"I'm too crazed" (or managing your time)

October 25, 2013

Last month I tweeted this Harvard Business Review blog post, Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are. It was a fun read and rang true for me - a lot of what the author writes about in the piece is what we all hear coming out of our own mouths and those of friends and colleagues. I thought about it again earlier this week when I was at the Work Life Congress 2013, put on by Working Mother Media in midtown Manhattan.

The first speaker was Cali Williams Yost - maybe some of you know her. She's a big name in the work/life balance arena, although she hates using that phrase. She's pioneered the phrase work/life fit. Which brings me back to over-busyness. During her talk, Yost pointed out that today, we live in a 24/7 working world, communicating about work around the clock. So, she argues, there really is no 'work' (which you used to do within certain hours) and then 'life' (after work), like there used to be. There's a combo - work + life. And that means making some adjustments about the way you spend your time, and how you prioritize.

"We are responsible for our careers in ways we were not before," she said (certainly true for me and anyone else doing their own thing). But "now the boundaries [between work and life] are down people have no idea what to do," said Yost, citing examples of people who claim they're so crazed they "can't even walk the dog". She urges us to try to think of all our responsibilities - at work and at home - as one big platter that must be picked at. "We have to re-frame all these to-dos and think of it as a buffet of possibilities." You can't eat every dish on the buffet, but you have to see all those responsibilities as deserving of attention regardless of whether they're home related (dog-walking, dentist-appointment-planning) or work-related (getting that spreadsheet done). She says attacking your to-do list this way isn't hard - it just requires making small tweaks to your everyday thinking and actions. 

Here are a few traits of people she called "naturals" at managing their work and life:

  • They keep work and personal together (see above).
  • The regularly reflect, and when they see a gap, something they're not doing, they take regular small steps to close it.
  • They collaborate, communicate, and coordinate (for instance, to a colleague, "I'd like to take Friday off - can you cover for me? I'll do the same for you another day.") 
  • They celebrate success - i.e. they focus on the stuff they do get done, rather than beating themselves up for the things that remain on their list.

Each attendee got a copy of Yost's book Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. I haven't had time to delve into it yet.

Which probably means I should make it a priority.