7 Tips on Striking the Work-Life Balance
So where exactly has the Funeral Gal been? It seems as if I have been a slight bit absent lately from the blogosphere – I know, I know. Fact of the matter is that on the see-saw of work/life balance, the “life” part became a little bit heavier the last couple of months. Truth be told building a new house, moving in when you are eight months pregnant, and then having a baby 6 days before Christmas eats into a lot of evening/weekend time (the times I usually spend writing blog posts). Needless to say, the Funeral Gal blog took a “holiday vacation”. While the life side may have weighed slightly heavier, the work side of things was almost equally as heavy.
So now that the New Year has passed and my littlest one just turned 5 weeks old, I can sit and take the time to reflect on the past couple of months. What have I learned? Well I learned that it all relates back to effectively managing a “work/life” balance.
Work/life balance is one of the hottest topics in business today. Simply Google the topic and no shortage of 84,800,000 results appear (in .60 seconds I might add – impressive Google, impressive). This topic is seemingly ubiquitous – everyone is writing about it! Health publications such as the Mayo Clinic and Mental Health America; news publications such as NY Times and Huffington Post; business publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com; and others have all weighed in on their opinions from their own perspectives about the topic.
Work and life is a constant roller coaster. Funeral homes know this the best. The old adage in the funeral industry is that if you want your funeral home to get busy, plan to do something in your personal life… a vacation, a can’t miss school or sporting event for your children, a state convention, the holidays, and on and on. All the calls will begin to pour in as you a) prepare for or b) are gone for this event. There can’t be a truer anecdote for our “on-call” profession. So how do you deal with it when both your professional and personal sides of your lives get busy?
I don’t by any means claim to be an expert, and I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot to learn. However, each time I ride the roller coaster up where both my personal and my professional life both get extremely busy I become a little bit wiser on how to handle these situations. So, here’s what I have learned:
Don’t be afraid to learn something new (especially in the realm of technology): Time is the scarcest resource when things are busy. Too often, we spend more time doing things the way we are familiar with instead of learning a new method that may create us more of this precious resource that is time. Example: in preparing our tracking spreadsheets for the beginning of the new year, I was using my old monotonous and time consuming way of adding figures together. After about half way through, I decided to Google to see if there was a faster way of completing my task. Sure enough, up pops a YouTube video that taught me a much faster way of accomplishing my task. This saved me about 45 minute in completing my task. I took that 45 minutes finished additional work to be done, which freed me up to complete my work day right on time and get home 45 minutes earlier to sneak in a lot of my Christmas shopping on Amazon (another time saver right there). Moral: Even when you think you are drowning for time, don’t be afraid take a risk in the form of a couple extra minutes in learning something new if it has the potential to save time in the long run.
Chunk down your life: What is “chunk down your life” you might ask? Well, it’s my (in)formal way of breaking my life into separate segments. Whether I am at work or at home, I take big tasks or lots of things to do in a day and “chunk” them down into smaller tasks. I sit down in the morning, break up my chunks, and plan my day to complete all my tasks. I intermix longer and shorter tasks, my tedious and monotonous tasks, my sit behind my computer screen and get up and move tasks. This helps keep me fresh throughout the day and helps keep my fatigue down and my production up!
Delegate: Okay, so you need to be careful with this one. Fair warning here: don’t delegate tasks that you aren’t supposed to and don’t delegate tasks to someone who is unqualified or undertrained to complete them correctly. However, if it makes your work life sane to ask your significant other to pick up the children – it’s okay to ask every once in a while (so long as you are willing to return the favor). If you need to ask someone at work to do a favor and help you make some copies – go ahead and ask (again, so long as you’re willing to return the favor).
Appreciate your support system: Your support system could be your significant other, your best friend that you vent to, your family or others! These are the people who will listen, commiserate, and pick you up when life gets tough, busy and/or stressful. You have to not only appreciate them, but also be there for them when they go through the same tough, busy or stressful time. (Thanks Ty! [my husband])
Compartmentalize: This is especially important for funeral directors. Negative emotions that meddle between your work life and personal life can be toxic to your life in general. Try your best to not let the personal bleed into work and work not bleed into the personal. It is okay to vent and to talk about one or another to someone on your support system (in fact this can be a positive and healthy way to get things out), but don’t let it determine your mood or your outlook on the day as whole.
Leave “unplanned” time: If you set your daily schedule and “chunk down your life” with every minute of the day accounted for, this will never work! Emails flow through, the phone rings, and if I know anything from meeting with funeral directors… you only get about 80 calls a day asking about service times/places from loved one’s friends and family (a full time job in and of itself)! You must have FLEX time scheduled each day for those unplanned things that seem to just crop up. This will help you mentally. Most health-related articles recommend a “flex time” of 20% - 30% of your total hours, and sometimes (depending on your job) as high as 40% of your total day.
Take “leave” from those things that are “non-essential”: Well, this is where this article comes full circle. You must prioritize the most important things first – “non-essential” items might need to be put off for the time being. This blog was one of the things I had to temporarily take a step back from in favor of the priorities of my work and personal life. As much as I wanted to continue my blogging, it was more important for me to tend to my family and my primary work duties. This is a practice that is important when “riding up the rollercoaster”.
Work/life balance is constantly a balance – sometimes work weighs a little more, and sometimes its personal life that weighs a bit more… and its healthy to see-saw back and forth. None of what I said above is rocket science – and none of it is something you didn’t already know. But sometimes it’s helpful to hear that someone else puts these things into practice and it’s good to be reminded that they actually work! As we are in the height of the funeral “busy season”, I can only hope you may use one of the things I have learned, (re)implement it, and find maybe just five minutes of your life streamlined!