Is the work life juggle driving you insane? The reality of life is that we have a “new normal”. Five trends create this new normal:
- Technology enables us to be always connected
- There are fewer people needing to do more work
- The speed of information flow globally demands 24/7 responsiveness
- The speed of change is more than we can keep up with
- The need to be “on” as new competitors emerge from unlikely places
I am a big fan of Albert Einstein. One of my favorite quotes is “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If the way we’re working doesn’t work, we need to shift our paradigms about work. Otherwise, we risk burning ourselves out. Organizations risk employees who are stressed out, run out of creative fuel, and disengage.
So, how do we find a way to not just survive, but thrive in this new normal? These trends demand an evolution in how we manage ourselves, and how organizations create cultures, rewards, and structures to help this evolution. Here are the new rules:
Seven Paradigm Shifts to Work in The New Normal
1) Move from work life balance to work life energy – The boundaries between work and life are blurred. We are most discontent with work life balance when we are burned out and not refueling ourselves. Stop trying to balance and start thinking about ways we can be fully energized and creative for all of our life. In writing this article, I was trying to find how Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and other inventors, change agents, and visionaries dealt with their frustrations about work life balance. I didn’t find much on the topic. These individuals have lived lives of passion and contribution. What does that look like for you?
2) Move from rigid to personalized. Work life energy is personal. We need to identify what personally energizes us in work and life and move toward that. Rigid role definitions and structures of work need to become more fluid to accommodate what brings greater flexibility, flow and energy to people – because energized people are most creative and best serve our customers. What helps one person feel “in balance” is very different than that for another person. It also varies according to life stage. In my 20’s I used to joke with my colleagues at P&G that I had no issues with work life balance – because I had no life. And I was okay with that.
3) Move from balance on the outside to balance on the inside. Many of us are tempted to believe “If I just had a less demanding job I’d have more balance”. There is a Zen saying: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Our level of stress has more to do with our response to events than the event itself. A significant part of work life balance is managing the mindsets we have – what stresses us out and how we manage that stress. We need to evolve our skill sets and strengthen our prioritization muscles. What mindsets keep you stressed out?
4) Move from “work harder” to “work with passion”. Most of us are already working pretty hard and it can deplete us. However, there is a type of work we each do that we can do for hours that doesn’t deplete us. It energizes us. It puts us in flow. We are our most creative and resourceful when we are in flow. We need to find this work and spend more of our time doing it. Organizations need to help people discover this work and align their career paths around it.
5) Move from managing time to managing attention. We can be slaves of the clock – running from one meeting to the other, multi-tasking at work and at home. Multi-tasking is a myth. Our brain just moves from one task to another really fast. It creates additional stress and makes us less productive. We are not present to where we are. Albert Einstein said: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” To have more work life energy, manage your attention. Be present.
6) Move from “work more” to “rest more”. Research shows that when we allow ourselves to relax, to have fun, it allows our creativity to flow through. Our friend, Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Get some rest. Pause. Organization cultures need to allow for fun and rest as part of a productive workforce.
7) Move from balance being an end-state to balance being a practice – We often go through the search for work life balance as if it’s a “Where’s Waldo” exercise. Work life balance is not a destination. It’s how we navigate the journey. We walk in balance by having a set of tools and principles we practice on an on-going basis. Do you know the most effective tools for you? Here are some practices for work life sanity. What practices will you commit to to maintain your work life energy?
Stay tuned and subscribe to get the next in this series – specific tools and practices to put the paradigm shift into action for you.
A version of this post first appeared on my Forbes.com blog.