Let’s Get Personal

By: Jerry W. Henry, Partner

As a development director, how do I maintain a personal life in the midst of my hectic schedule?”

Yet another development professional asked me the question that I believe many of us struggle to answer in a satisfactory manner.

The issue of successfully building the proper work-life balance can be especially challenging for those of us engaging in the missions of our nonprofit organizations – and especially at this time of year as the holidays approach!

Earlier this fall, I pointed to a study report that cited the fact that all of us are finding ourselves in more and more meetings.  No matter how good of a job we do drafting our daily priority list, we often come to the end of a work day – and often many hours beyond – only to find that we barely began addressing the really important work we had outlined for ourselves.

Add to that the human need for interaction with family and friends outside of our professional “families,” and we find ourselves under increasing pressure.

And things are only getting more complicated!

As a recent study shows, one third of global workers surveyed say that managing work and life is becoming more difficult – and the millennials and parents are impacted the greatest by the challenges: http://www.ey.com/US/en/Newsroom/News-releases/news-ey-one-third-of-full-time-workers-globally-say-managing-work-life-is-difficult

How do we begin addressing our need for more personal time amidst all of the busy-ness of our professional jobs?  Here are a few points that I’ve gleaned from my own personal research on the topic:

  1. Control your work – try to not let it control you! Work on managing the priorities you’ve set for yourself each day. As my colleague, David King, does, develop at least 3 categories daily: things I must do; things it would be nice to do; other
  2. Schedule time away from your work – and keep it “sacred” on your calendar. Many of us have a strong work ethic and often find at the end of a year we have vacation days that we never took.  It is important for us to step away for a period of time. And, given the over-abundance of technology at work, we all need to unplug from our smartphones and computers as often as possible.
  3. Take a lunch break – away from the office and your desk. Go outside and get fresh air for a few minutes, at least!
  4. Remember to exercise. For me, this is the most difficult – but a brisk walk for anywhere from 10-30 minutes does wonders for helping a person to relax.
  5. Explore opportunities to volunteer. Interacting with another organization and with other individuals is a great way to build a sense of caring, compassion and self-worth apart from our professional roles.
  6. Do something to expand your mind such as a continuing education class – or even read a book on a non-work-related topic. I really enjoy a nice biography or even a good work of fiction that helps to take me mentally to other places and times.
  7. Recognize that situations arise and that you must be open to being flexible. But, if something happens that would conflict with some of your planned personal time, determine if there is someone else in your workplace who can handle the situation for you.

These are points that I’ve been jotting down to help me address the challenges that I face, and I hope they will be helpful to you as well. Another resource can be found in regular columns that appear at the following site: www.huffingtonpost.com/new/work-life-balance/

I’m not one for making resolutions for a new year, but I know finding a better work-life balance is one issue I’m really hoping to address personally in 2016!  Care to join me?