By: SUZANNE LUCAS
(MoneyWatch) Want the secret to never being stressed out, always knowing where your car keys are, meeting every deadline at work and never receiving a message from your child’s teacher saying, “Are you aware that it’s been three weeks since your precious snowflake turned in her French homework?”
Me too. Unfortunately, much like losing weight, there is no magic pill you can take that allows you to achieve a zen state at work and home. When I start to get overwhelmed, I ask myself the following question: Is this important?
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So much of what we do isn’t important, or it seems important in the moment but doesn’t have true impact. Because it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish the important from the unimportant, here are some clarifying questions:
Is this task critical for success in my career? There is always a professional group you can join, another blog you can read or PowerPoint presentation you can tweak. Is this particular task actually helping you succeed in your job?
What will happen if I don’t do this (or don’t do this today)? Will you get fired? Then the task in question is obviously a high priority. Will you lose a customer? Then it’s high priority. Is your team depending on it? High priority. Will it help your family be happier? You know the answer. By contrast, if something is just nice to do, you can do it if you have time, but it’s not a high priority.
Does this help me to be a better person? It’s not all about deadlines. Unless you want to be worse off next year than you are today, you need to work toward becoming better — a better person, employer, boss.
Does this help my family to be better off? Define family how you will. If what you are focusing on is damaging your relationships or requiring tradeoffs that you don’t really want to make, rethink if you should be focusing on it.
Even when you’ve pared your life down to the things that are important, it can still be difficult to get things done and balance your family and home life against your career.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help balance out your life. I asked Deborah Sweeney, CEO of online document-filing firm MyCorporation.com, how she keeps her life in balance. Here’s what she said:
Make a list. When you stay organized and keep everything you need to do in one easily accessible place, you will be more likely to get to what’s on your list and in a timely manner.
Communicate. The more you tell people what your expectations are, the more you will get things done in the right time frame that works for your schedule.
Work efficiently. Set aside time to get one project done, complete it, take a quick break and move onto the next thing.
Stay focused. The work place is full of attention teasers: the Internet, colleagues to chat with, the candy bowl to scope out. It’s okay to indulge in these things, but make sure if you’ve set aside specific time to work and get things done that you don’t get distracted in the middle of that time.
Exercise and eat right. The better you feel about yourself and the more you get up and move, the more energized you will feel at work.
What do you do to figure out if things are important? And what tricks do you use to keep your life in balance?
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