The results of the "Making it Work Survey" show that parents who rated themselves as “5 – very satisfied” with their work-life balance* are skilled at the strategy: making time for what matters most. It seems these very satisfied folks make careful choices and are very attentive to living their values. Their methods for doing this fall into a few categories:
1. Prioritize. The most common method for the making time for what matters most strategy turns out to be knowing what your values are and choosing to live them. Several of you commented that being able to see your life in chapters – e.g. putting your career as number two, for now- knowing that there will be more time for that later – helps you to feel satisfied.
2. Manage time and resources. I almost named this category “get help” but I realized that it is more than that. We all make choices about how to manage our lives, careers and households. And, as any good project manager will know, managing tasks on time, on budget, and to a high quality standard is the key to success. Our “5's" seem to be excellent project managers who know how to allocate time and resources to achieve the most high quality result: total satisfaction. As one “5” put it,
“[I Implement] specific time management strategies to ensure that work does not over run my life. Focusing constantly on priorities, what matters most and what makes me and my family happy. Setting goals and putting strategies in place to achieve them.”
Here’s another amazing time manager:
“…when I was going to school and the kids were in school, I made a menu every Sunday, went to the grocery store and cooked what I planned each night. I often did batch cooking on Sunday. I also worked my classes so I would be home to meet the bus as much as possible. My youngest was a classical ballet dancer so I hired someone to drive him 4 days a week. I would always have a bag of books in the car, so if I was waiting somewhere, I would read. I learned to be able to pick up and put down things quickly.
Other ways that time and resources were allocated were:
A few respondents noted that they were good at “paying attention” to their children’s cues. That they were able to stop what they were doing and redirect their attention as needed to their children. Confidence in being able to be present in this way seems to relieve feelings of guilt in our “5’s”. One mom said,
“I try to watch my kids' behavior with regard to our schedules. Our youngest, for example, begins to get really bossy and needy when we haven't spent enough time with her. My oldest gets clingy.”
4. Be creative. I just loved your methods for fitting things in and getting things done in really creative ways. Here are a few of my favorites:
5. Communicate. “5’s” communicate a lot. With their spouses about division of duties and for priority setting. With employers about boundaries. With hired help about what is needed. With children about expectations and feelings. Every strategy mentioned above was typically accompanied by a corollary: these things don’t just happen without engaging people in a conversation about values, commitments, plans and boundaries.
The next two blogs will cover the next two most cited strategies that our “5’s” sited: Creating Real Partnerships and Keeping Perspective.
*Note: this is referring to the “Making It Work” survey that is the source data for many of my blog entries. I invite you to take the survey, or just take a look at the questions, if you haven’t already done so!
This week I've started digging into the results of the strategies that many of you provided in the Making It Work Survey. I took a look at the respondents who rated their satisfaction with their work life balance as a 4 or a 5 to find out what their strategies were.
The most common strategy theme was finding a job, or tweaking an existing job, to be able to have the right mix of career and home time. The mix itself varied greatly from person to person, but the idea was that our 4's and 5's seem to have taken charge and found a way to carve out the most ideal arrangement for themselves. Specifically, some approaches included:
1. Negotiate alternate or flexible work schedule. The most satisfied parents asserted that it's worth proposing to your employer an alternate full time schedule that allows more time with family. Examples included:
- Negotiating a four day work week to have three days with the kids.
- Having one parent work an early schedule and the other a late schedule so that each has special time with the children, and the children spend less time in day care.
- Each parent leaves work early a couple days per week to pick kids up from school and have special quality time, and making up the work after bedtime.
2. Scale back to part time. Many of you thought you wouldn't be able to meet your family's needs and work part time time, but, in the end, figured out that you could, in fact, make it work. This response really captured the spirit of the answers in this category:
"3 days/wk from 8:30-5 is perfect for me and I never thought I'd be able to find part-time but I did. My mom of all people really pushed me to look into it. Before I went on maternity leave my manager (a woman) had told me "I don't know how you could do consulting part-time." My mom said, "they won't do it for you; just come up with a solution and present it to them and make it airtight so they can't say no." Well she was right. Before coming back from maternity leave I started making phone calls and eventually found a project manager who was looking for my skills and was actually himself wondering if he could bring someone on part-time! And I do good work for him so he has kept me on. As long as I'm billable my consulting team can't really say no. It's been perfect."
3. Find a full time job that advances your career but also values work/life balance. I loved these responses because they really demonstrated that there are competitive, high-level full time jobs out there with employers that 'get it.' Whether it's allowing remote work or encouraging strong work-life boundaries, the most satisfied full-time working parents indicated that their positions and employers provided the kind of support that makes it work. Here were a few of the responses:
Shifting careers to the Federal government.
"I was working for a consulting firm Making $120K plus.. but working 50-55 hours a week... I decided to take a government job GS-13 step 10 Meaning $115K a year well below my skill set... but 37-40 hour work weeks ... oh and poor me 2 x a year I have to travel to Europe .... my husband watches my son. So far and it has worked out great.. I have flexibility in my work schedule and am very technically challenged... I lucked out."
Finding a job that allows work from home.
"I have a job now that provides great flexibility. I work from home when I'm not on the road and that has been terrific."
"[I chose] not to climb the corporate ladder or take a position that requires 24-7 attention, for more reasonable hours and a reasonable commute"
Aside from finding the right work environment, our most satisfied parents have figured out really effective approaches to making the most of the time at home. I look forward to sharing more next week. In the meantime, I'd love your comments on the findings I presented today.
My last several clients happened to be IT professionals. I'm starting to think that this is not a coincidence, but a signal that IT professionals need to cope with much more uncertainty and with much more agility than most other fields.
As it is, carers today are so much more uncertain and shifting, with everyone likely to make 2-3 career changes during their lives - at least!
The IT world requires even more rapid-cycle nearly constant career transitioning. The pace of innovation and client expectation is super-fast. I'd love to hear from those of you who are in the IT world or who live with someone who is. What have you noticed? What career navigation skills do you think are critical to success as a technologist?
I'd also LOVE to have a few guest bloggers on this topic. Let me know if you're interested!
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