Work-life balance. Work-life separation. Work-life integration. Stop me if any of these terms sound familiar.
The fact of the matter is that, no matter what you call it, finding a healthy medium between office and home is never an easy task, and can sometimes seem like the elusive white whale of the working world.
Yesterday Levo spoke with Cali Williams Yost, CEO and Founder of Flex+Strategy Group & Work+Life Fit, Inc., and a work-life management expert, during yesterday’s Office Hours. Yost demystified the concept of balancing work and life and shared with us her seven secrets for bridging the gap between the two.
1. Think of it as work-life fit, not work-life balance.
It’s a subtle shift in language, but Yost says it makes all the difference. “Work-life fit” shows us what we have on both sides of work and life, and acknowledges that we all have different and unique circumstances that could call for a heavier dose of one side or the other at different times in our lives. Work-life fit acknowledges that life isn’t a constant thing; it changes. Yost says it’s essential to get beyond the all or nothing of work and/or life. What about the in-between? There’s more gray area than we think, and the fact that there’s no right answer means there’s a lot less judgement from others on how you manage your work and life specifically.
2. Managing work-life fit is a modern skill set we all need.
Yes, we all need that skill set, but sadly very few of us have it. This needs to change, says Yost. It’s not an optional elective; rather, it needs to be a part of your core collective. In the workplace of years ago, you punched out at the end of the day. You left the office. Today there are no more clocks. You can take work home. You can access it online. There are so many tools to bring our work life into our home life that we have to learn how to manage the work-life fit. Luckily, that’s a learnable skill set, says Yost, and it comes down to two things: How to manage the big resets, and how to manage the small tweaks.
Yost told Levo about a friend she went to college with who ran her own investment bank. She had two kids and had never had a problem managing work and home before, but when pregnant with her third she decided it was going to become unmanageable, and it was time to quit the job she loved. Yost suggested she present a plan to her manager, but the friend thought her manager would never go for it. But if she was planning to quit, why not try it anyway?
Lo and behold, her manager went for it!. She was granted the ability to work from home one day a week, and at the office the other four. She did this for over a year, and was even granted the option to further schedule her work around her growing family later on.
3. Put together a plan.
Yost told this story to demonstrate the ebb and flow of work and life. No matter what stage of your career or your life you’re in, Yost says you have to put together a plan when you experience a transition. The transition can range from anything from having a baby to going back to school to caring for a sick parent. Whatever those big resets are, you have to come to the table with a plan. Outline what your schedule will need to be, and how your work will change because of it. Do you need to leave right at 5:00 p.m.? Will you be offline on Saturdays? Do all the work for your manager, tell him or her how you plan to get everything done to the same degree of consistency you’ve been known for, and you’ll most likely get what you want.
4. You have to redefine success.
High-achieving women, like Yost’s friend, tend to have a semi-rigid definition of success, but when you have to reset your work-life fit, you have to redefine success in terms of money, prestige, schedule, promotions, and any other markers of professional achievement. You can’t be 100 percent everything to everyone, says Yost, and whatever you’ve got going on in your life, something’s got to give. Make sure whatever reset you’re pursuing that you redefine success to match. You can always come back and reassess it later down the line.
Yost described a group that she called the “work-life fit naturals.” We all know someone who fits into this group. It’s the friend, relative, co-worker, whoever, that just naturally figures it all out, gets everything done, and makes it look easy. Yost spent a lot of time talking to and researching the tactics behind the work-life fit naturals, and discovered that there are simple things that they do that the rest of us don’t. These are small tweaks we can make in our everyday lives to achieve better a work-life fit ourselves.
5. Keep work and personal to-dos in the same place.
Having separate work and personal to-do lists is a surefire way for unbalance in getting everything done, says Yost. Take a cue from the naturals, who keep all of their tasks on one list. This way you’re making decisions off the same, complete picture all day long. Looking at it all in one place, you can rearrange work life priorities for your home life priorities, or vice versa.
6. Take an objective look at your life on a weekly basis.
Once a week, sit down and decide what’s missing from either your professional life or your personal life. Ask yourself questions. What’s too much? What do you want more of or less of? Take notes and analyze what you find, that way you can make up for the lack or surplus in each area.
7. When you see a gap, take small steps to close it.
If you haven’t had a healthy meal, make time to shop. If you haven’t seen your friends in a while, make a date to see them. Schedule appointments and events to fill in the gaps in your non-work life, and you’ll have a much better work-life fit overall. Taking these small, actionable steps really makes the fit. Yost notes that you’ll figure it out when you get there; it’s not as important to make it all work so much as it is to make it work for you.
Get more amazing insight from Cali Williams Yost by watching her Office Hours below: