One of the most interesting aspects of my trip to Singapore was observing the government’s active stance on work life issues.
Unlike in the U.S. where private industry often fights any attempt to legislate work life supports (e.g. paid sick leave days and parental leave), corporations and government agencies in Singapore have formed a true partnership.
Most likely, the motivation for this coordinated effort is the country’s critical labor shortage. Regardless, it was fascinating to watch.
My host, Lim Yit Siang, who is the Assistant Director of the Family Education and Promotion Division, Ministry of Social and Family Development (pictured here putting me on my 21+ hour flight back to the U.S.) asked me to answer a question frequently posed by parents (particularly mothers) about how to “do it all” and have success, on and off the job.
“I am a full-time mother with 2 children in primary school. My workload in the office is rather heavy and I find it difficult to make time for myself and my family. What can I do to improve the situation? Is it really possible to “have it all” – a fulfilling career as well as an enriching personal and family life?”
When you are a mother who works at a busy job and has two young children, it can be overwhelming. Not only do I understand professionally, but I can relate personally. I am a working mother of two, as well!
That being said, my research and experience have proven that if you regularly follow a few simple steps, you can find a “fit” between your work and personal life that let’s you be your best (not perfect, but your best), on and off the job.
First, stop trying to find a perfect “balance” or to “have it all.” All you can achieve is your unique work+life fit based on your work and personal circumstances on a given day, week, month or year. This relieves some of the pressure to get it “right,” and helps you focus on the possibilities for you, your job and your family based on your realities now.
Next, harness the power of small actions to achieve your work+life fit goals. I call these small, meaningful actions “tweaks,” and in your case it sounds like the tweaks you want to make happen involve self-care and your family. Too often we think big changes are the only way to address our challenges, when really small actions, if taken consistently and deliberately, make all the difference.
Then, follow a simple weekly work+life fit practice to put your “tweaks of the week” into action. Twenty years ago, clocks and walls told us where work ended and the other parts of life began. But as technology exploded and the global economy expanded the clocks and wall disappeared. We all became much more overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do when.
I spent a number of years studying the people I’d meet in companies who seemed to effortlessly manage to fit their work and life together. I call them the work+life “fit” naturals.
I learned that they follow a few simple steps that I translated into a weekly practice found in my new book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. The practice entails spending about twenty minutes each week:
1) Celebrating success. Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished at work, in your personal life and in your career for the week. It’s often more than you think.
2) Reviewing what you need to get done in the coming week. What you’ve already committed in at work, in your personal life and with your career development. And identify open slots in your work+life fit that you could fill with some additional, meaningful “tweaks” in areas that are important to you right now.
3) Pick the “standard tweaks,” or habits, you want to make part of your work+life fit over the next seven days, but also think about any “unique tweaks” or special, one-off actions. In your case, the standard tweaks you might pick include spending 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your children in the evening, or cooking a special meal together on a weekend night. A unique tweak could be celebrating a friend’s birthday one evening. Over 50 work, personal life and career experts offer their advice.
4) Record your “tweaks of the week” in your combined work and personal calendar and priority list. Try not to keep two separate calendars/ “to do” lists. Combine everything into one and create a complete picture of what you want to accomplish on and off the job.
By regularly following these simple steps, you will build a solid foundation of well-being and performance that will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed personally and professionally. Remember, just “tweak it!”
What would you add?