Last week, we pointed out a few issues to try and help you make a successful, balanced transition between school and the work world despite some very real pressures to put your nose to the grindstone and never look up. The idea of an actual “balance” between the two worlds was established as a cultural fantasy and you were reminded not to take media depictions of what your life is supposed to resemble as a failure on your part. Taking the initiative to go back to school for a business management degree is a big step toward making your life move in a direction more likely to result in what you want. But learning to also incorporate a level of moderation into your working style early will help you achieve long-term balance and overall happiness.
That Balance Thing Again
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Here comes that balance issue again. But then again, that’s good because it gives you another chance to get used to it. For unless you’re Ebenezer Scrooge or some other misanthrope, the work-life balance conundrum is simply not going to go away until you die or retire. Moreover, everyone from Donald Trump to the beggar with the sign at the intersection has some kind of opinion they want to give you on the issue.
How to Tell Where Someone Stands on the Issue
Here’s a hint as to where a person really stands on the teeter-totter. If his suggestions seem to primarily involve limiting your work involvement—even in some tiny way—then you’re talking to someone who spent more than a few years working 80-hour work weeks. He could remember the receptionist’s daughter’s name in an office four states away but consistently called his own niece Sarah instead of her given name, Susan. He had a lot of nice cars and probably half as many wives, who he probably met through work. He’s repented now and, if given the chance, will encourage you toward so much family involvement as to result in restraining orders.
On the other hand, there are the drill sergeants of work who think the Family Medical Leave Act is the start of a very slippery slope of skipping work to care for loved ones. They’ll cite that archetypal woman working in the field who gave birth under a tree and returned to work three rows later as an argument against maternity leave. Their idea of family involvement was calling everyone into the living room to announce…a promotion and a transfer!
Some Tips to Achieve Harmony at Home—Sort Of
The tips provided in part 1 of this series were meant to help you keep work issues at work, keep your perspective, maintain a little bit of control over your work activities and work smarter. The same smart, successful and happy entrepreneurs who provided the earlier advice also came through with these tips. Here are some suggestions to improve the other side of the equation:
1. Don’t Forget Your Family
It sounds crazy, but we often forget whom we’re working so hard for and why we want to achieve the goals we do. Reading this phrase in your office at midnight and pausing briefly to lift last year’s framed family photo and smile might make for a Hallmark moment, but it also means you don’t get it. You either need some time management skills, a new job or a new boss–or get used to the idea of seeing your real kids twice a month.
2. Don’t Lose Track of Old Friends
In the middle of all your networking and meeting new people for the sole purpose of “What can they do for me?” take some time to spend with your old friends—the ones who took you to the emergency room when you fell off the karaoke stage. Those guys, the ones without contracts but with plenty of compassion, are the ones who will stick by you in the long run.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Nearly everyone recommends some form of physical exercise to help you deal with stress from any source. Eating well and getting enough sleep are important, too.
It’s completely understandable that you want to dive into work if you’re single and choose to use the time to make a great impression. However, if you work that way long enough it will be the only way you know how to work—i.e., to the exclusion of anyone and everything else. Eventually, when you’ve started a family and have other people to factor into your life plan besides just yourself, having such a die-hard work ethic will become no longer practical or desirable. So practice early trying to keep a good balance and a bit of harmony between what you do and who you are.