Archive for January, 2010

Fast Company: “Up in the Air,” Work+Life Fit Allegory for the Era

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When I saw the movie, “Up in the Air,” I expected to be entertained but I wasn’t prepared for a powerful, multi-layered allegory about work+life fit.

Jason Reitman’s symbolism packed commentary puts up a mirror and challenges us to question key assumptions about work and life today reality.  But it also offers insights into what we can do differently as we move into an era where greater work+life flexibility will be the norm.

Here are a few of my takeaways.  I would love to hear what you think if you’ve seen the movie.

(Spoiler alert—Stop here if you don’t want key points of the movie’s plot revealed.)

Insight #1:  Some people really do like working all of the time.  But we need to stop celebrating their work+life fit as the bar against which we are measured (and fail), and respectfully see their choices as the aberration that happens to work for them…for now.

At the beginning of the movie, George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, genuinely loves his work+life fit.  And it’s a fit that’s all work and no life.  In fact, he likes it so much that he develops a series of motivational speeches extolling the virtue of the “baggage free” life to others.

The movie did a great job of showing how we collectively as a culture tend to romanticize Bingham’s fit.  It’s glamorous—fancy hotels, honors clubs, first class seats.   In fact, his speeches are so successful that by the end of the movie he’s asked to present at a large, prestigious venue.  We want that life, but do we?

The role of work+life fit foil is played by Bingham’s junior-level colleague, Natalie.  Initially when we meet Natalie, she seems to hold many of the same values as her more senior, experienced colleague.  So it’s surprising when she begins to actively and forcefully challenge his work+life fit choices as she comes to terms, often painfully, with what she really wants personally and professionally.

First, she tries to get him to agree with and embrace her vision of a work+life fit that includes a partner and a family.  Then, she attempts to take on his values and change herself to conform.  But, it’s like watching someone put on a suit that doesn’t fit. Very uncomfortable.
In the end, she’s made him think differently, but he hasn’t fundamentally changed.  Instead, she realizes that she needs to make herself happy and finds another job.

Insight #2: Life eventually creeps in for even the most hard core “all work/no life” person, whether by choice or by force….(Click here for more)

Bookmark It! “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series Wrap-up (Video)

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Thank you for joining me for the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series!

Giving real people, with real jobs and real lives the proven “how-to” basics to flexibly manage your work+life fit day-to-day and at major personal and career transitions.  But that’s not all…

In the new work+life flex normal, knowing how to strategically and flexibly manage your work+life fit is a skill set we must have.  We need know how to partner with our employers to create work+life fit solutions that consider our needs as well as the needs of the business.  And understand how to flexibly adjust our work+life fit not only when our personal realities alter, but when business circumstances change.

Yes, employers must create the space where mutually-beneficial flexibility can be discussed and thrive.  But we need to know how meet them halfway, even if all of them aren’t joining us at the table… yet!

Bookmark this page and come back to it as needed! Flexibly and strategically managing your work+life fit is an ongoing, everyday process.  The “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” series is here to support you.

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities (Fast Company)

Day 2: Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving (Fast Company)

Day 3: Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4: What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story (Fast Company)

Day 5: Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want more?

(Day 5) Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan—Making it a Win-Win

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Welcome to Day 5 of the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series!  It’s time to create a work+life fit plan that best meets your needs and the realities of your job, as they stand today.

Remember, this series not only helps you find your own work+life fit.  It’s equally as important if we want to create more flexible organizations.  That requires a partnership between employer and employee.  Yes, employers need to do their part to create the space where mutually-beneficial flexibility can be discussed and thrive (we need to do more in this area, but we’ve come a long way).  However, we must know how meet our employers halfway, even if they aren’t all joining us at the table… yet (see Fear roadblocks post).

How do you take the vision of what you want and then work through a process that matches that goal with the realities of our work and life? Today, Day 5, introduces you to highlights of that process.

After Days 1-4, You’re Ready and Aware

Before we get started, let’s look back at how the previous four days make it possible for you to create and implement a plan with the greatest likelihood of thriving.   Typically, individuals jump right to the “create a plan,” step.  But first you must have achieved a level of readiness and awareness which we covered in Days 1-4:

Day 1:  What is Work+Life Fit? (Why Does it Matter?) / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenging Work+Life Fit Roadblocks—Success: Money, Prestige, Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenging Work+Life Fit Roadblocks—Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want?  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Vision / Your Internal Guidance

You’re ready, you’re aware, and you have a glimmering idea of what you want, here are the highlights for creating a solid, well-thought out plan.  Like yesterday, we’re covering a lot of territory in the space of a blog post.  Therefore, I am sharing a number of excerpts from the book that will take you to the next level if interested.   Good stuff!

“How to” Roadmap: Making Your Vision a Reality

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“You’ve created your work+life vision—a vision full of imagination and possibility, and free of limitation. Now it’s time to change direction and make that vision a reality. This is where the dreaming ends and the steps to actualize your vision begin.

