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Illusion of Balance

When we talk about the new norm, one of the first words that comes to mind is BUSY!  Our days are packed with tasks, to-dos, meetings, emails, video meetings, deadlines, reschedules, and unknowns, all of which must be managed while adapting to a rapidly changing environment. Lest we forget to mention our personal lives, which […]

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When we talk about the new norm, one of the first words that comes to mind is BUSY!  Our days are packed with tasks, to-dos, meetings, emails, video meetings, deadlines, reschedules, and unknowns, all of which must be managed while adapting to a rapidly changing environment. Lest we forget to mention our personal lives, which are no longer so personal as they have become incorporated into our work lives. As our homes become classrooms and workspaces, and we try keeping everything and everyone on track, balance has become illusive. I can say, in all truthfulness, that our son and three dogs have appeared on more than one of my work calls.

So where is the break? The line between work and home has become blurred. Our homes are our offices, gyms, schools, entertainment option, restaurants and more.  At the moment, most people are not traveling, taking vacations, or spending time with friends and family to reconnect or recharge.

In Chuck Mollor’s new best-selling book The Rise of the Agile Leader: Can You Make the Shift?, he suggests, “Our ability to effectively manage pressure and stress is critical. Some of it is about creating time on our calendar for thinking, reflecting, and planning. There isn’t a successful leader who has not learned how to do this”.

Sadly, some of us used to rely on our commute as our “me” time. This was our time to be alone with our thoughts, think of what was next, reflect, and decompress. A client who is a partner in a large law firm recently shared, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, I am never alone. From calls with clients, to trying to support my family with their needs, there is no separation. I am finding it challenging to ensure I am being present and plan. I have lost track of when the day should end.”  We now feel as though we are always “on.”

As researchers from Lehigh University wrote in Science Daily, “As prior research has shown, if people cannot disconnect from work and recuperate, it leads to burnout, higher turnover, more deviant behavior, lower productivity, and other undesirable outcomes.“

Just like your body needs to recharge after a workout, your mind needs time to unplug and disconnect from the workday. But when days are long and are co-mingled with personal life (six family members interacting in the same square footage all day), what can you do to wind down, recover, and self-reflect? A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who can disconnect from work experience:

  • Less work-related fatigue
  • Far lower rates of procrastination
  • Far greater engagement at work(and getting into a state of ‘flow’)
  • Greater work-life balance and quality of life
  • Greater satisfaction with their personal and professional relationships
  • Better mental and physical health

Take time to properly recover, both mentally and physically, and you will be setting yourself up for more productive days, a better work-life balance, and a happier, healthier life. In a March 2017 Harvard Business Review article by Jennifer Porter, she shared, “The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.”

Companies need to be actively engaged with employees to ensure they have the tools and expectations to support their teams. Employees burning out due to working in a virtual environment and managing their home lives is becoming a corporate pandemic.

As individuals, what are some options to create time for reflection and decompressing?  Below, I am sharing some ideas I use, and what we have heard from our clients and colleagues. However, it is critical to find an approach or combination of approaches that works for you:

  • Providing 10–15-minute breaks between virtual meetings by shortening meetings to 45-50 minutes
  • Reducing the number of structured/agenda virtual meetings
  • or casual meetings to build relationships, check-in with people
  • Scheduling time on the calendar for reflection
  • Practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga
  • Exercising with no distractions – going for a walk while taking a conference call does not count
  • Spending time outside, in nature
  • Journaling
  • Speaking with a coach, mentor, or friend
  • Utilizing a vision board
  • Taking several deep breaths
  • Create boundaries for yourself and your family

I highly encourage you to stop and do something to decompress. What will you do differently today, then tomorrow, and in each day? Own the changes needed to have a healthier day and life, and to avoid burnout and unmanageable pressure and stress.

  1. The Rise of the Agile Leader. Can You Make The Shift?, Chuck Mollor

About MCG Partners

MCG Partners a woman-owned consultancy specializing in leadership, team and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner. To learn more please contact Stephanie Holmgren at [email protected] and at mcgpartners.com.

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