level. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Yes, the work demands change. But it is rarely the case that they become less intense or time consuming.

People must be aware that there are significant risks posed by our over-scheduled, chronically demanding, not-enough-hours-in-the-day lives. When life is imbalanced, relationships suffer, work performance deteriorates, and parenting skills go down the tubes. Potential emotional effects include feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, and hopelessness.

What can be done to protect people from burnout in the midst of what sometimes feels like life run amok? The following tried-and-true techniques can help:

Prioritize. Not everything is urgent or even necessary. Focus on what’s most important and set other things on the back burner. Some things can be taken off your plate altogether.

Ask for help. People shouldn't make the mistake of trying to do it all on their own. Hire help where appropriate. Call upon a friend, family member, or colleague. People are often glad to lend a helping hand.

Take a break. In 30 minutes or less, people can de-stress, refocus, and re-energize themselves. Why not read a book, take a walk, or ride your bike? Play with a pet, listen to music, or flip through a magazine. Work in the garden or simply take a catnap. When time’s up, get back to work. The improved effectiveness and productivity will more than make up for the 30 minutes of “down time.”
Say no! People don’t have to agree to every request that comes your way. Both at work and at home, it’s perfectly appropriate, healthy (and necessary) to set limits on which tasks and activities will be added to an already full schedule.

Stop trying to be perfect. There’s very little in life that has to be done to the point of perfection. Few people notice the difference between a job well done and a job perfectly done. Do it well and then move on.

The reality is that it will never be easy to balance the demands of work, family, and life itself. Make the most of the time by following the above techniques, and remember to appreciate the good stuff. Find gratification in work, enjoy time with family and friends, take pride in accomplishments. With the proper balance and perspective, life can be more than simply manageable. It can and should be rewarding, engaging, and at times simply magnificent.

Adapted from newsletter by OI Partners.  For more information, visit

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