FROM my conversations with participants in my workshops, I have come to realise that more people are beginning to feel as though work dominates their life.
I know how they feel, because I was like them once. All of us want to be useful and productive at work, and because we need to earn a living, it has become a habit to make our jobs a top priority.
How then can we balance our work life so that we can be rewarded both professionally and personally and live life to the fullest?
Here are three tips that have worked for me.
1. Know yourself
What do you want? What do you stand for? How is your health? Do you exercise regularly? Are you sleeping well? What are your eating habits? Do you make time for recreation?
These are some questions you have to ask yourself and answer, if you truly want your life to change.
In computer systems, "defragmentation" is a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems, by physically reorganising the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together.
In doing so, more free space is created and system performance is enhanced. You need to "defrag" too and through your own preferred ways, re-energise by meditation, prayer or exercise.
Get professional help if necessary, evaluate the findings and then take steps to restore equilibrium to your system.
2. Set achievable goals
It is necessary to set goals and then work hard to achieve them. But when you get obsessed and pay little attention to the people around you, problems are sure to arise.
In a recent survey in Japan, about 40 per cent of all Japanese workers feared that they would work themselves to death. The Japanese call this karoshi, which means death by overwork.
I know of some individuals who single-mindedly drive themselves and others to do more and more with little or no room for leisure or space. Their work environment has no joy, and they are not fun to be around.
Just as computers lose their efficiency when more programmes are used, multi-tasking at work may be counterproductive in the long run, unless it is done by the right person, at the right time and with the appropriate support to get the job done.
More hours at work does not necessarily mean more productivity. Appraise your subordinates on the quality of their performance and not the amount of time that they spend at their desks.
3. Healthy relationships
First, let me elaborate on the relationship between supervisors and subordinates. The supervisor has to put on a couple of hats; one to management and the other to his team or his subordinates.
Supervisors must restrain themselves from divulging too much information to subordinates. In other words, it should be on "a need to know basis".
Many supervisors feel that if they share such information, they will be looked up to as heroes and be treated "just like one of the boys".
Draw the line so that emotions will not come into play when assigning work or delegating additional tasks. Create a culture of mutual trust.
On the other hand, make use of strong relationships at home, in your community or with friends. These enrich the emotional dimension of your life.
For example, in my family, we do a "potluck" meal occasionally so that the overall dinner/lunch preparation workload is minimised and yet we get maximum mutual benefit. Families and friends meet, have fun, relax and re-energise for another day.
If you go out on a date with your spouse or partner, do not bring office work into the conversation. Keep it separate, so that your quality time is well spent.
One final issue about relationships is that of conflict. Do not go out of the way to avoid it. During my training sessions, one of the common reasons cited by participants as to why they avoid conflicts is that they are uncertain or fearful on how the situation will end up.
They fear saying things that they do not mean and worry that the quarrel may get personal or people might get hurt and leave with bad feelings about the organisation.
Through role-plays and discussions, I convince them that conflicts can actually be healthy if taken in the proper context, as solutions through dialogue and mutual concern can lead to progress and harmony between people and, ultimately, the organisation.
Get a life
Over the last 15 years, there has been a substantial increase in work, which is due in part to technology and also an unprecedented competitive work environment.
Organisations that once demanded loyalty are now faced with a dilemma: they expect workers to give more but are unable to guarantee them job security or satisfaction in return.
As such, people are beginning to see the need to balance work with family, community and even their personal interests. Take the steps to make that work-life balance before a crisis forces you to.