Balancing Your Life

I E NEED TIME TO DEVELOP OUR MINDS. AND WE NEED TO HAVE OUR / lives in balance if we are to be truly smart. As Honoré de Balzac wrote: "Time is the sole capital of people whose only fortune is their intelligence." As you have seen, learning is the most powerful aspect of human capital today.

Working hours are often long and, for many people, getting longer. Communication happens so quickly that people expect instant responses. It is as if the concept of the in-tray no longer exists. There is no place where data can sit until you are ready to deal with it. Telephones divert so easily from mobile to home to work and back again. Information seeps into our lives in an increasingly pervasive way.

We went through this when faxes were first invented. A letter sent by fax somehow seemed to be more important and urgent than a letter sent by the mail. Then there was voicemail. Now, when you record a message for someone, you somehow expect a reply more quickly than if you had left a message with a secretary. No sooner has an email arrived than there is a sense that it has to be answered. Many business people answer some of their emails at home or on the train to and from work. Copying emails indiscriminately is becoming a form of office terrorism. We can book holidays, order groceries, and check our investments over the internet at the touch of a button, wherever we are. All we have to remember the number of our credit card and its expiry date.

You already know how the wrong kind of stress adversely affects your mind. Indiscriminate email is undoubtedly causing the wrong kind of stress in too many people. For many people, the flow of data is like a surging current driving a powerful white water river, while we are on a small raft, hanging on for grim life hoping that we can stay afloat.

The boundaries between home and work are, for many people, also increasingly blurred. Flexible working patterns have created a new freedom for some workers. An increasing number of people work largely from home, especially in the fast-growing field of knowledge and communications companies. For these individuals, there may be a sense of more freedom and control over working time.

But, for many busy executives, emails at home and growing workloads are bad news for them, their partners, their friends, and their family. To keep your job, you work longer hours and send more emails to other people, who have to work longer to deal with them. You may be better off in terms of money, but you simply do not have enough time to develop.

It need not be like this.

In a survey in 2000 by British bank Lloyds TSB, men and women aged 16 and above were asked to cast an actor to play them in a film of their choice. Women overwhelmingly chose Judy Dench, who was perceived as being wise and charismatic. A close runner-up was Kate Winslet, who was more popular with younger women. The men were equally definite. Sean Connery was the outright winner, being seen as a man of integrity. He was followed by Al Pacino.

Those surveyed were also asked to say who exemplified a person who is living life to the full. Explorer Ranulph Fiennes topped the poll. In second and third places were UK media personality Chris Evans and international popstar Madonna. Only 9 percent of respondents thought that Bill Gates had a fulfilled life, while Richard Branson achieved a lowly 2 percent.

In addition, 61 percent of both sexes said that they would turn down a work promotion in order to enrich their personal life, whereas only 29 percent would accept one that might compromise their personal happiness. Work is, not surprisingly, even in today's materialistic world, a means to an end. Personal relationships are felt to be much more important than having money.

When asked what they would most like to be remembered for, people responded as follows:

Lloyds TSB group chief executive, Peter Ellwood, puts it like this:

Everyone has a life outside work, whether it is caring for children or elderly parents, studying or playing sport. Increasingly as employers we need to be able to help our employees to balance their work with the rest of their lives, if we are to be employers of choice.

In the UK there has been an interesting development in this area with the formation, in 1998, of the National Work-Life Forum. This has been set up in the belief that "helping men and women feel more in control of their lives is good for society and good for business." Working in partnership with government, employers, and a range of interested organizations to "make the case," the Forum is developing strategies that will help us successfully combine the demands of work with our personal, family, and community lives.

The campaign has attracted the support of Prime Minister Blair, who has said:

Millions of people across the UK would like to benefit from flexible ways of working. At the same time, the best businesses are showing that a better balance between work and life does not have to come at the expense of profits and competitiveness.

It is being trialed by a number of major companies, including Gemini Consulting, which is exploring the effect of introducing "quality of life" contracts and charters in some of its teams. Prudential Direct has set up home-based call centers linked to state-of-the-art automated data distribution systems, surely the way ahead for this kind of work.


Sense of humor Kindness

Generosity Zest for life

75 65

There is the distinct feeling that, as John Bradshaw wrote, organizations are realizing: "You are a human being not a human doing; you are a human being not a human performance." This is good news for business and good news for all of us.

Stop and think for a moment about changes in your own life. What are the most important A ones? In technology? In the pace of life? In your relationships? In society? In politics? In the world of work?

What does the organization you work for do to help people get the work-life balance right? What does it do that hinders them? What would you most like to change to improve things?

In 1999, the Campaign for Learning created Family Learning Weekend, a time when organizations all over the UK were encouraged to think more expansively of their personal and family learning needs. Hundreds of thousands of individuals took part in "taster" activities, and the event seems set to become a fixture in the calendar. Many businesses took the opportunity to think more broadly about their involvement in the wider community, including the families of their workforce.

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment