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Figuring out that work/life balance

I still have the post-it note my youngest daughter Sophia left for me on my desk a few years ago.  I asked her to write down what she had said to me as it was so insightful.

The touch of a mother with the tone of an executive.

As I recall, she said that to me once when she was attempting to explain why our conversations were frustrating for her sometimes.

How about you?  If you are a leader in your organization (doesn’t matter if you are female or male), is it hard to transition when you go home?

I mean, when you are at work, you are the boss.  You give directions, are sometimes in tense situations where you are not the most popular, but you have to get shit done, and you are used to people following through on your requests.

And then you go home.  And if you are working from your home office, you don’t even have a drive home to breathe in and out to facilitate a transition in your style.  You literally have 5 seconds.

When Sophia shared this with me, it totally reminded me of the wife of an industry colleague of mine.  She said to me once, “our relationship is a bit strained because he forgets he’s at home and starts barking orders at me.  I’m NOT his employee, I am his spouse.”

How do you handle it when you go from a work environment to being home with the family?  It’s not easy and my experience is that you must approach it mindfully.

Here is the system I used:

  1. I have a “wind down” process at my desk.   I purposefully tidy up my desk at the end of the day. It helps ensure that I won’t see chaos when I come back the next day, and I also use this time to slow down my breathing and calm my adrenaline.
  2. When I am driving home, I do not make work phone calls, but rather listen to an audio book, or relaxing music.
  3. I often call my spouse (or daughters) as I am driving home.  It not only lets them know that I am on my way, but I can get a sense of their mood.  I ask questions such as “How was your day?”, giving them time to vent to me if necessary.
  4. When I pull into the driveway of my house, I take another deep breath to be sure I am relaxed.  I do my best to dissolve any work thoughts to allow myself to be present when I walk in the door.
  5. Even if my spouse or daughters ask me about my workday, I may highlight something good (or light), but quickly defer back to their day and their priorities.

This also works when you work from home.  But it requires more discipline in the wind-down from your workspace.  One of my coaching clients found it extremely helpful to close her home office door, when her day was over and to set working hours.  Even though she is not “on the clock”, she told me being disciplined about a starting time and ending time for office hours was a game changer in her personal life.

There is no real permanent solution to finding work/life balance, it’s something you have to work at every day.  So, even if you have a rough time at home one evening, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Tomorrow is a new day.”  It could be your automatic reset button.

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