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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

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Robert Locke

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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