How’s your work-life balance? Are you saying ‘yes – I’ll take on that extra job’ too easily.
With the economic downturn still affecting professional firms, the pressure is on for management to get partners, associates and staff to work harder.
But some of us get more overloaded than others and the mythical work-life balance can too easily go out of the window.
Many of us like to be wanted and want to be liked. We can say ‘yes’ too easily to taking on another job.
Many of us don’t like saying ‘no’. Maybe they won’t ask us again. Maybe I should make my chargeable hours figures look even better – particularly if I want to get considered for promotion.
Here are some tips for how to avoid getting overloaded and managing your time effectively:
- Saying ‘No’
This doesn’t have to be done in a brutal way. You don’t have to be rude. Sometimes it’s possible to suggest other ways the other person can get what they are looking for. If you feel the pull to wanting to say ‘yes – I’ll do it’, ask yourself what that is about. Why are you feeling that? Try to deal with that feeling to help you make a more balanced decision.
2. Asking ‘What for?’
You might get asked to attend various meetings or be on conference calls. Rather than just saying ‘yes’, try asking a few questions, such as:
- What’s the purpose of the meeting?
- How long will we need?
Consider whether you can attend for a single item of the agenda and then leave the meeting rather than having to sit through a whole lot of irrelevant discussions.
- Asking: ’Does it have to be me?’
We all have the tendency to have illusions of grandeur. It’s as if we’re saying to ourselves ‘they asked me because I’m the best or only person who can do this work properly’. But the truth is that others could help.
Suggest someone else who could help instead of you. An alternative is to delegate one of your existing tasks to someone else to free-up your time for this task. Try to operate a ‘one in – one out’ policy in terms of workload!
- Who owns the problem?
Try to be helpful, but avoid taking the problem from the other person. Leave responsibility with its rightful owner. One of the least helpful responses you can make for yourself when you’re already busy is ‘Leave it with me – I’ll sort it out!’
- Finding (making) private space
Above all, you need to be on top of your calendar. Make sure you reserve time in it so that you can get the essential work done, such as drafting and reviewing documents.
Try hiding away in meeting rooms and not getting distracted by calls or emails to get essential work done.
Some partners block out time each month so that they ensure doing business development.
- Re-stating your priorities
Have time to take stock. Review your lists of tasks and priorities. Some of us are probably better at lists than others. But when you’re busy, lists are essential to ensure you don’t drop a ball!
Many of us can feel powerless when managing our workloads. I realise that it’s easy writing a list of suggestions such as these and it’s harder saying ‘no’ in practice.
But the truth is we need to take responsibility for our wellbeing and with a combination of tact and assertion a more balanced lifestyle is possible.