How can I balance the demands of the workplace with my family obligations and personal interests?

Truth is, we can't have everything. Rather, we need to determine what we want, then "right size" our lives to achieve our wants. That may entail something as extensive as toggling between intensive focus on work and intensive focus on a nonwork life, giving all of ourselves to our jobs for a time, then cutting back (maybe quitting altogether) for a year to focus on our families. Or it may demand rethinking how we work, like working part-time, telecommuting, or starting up our own business from home. Once we allow ourselves to think of alternative work options, we may surprisingly find a way to balance work and family in a manner that not only gives us time for our own lives but makes what we do or how we do it much better.

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Sometimes such alternative work options—rightsizing our lives— are not available or are unacceptable to us. If our time with family and friends is critical, then we need to rethink our business priorities. The solution may be to back away from heavy commitment to our careers and focus on our families, hobbies, or other interests. This doesn't mean quitting our jobs. Rather, it means willingly stepping off the fast track, seeking a less intense work life. If the current work doesn't allow this, then a change in position, even with lower pay, may be worth the increase in free time to use for family.

How can I minimize intrusions on my personal time?

You can argue against this practice but you can't avoid it once it becomes policy. You can minimize intrusions on your time by making plans before you leave to ensure that most critical issues either are already handled or will be handled by others trained to do so. Teach them what they need to know, then empower them to take over in your absence. If your company demands you call in regularly, alert your staff when you will call—the day and time. This will eliminate the sudden call from the office and your frantic race to your room from the beach, or the unproductive call to the office spent on "hold" as people look for someone for you to speak with.

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Take your laptop if you must, but put it away and limit your use to important e-mail messages from your office and customers. Spend time with your staff to identify the nature of documents that should be forwarded to you. Staff members can leave voicemail messages on your cell phone to alert you to a document being sent that will require your review.

Most important, don't let a heavy workload discourage you from taking time away from the office—sufficient time to refresh and reenergize you for the work you are sure to find back in your office when you return.

How can I ensure that I get credit for the work I do?

If you want your performance appraisal to reflect your accomplishments, then you should go to your next performance appraisal with a written list. If your manager isn't likely to remember each and every staff member's efforts over the quarter or year, this will ensure that your personnel records make mention of them.

You can add to the likelihood that your achievements get his or her attention by focusing your efforts on those activities that are critical to achievement of the department's objectives or, better yet, your corporation's strategic mission.

If you want the kind of recognition from senior management that could lead to a promotion, then the latter is doubly important. Associate yourself with a project group working on an issue critical to your organization's bottom line. No matter how much you contribute to the final effort, you will be remembered for your participation, and senior management will remember you when promotions are being handed out, if they are. There are very few opportunities for advancement in today's lean organizations.

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You can add to your chance for promotion by taking charge of a project of your own making. Again, select a solution to a problem that is impeding department or organization progress toward a goal, or an opportunity that will enable your department or organization to come closer to that goal or, better yet, to achieve it.

All that is left is making your project a success. Once the work is completed, assuming it has the impact you expected, you are more likely to get the attention of senior management you want.

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