Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Creating a meaningful work and life balance – 4: negotiating for a quality of life part 1

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 19, 2011

This is my fourth installment in a series on creating a meaningful work/life balance (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 150-152) and I start it by making an observation that I find curious. This guide is about jobs and careers, and it seeks to cover many if not most of the major issues and challenges, and learning opportunities that we all face in our work life. But I know that some and perhaps many readers will at least in part see this series as a departure from that and as being about leaving or avoiding work. I said at the end of Part 3 that the most difficult negotiations we face in creating a work/life balance can be with ourselves, and this is a big part of why. Our work, to make a trite statement that is often just given lip service, is only a part of our life. We have to take ownership and responsibility for all of it, job and career included – and as a part of a larger whole. And to focus on negotiations here:

• We cannot effectively negotiate with others in arriving at a good work/life balance if we have not successfully negotiated on this with ourselves first – and this is one negotiation where we can always win if we allow ourselves to do so.

Negotiating on this with ourselves is all about giving ourselves permission to not always be on-call and working. It is about giving ourselves permission to have a family and a life outside of work and we need that if we are to have the balance, perspective and energy to succeed at our jobs and careers. This is all very simple and obvious but many, many of us consistently and routinely deny it in the day to day decisions we make. And the cumulative consequence of that is that we can and too often do derail our jobs and careers in the process as well as our overall quality of life. Have a job and a career. Have a life too, that job and career can be a meaningful but not all-encompassing part of.

And as we are negotiate this with ourselves, and win at that we put ourselves in a position to negotiate terms and conditions, and requirements and priorities with others too. And this is where negotiations begin with supervisors and peers, with clients and stakeholders, and with the full range of people we work with and who depend on our productivity on the job.

How can we do this in the midst of the daily flow of sometimes conflicting and always compelling demands on our time and energy? Do not try an ad hoc approach. Set standards and keep to them. We attend meetings where we (at least should) turn off our cell phones and handhelds and be completely present in the moment. We can do that during dinner with our family or when attending one of our children’s little league baseball games or music recitals. We can carve out times and places where we do disconnect from the ubiquitous communications tether to have a life outside of work. And setting specific, negotiated boundaries are an effective way to start, with specific areas important to us carved out as important non-job, non-career time.

I am going to conclude this posting here, as I have actually touched on a set of issues that take time to work through and internalize. The next posting in this series will turn to negotiating here and now job requirements with the various constituencies you work with and for. After that I will step back to look at the issues of negotiating for a career with a viable work/life balance.

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