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How to Balance Career and Family
Finding the right balance between your family and job can be difficult. Follow these steps to learn how.

It's important to find the right balance between work and family.

Why do I find it so hard to balance my family and work?

We are led to believe that to succeed in our careers we must put in long hours and take time away from our families and personal growth activities. In fact, time spent on family activities, sports and personal interests can make you more creative, healthier and productive than struggling to the point of burnout and resentment. You can make more energy and time available for your personal life by learning to work more efficiently and easily on your job.

Perhaps you believe that workaholism––putting in more time, just keeping busy and taking time away from your family––will make you more productive and gain the notice of your boss. But, you could be sadly mistaken. The Wall Street Journal reported that bosses, in general, don’t notice if you’re working extra hours. In fact, the most profitable organizations––with the highest employee retention and the lowest rates of turnover and absenteeism––are those that support your family life by offering on-site daycare, work-at-home days, sabbaticals and job sharing. These organizations have learned that it is less expensive to keep you happy and healthy than to hire and train new employees.

When you learn to be more efficient and productive at work you become less stressed and have more time and energy available for your spouse, your family and your personal needs.

Put More Efficiency—Not More Time—Into Your Work

* Learn to work in "the zone" where you are twice as productive and less stressed. Stop struggling and juggling, and start focusing on what you can do now for 15 to 30 minutes. Start on top priority projects first thing in the morning and use your checking of the e-mail as a reward for getting started. Replace "I have to finish this big project and suffer without any time for fun and family" with “I can choose to start for just 15 to 30 minutes to see how fast I can get through this."

* Prime your brain the night before so you know "when," "where" and on "what" to work. This will seed your brain with creative solutions and keep you from being distracted by low priority activities.

* Develop clear priorities. Use the 20/80 rule; triage; or "do it," "delegate it" or "dump" it to focus on the most valuable 20 percent to 33 percent of any task. Accept that you can’t do it all and, generally, don’t need to.

* Record when you start on a project and when you complete one uninterrupted session. Keep a form of billable hours or a system of punching in and punching out to record all quality, uninterrupted time dedicated to which projects. You’ll find that it takes 10 to 15 hours a week for six to 12 months to complete a project that is the equivalent to writing a book.

Put Your Leisure Time in Your Schedule

* Make play and family time legitimate and guilt-free by putting it into your schedule. Experiment with scheduling time for: sleep, meals, commuting, lunch and dinner with friends and family, routine meetings, leisure time, exercise, and four to 24-hour blocks of free time on weekends and holidays.

* Don’t have an "open-door policy." Let people know when you’re available for calls and meetings. Teach co-workers to respect your time.

* Do some work on difficult, top-priority projects before moving to low-priority tasks you enjoy. This will build the healthy habit of making it easier for you to start on important projects.

* Accept the hard fact that you can't do it all. Humans must make choices. You're human. Choose to focus on one task at a time. Create small vacations of time for focusing on only one project.

* Avoid putting out fires. Know what is merely urgent, but low priority. Ask yourself, "Is this the right work?"

* Give yourself one minute to transition between tasks and appointments; take 3 breaths before throwing your car into gear, checking your stock portfolio or picking up the phone.

* Pre-program your brain with solutions. Each night and every Sunday evening spend a few minutes seeding your mind with the top priority task you're to start the next day. Be sure to include time with your family and for leisure and exercise for yourself as one of your top priorities.

Dr. Neil Fiore is a psychologist practicing in Berkeley, CA, a coach, a speaker, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage [McGraw-Hill, 2006]. His bestselling guide to overcoming procrastination, The Now Habit [Putnam, 2007], is revised and available at iTunes under "Audio books," and at www.audible.com under "Self-Development." You can schedule phone sessions with Neil at "Coaching" along with his "Free Articles & Tips" at www.neilfiore.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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