November 30, 2016

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the new products and innovation experienced at Dreamforce from the different perspectives of Torrent team members who attended. Today, Consulting Manager Tara McDonald shares her second of a two part series about her favorite Dreamforce session, finding balance in life. 

In part 1 of my blog, I told readers about the “fluffy” (at least at initial glance) session I attended at Dreamforce that has changed my perspective on work-life balance. The session was called Success With Less: Releasing Obligations & Discovering Joy. Leaving the session, I bought a book with the same title by Karen Mangia and read it cover to cover on my plane ride home from Dreamforce. You know it had to inspire me when I chose to read the book over the final option I had for sleep before returning home to my almost 2-year old!

One of my main takeaways from the session and book was if something feels wrong to you then it probably is. I’ve had this feeling before in my life and ignored it. That’s easy to do because change takes work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s often easier to just continue with what you’re doing than trying to make a change. Assuming you’re treading water and not totally drowning, this can work for quite some time, but it can't last not forever. Recently I’ve had more reasons to choose the hard work of making change - those reasons are my husband and son. They deserve to have a happy wife/mom who can keep her promises of being home at a certain time and going to events on the weekend without distractions. Now, I am a realistic person and I know I will not be able to succeed at this 100% of the time, but I had to give it a try.  

This wasn’t only about family though. Another big reason I needed to make a change was my career. Until recently, I had moved through my day, going from meeting to meeting. I didn’t have time to stop and think about how well I was doing things or if I could make improvements. People couldn’t find time on my calendar when they really needed my input or assistance. I wanted to get involved with additional projects at work, but I didn’t even have time. I really wanted to make an impact at my company, but I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to do it. I thought to myself, “There has to be a better way”. Enter the Success with Less answer.

In the book, Mangia suggests taking stock of the time you spend doing different activities. When I completed this exercise, I was (unfortunately) not surprised at the results. I took a 2-week period and broke it down into the normal work and weekend activities, who I was spending time with, etc. What can I say… the results were not stellar. Even though this 2-week stretch included a couple of out-of-the ordinary events, such as the tail end of a vacation (time with just my husband) and a two day recovery from a medical procedure (time mainly by myself), I came out of it with the following percentages:  

  • Spouse Time = 9% - this breaks down to 2 hours per day, maybe decent for weekdays, but what about the weekends?
  • Me Time = 11% - only 6% if I remove the recovery period and only 2% if I remove showering from this category – YIKES!
  • Family Time (my son, extended family, etc.) = 12%
  • Sleep = 31% - not too bad, actually
  • Work = 34%
  • Other (stuff I don’t want to do but have to, such as laundry) = 3%

I started to think about what these numbers meant. It was clear I only had so much time outside of the Work and Other categories to give to the people that mean the most to me. How could I make this piece a larger chunk without taking away from my job responsibilities? The answer: I needed to be smarter about the way I was working and I needed to prioritize what I wanted to get done (both at work and in life). I did three main exercises that helped me do just this.

Exercise 1:  Wish List / Prioritization

Upon suggestion from the book, the first thing I did was make a list of important items for me to complete over the next month or two. From a personal perspective, these ranged from taking my aunt out to dinner for her birthday to spending time getting to know my neighbors since we just moved into a new subdivision. From a work perspective, my main goals were to make myself available to help and coach my team members and to free up time to focus on new responsibilities and assist in defining processes for our growing company. I also set certain health goals, such as carving out time to exercise each day and getting a good amount of sleep.

Exercise 2: Calendar Cleansing

The second task I completed was to free myself of unwanted and unnecessary tasks that were taking up time in my day and not helping me move toward my goals. I took my calendar and I went through every meeting for the next month and determined which ones were essential. Specifically, I looked for meetings where I was gaining information that was critical to my job responsibilities or meetings where I was an essential person providing information to others. Those had to stay!  All of the other meetings got scrutinized and likely declined if I was just a listener/bystander. There were actually a lot of these. I communicated to my direct reports the meetings I wanted to be invited to in the future and explained my reasoning to them. They agreed wholeheartedly and were thrilled I would have more time on my calendar for impromptu discussions and crucial last minute meetings. This also freed up large blocks of time on my calendar where I could focus on additional projects and new responsibilities.

Exercise 3: Sticking to a Schedule

The final task that helped me move closer to my goals was to set a schedule for my entire day. This is where I took into account my personal goals of exercise, sleep, and certain ongoing interests. For example, my neighbors always seem to be outside conversing while their kids are playing from 6pm-7pm. Previously, I was leaving work at 5, and by the time I got home, it was already 6. My son was always hungry so we’d make and eat dinner and then get outside a little before 7, when the rest of the neighbors were about ready to go back in. I shifted my schedule to start work a half hour earlier so I could leave at 4:30. This was enough to allow us sufficient “neighbor social time” and make us feel more a part of the neighborhood. It also allowed us an hour of family time before my son went to bed, time for exercise after he fell asleep, and even some TV downtime before it was time for my husband and me to head to bed. Repeat!

Everyone has different situations at work and at home, but I’d be willing to bet that most people could use a little more time in the day and a little less stress around fitting it all in. This is definitely a work in progress for me, but I have felt a great amount of relief and more control over my life after completing the exercises Mangia suggests to simplify your life and focus on your priorities. By highlighting the important events in your life, clearing your calendar of non-essential meetings, and setting a schedule that works for you, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the gains you receive, both at work and at home. Good luck!

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