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How to Make Time for Your Family Even With a Demanding Job

How to Make Time for Your Family Even With a Demanding Job

Today’s career is no longer a straight climb up the corporate ladder, but rather a combination of climbs, lateral moves and planned descents. -Cathleen Benko, author of Mass Career Customization

Why is the work-family balance so difficult to get right? Juggling demands of the job with family commitments can leave you depressed and frustrated. Before we look at some ways to help you in the jungle, let us examine a list of factors that make it so complicated:

  • Work schedules rarely match school timetables. Time for a revolution?
  • Working from home or remotely is often not even considered.
  • Companies are generally reluctant to introduce family-friendly measures.
  • Women are under more pressure. Female employees are more likely to resign because of family commitments than men. Old traditional values die hard.
  • Only about 30% of women hold senior executive positions in government and public service sectors.
  • Choosing family over career is often frowned upon in spite of the government’s commitment to “family values” at every election.
  • Video conferencing is not used enough. It can reduce traveling distances, time, and expenses.
  • Women are often forced to make a difficult choice between career advancement when their teenagers are at their most vulnerable.

Here are seven ways to help you find the right balance during your own corporate climb:

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1. You make your own schedule.

You are the one who decides. Yes, your boss may make some demands, but you can investigate with him or her what the chances are of working a shorter week, working flex-time, working remotely, and reducing traveling to meetings. You can also tell your boss what your priorities are in getting the work-life balance right. On the basis of this, you can decide how many hours you are going to be on the job, remembering that the longer hours you work, the less productive you become. This is all about choices.

2. Now schedule your family time.

Just as you schedule meetings, write down the chunks of family time you need in your calendar. Treat these in the same way you manage all those meetings and other deadlines that haunt you. Being haunted by your family is much more fun!

3. Do some fun things at home.

When you do get home for that important birthday party, play recital or sports event, switch off your phone as you arrive. Time to switch on your family. You can enjoy doing a few things together so this is really prime time. You can forget about your emails and Facebook status until after you’ve focused on family.

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4. Outsource and team up with other parents.

If you are plagued about getting the groceries in, why not order them online and have them delivered? You will save loads of time.

Team up with other parents so that you can share fetching kids from their activities. Pooling resources makes a lot of sense and saves on fuel and emissions.

5. You and your partner make a great team.

Maybe you are both working, so you will have to work out what are the best time savers and ways you can support each other. This is the real test of any relationship, especially when it comes to household chores. In fact, according to a 2007 Pew Research Poll, chores are in the top three factors for a happy relationship, alongside good sex and fidelity.  Here are a few tips:

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  • Set aside money to get the cleaning done regularly by a service.
  • Decide together who is on duty for family events and transportation.
  • Neither partner needs to micro-manage the other.
  • Forget critical supervisory roles.
  • Decide on who pays bills and does the laundry.

You want to avoid a situation where one partner has to sacrifice his/her leisure for the sake of the children or keeping the home on the rails. Be a team and work together.

6. Use commuting/traveling time to bond.

Don’t waste your time here. If using public transport, you can easily call your partner and kids or just send them texts. It is a great way to bond. That is much better than checking work emails on your smartphone. If you are driving, a hands–free phone is a great investment as you can drive and talk to your loved ones at the same time.

7. Plan your family holiday.

If you can plan the family holiday well in advance, this is great. It means that you cannot cancel flights very easily, and it also means your family is committed to a block of pure family pleasure. You can encourage your partner to make sure it really happens by checking that you have both got the leave approved by your bosses. Use a countdown chart on your family notice board. Award a star every time you manage to avoid/postpone/re-arrange a work commitment in that sacred space.

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Try these tips to make your life with your family a reality and not a figment of your imagination. Remember that Steven Spielberg once remarked that he never saw his father because he was a workaholic. Now, you wouldn’t want one of your kids to remember you like that, would you?

Featured photo credit: work,work,work/Nina Hale via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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