Your vision must be compatible with the current realities of your work and personal life if your final work+life fit is going to succeed.
This involves a “compare for compatibility” process whereby you compare your vision to each specific aspect of your work and personal life in order to identify and potential mismatches. The goal is to rectify and incompatibility before implementing your work+life fit, thus reducing the chance of being derailed later.

Resolving an incompatibility involves changing the reality of it at all possible, or if that’s not an option, adjusting your original vision. Depending on how far apart your vision and your realities are, all of the comparing and adjusting can transform your vision into a very different final work+life fit plan at the end of the roadmap. This may seem a bit disconcerting. You may wonder why you should exert the effort to create that vision in the first place if it’s only going to change. There are two very good reasons…” (Click here for more or to download or print PDF).

Six Most Common Changes Your Vision Will Involve

Making your work+life vision a reality will most likely involve changes in one or more of the following:

  • Why you are working
  • What type of work you do
  • Whom you work for/with
  • How you work
  • When you work
  • Where you work

CHANGE “WHY” YOU WORK

Excerpt from Work+Life Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“Believe it or not, finding a better work+life fit can be as simple as reframing why you’re working. For some, the source of conflict is “Why am I doing this type of work or this particular job?” The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to leave your current situation to discover an enhanced sense of purpose. Jim’s Story…” (Click here for more or to download or print PDF).

I’ve written about job crafting and encore careers as two examples of changing the “why” or purpose behind the work you are doing.   It’s makes a difference.

CHANGE “WHAT” YOU DO

Excerpt from Work+Life Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“ Perhaps your vision for a better work+life fit includes a different job or career altogether. This was my experience when I resolved my work/life conflict by transitioning from banking to work+life strategy consulting. It is also the experience of many of my clients. You can devote the same amount of time and energy to a job that you enjoy and a job you don’t. One will make you feel great, while the other will result in work/life conflict.”  (Click here for more or to download or print PDF).

Yup, sometimes you just don’t like what you are doing, and you need to do a different type of work altogether.  Here are some great online resources/books to help you change careers (please share any others you’ve found helpful):

CHANGE WHOM WORK FOR/WITH

Excerpt from Work+Life Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“One of the key components of work/life satisfaction is a supportive work environment. To find it, you may have to work for a new company…The other two key components of your work environment are a supportive manager and coworkers…That said, it follows that either an unsupportive manager or an unsupportive coworker is enough to cause conflict. If this is your reality, your vision for a better work+life fit could involve changing whom you work with…Denise’s Story” (Click here for more or to download or print PDF)

But before you make the leap, double check how you might make some adjustments in your own behavior could make the situation better.  For more, read, “Lost heart with your current job? Don’t rush to escape” by Christine Livingston at A Different Kind of Work.

CREATE A WORK+LIFE FLEX PLAN—Change How, When and/or Where You Work

You create a work+life flex plan when your vision is to have greater flexibility in how, when and/or where you are working in order to find your “fit.”  Notice a couple of things that I didn’t say.  They don’t seem like a big deal, but matter:

  • I didn’t say you want to “telecommute,” “work part-time,” “have flextime.” My experience is that very few work+life flex plans neatly into the standard “flexible work arrangement” boxes.  What if you want to come in earlier and work from home every other Thursday?  Instead, think of what you are trying to do more broadly, which is to change how, when and/or where you work.  Again, creates possibilities.
  • I use the word “plan” and not “arrangement.” This is on purpose. Like a business plan, your work+life flex plan is an agreement that benefits both parties.  It’s a living, breathing understanding that should be reviewed regularly, adapted over time and may take a few rounds of negotiation to finalize.  Whereas, arrangement, as in flexible work arrangement, sounds like an accommodation that someone either does or does not bestow upon you as a favor.  This isn’t a “nice-to-have” perk.  It’s good business and it should be described that way.

The Compare-for-Compatibility Process: From Vision to Flex Plan

(Note:  Each of the realities in the compare-for compatibility process have a corresponding chapter in the book that walks you step-by-step through a plan development.  But overview information below gets you started.)

Couple of Key Points about a Well-Thought Out Work+Life Flex Plan

  • The final version of the plan that you discuss with your manager should include work realities ONLY—how you will get your job done. You analyze both your work and personal realities in order to create a complete picture of your work+life fit, so that you have all of your bases covered.   Try to avoid getting into the “why” behind your plan as much as possible, because it shouldn’t matter.
  • In the plan you present and discuss with your manager, lead with how this will benefit the business, because it will! Does having greater flexibility: Make you more productive (give a concrete number—save 2 hours commuting; not interrupted, therefore, can get reports done faster); provide more client coverage (shifting hours can provide before or after hours support);  save money (if reducing your schedule not paying you as much).
  • Try to think of all the possible “Yeah, buts…” your manager will have and try to address then upfront. Common ones:  How will I reach you?  How will I know you are working?  These are easy to address before they get in your way.
  • Make sure you can be flexible with your flexibility.  This is especially important for people with caregiving responsibilities. As you analyze your personal realities, make sure you give yourself a cushion that allows you to “go the extra mile,” occasionally.  In today’s workplace where the unexpected can pop up, we need to be able to lend a hand now and then.

