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Has Your Career Taken Over Your Life?

By Noël Rozny, Guest blogger

Since the Great Recession hit the American workforce like a hurricane, everyone has been doing more with less. Companies have downsized, priorities have been reshuffled, and most employees have been happy to take on additional job responsibilities if it means helping out their organization and keeping their jobs.

But there’s a difference between “taking one for the team” and sacrificing your entire life for your job. If an increase in your work duties has been leading to more and more overtime, you could be putting yourself at risk of burnout in both your personal and professional lives.

So what can you do to make sure you’re getting a good work/life balance? First, identify the warning signs that your career is encroaching on your personal life:

  • The only time you see your kids is when you tuck them in at night. Because of the hours you put in at work, you haven’t been able to attend a dance recital, Little League game, or birthday party. Heck, you don’t even have time to pick your kids up from school or help them with their homework. You’re beginning to wonder if they remember who you are.
  • You haven’t exercised in weeks, possibly months. You pay for your monthly gym membership, but actually getting there is a whole different story. The only time you have to work out is between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m., long after your gym closed has closed its doors for the night. Right now, your daily workout consists of trips to the vending machine and to them employee parking lot.
  • You never know which day it is because you work all day, every day. TGIF doesn’t mean anything to you, because you work all weekend, every weekend. You might as well put a fridge and a bed in your office and move in permanently.
  • Your model airplanes/ski boots/paint brushes are covered in dust. If you haven’t had time to indulge in your personal hobbies and interests, whatever they may be, you’ve most likely been sacrificing your “me” time for work.

Does this sound like your life? If it does, it means you don’t have enough time for your friends, family, and personal interests. You need to take the necessary steps to put your career and your personal life back into balance. And believe it or not, it may be easier than you think. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Talk to Your Boss About Flexible Work Options
Sometimes making one or two small changes can make a world of difference. Talk to your boss, explain your situation, and see what flexible work options are available to you. Could you work a compressed work week, which consists of four 10-hour days, to give yourself an extra day off each week? Is telecommuting an option, so you can save a few hours each week on your office commute? Can you job-share some of your new responsibilities with a fellow employee?

Monitor Your Calendar
A great way to keep your work/life balance in check is to keep a calendar that tracks both your work and personal engagements. With everything on one schedule, there’s no way you can schedule an off-site meeting the same day as that important PTA meeting or your daughter’s basketball game. Keeping a calendar for all your plans will also make it easy to see at a glance how much time you’re spending at work, and how much time you’re spending at home, especially if you color code your different activities. (Don’t forget to pencil in some personal time for your hobbies and interests too!)

Just Say No
In this tough economy, you probably hesitate to say “no” when a boss or co-worker asks for help with a new project or initiative. But sometimes overloading yourself can actually make you a worse worker. According to a study by the University of Michigan, chronic high-stress multitasking can lead to short-term memory loss, not to mention the toll it takes on your personal life. Learn how to say no when you’re already overloaded, and how to ask for help before you really get into trouble.

Consider a Career Change
If all else fails, it may be time for a job or career change. If this is the case, consider the facts: is it the company you’re working for that’s causing your work/life imbalance, or is it the career itself? If you’re not sure, take a look at the statistics for your industry to get a sense of average working hours. And while you’re at it, take a look at related careers in your industry. There may be another position out there in your field that you never considered, which could help you find the career/life balance you’re looking for.

About the Author

Noël Rozny is the Web Editor and Content Manager for myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. She’s thrilled her job allows her to help others find the careers that are right for them and that provide a great work-life balance. You can read more at the myFootpath career and education blog, myPathfinder.


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