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“Time to hit the Work+Life Fit Roadmap to begin making your vision a reality. When you change how, when, and/or where you work and devote it to your personal life. But there are certain realities in both your work life and personal life that influence whether or not these changes can be made. Addressing those realities is the focus for the next part of the roadmap. These critical realities are:

realitiesThink of the process as a production line that manufacturers the final work+life fit you will implement. Your original vision is the raw material that goes into the process, while the work and personal realities to your vision is compared along the line molds it into a final work+life fit that is viable and realistic.

Before we begin, here’s a quick overview of the ways in which changing how, when, and where you work can lead to a better work+life fit…Changing ‘How You Work… Changing “When” You Work…Changing “Where” You Work…Compare-for-Compatibility…” (Click here for more or to download or print PDF)

Congratulations!  You’ve finished the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” series.  I hope you feel better prepared to move forward to find a better fit–even a small change–in 2010!

This series offered you a preview of the “how-to” basics of managing your work+life fit as a partner with your employer.  Obviously, this is just the beginning, so if you want more please consider the following:

  • Buy the book in print or for Kindle at Amazon.com
  • Sign up to receive my blogs:  via email or via RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of the blog.
  • Follow me and the others dedicated to the topic on Twitter (@caliyost)

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story

Day 5:  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want more?

  • Order the book with the entire Work+Life Fit process: in print or on Kindle at www.Amazon.com
  • Sign up to receive a weekly email of blog post highlights and/or the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog
  • Follow me on Twitter @caliyost

Fast Company: (More Day 4) Your Work+Life Fit Vision–Your Internal Guidance & My Story

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We’re in Day 4 of the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” series of how-to basics, and today we’re answering the smallest and yet most difficult question, “What Do You Want?”  This is your work+life fit vision.

We started, on the Work+Life Fit blog, by explaining why an initial picture of where you want to go is important. In other words, what do you want your final work+life fit to look like?

THE TOOLS

The three tools for tapping into your internal guidance and creating a powerful work+life fit vision include the mind (the fact-based information you need to succeed), the body (taking care of yourself physically), and finally the spirit-based tools.  What do I mean by “spirit-based” tools and how do they help access your internal guidance which informs your work+life fit vision?  That’s the topic of this Day 4 post.

Let’s start by defining spirit-related tools, and then look at some of the day to day practices you can use to access your unique internal guidance.

I’ve witnessed countless examples of work+life fit success over the last 15 years.  In all cases, each individual did his or her homework (gathered the rational, logical data) but then followed their internal guidance and did what made sense for them.

I’m a living example.  When I consciously began my personal work+life fit journey 18 years ago, for the first time in my life I followed my internal guidance (as well as gathered information and took better care of myself physically).  It was the only way I was able to make my major work+life fit transition from corporate banker to work+life strategy consultant.  I will share my story at the end of the post. Fun fact, Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal played a big role at one point in my story.  I am forever grateful to her to this day!

SPIRIT-RELATED TOOLS AND YOUR INTERNAL GUIDANCE

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“Again, spirit simply means understanding that which is uniquely you—your values, beliefs, and priorities, as you define them—and how they are expressed in your life as a whole, not just in work. And then using that understanding to create an imaginative insight into how you want work to fit into your life.

As the opening line of this book states, I believe that we are all put on the earth with a specific set of skills and talents that we are to use to fulfill our life’s purpose in all areas of our life—not just work.

While I believe that the logical, head-based approach to your work+life vision can help you identify your skills and talents, only your spirit provides the context for how and where to use them to fulfill your life’s purpose. And this purpose can change, depending upon what stage of life you’re in.

By using the tool of spirit, your internal guidance will help you with the answers to those big life questions:

  • Who am I, as a whole, not just as a worker?
  • What is my purpose, not just at work but in my life as a whole?
  • What do I love to do at work and in my personal life?
  • What are my unique talents and gifts?

The answers to such questions form the context within which your internal guidance analyzes data from the mind and body. This is why spirit is such an important tool for creating your work+life vision. It considers all of who you are and not just your “work-self.” Again, with the tool of spirit, you are able to dream and achieve much bigger things than your more limited logical mind could ever conceive.” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF).

PRACTICES TO ACCESS YOUR INTERNAL GUIDANCE…(Click here to go to Fast Company for more)

“What Do You Want?” The Smallest, Hardest Question—Creating Your Vision (Day 4)

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In the movie “Up In the Air,” there’s a scene in which George Clooney’s character talks to a friend on the phone following a difficult article-1243187-07D8F41D000005DC-807_468x424encounter.  It’s been a real wakeup call for him, and the friend says, “Ryan, what do you want?”  With a confused look on his face, he says nothing.  His friend finally responds, “You have no idea, do you.”

“What do you want?”  Sounds like a simple question, but my experience is that it is one of the most difficult questions for people to answer honestly and clearly.  They have absolutely no trouble ticking of the laundry list of things they don’t want.  But when pressed with, “Okay, but what do you want?” they respond like Ryan Bingham.  Speechless and dumbstruck.

If you want to make your work+life fit a reality, you have to have a general understanding or picture of what you want first.  As hockey legend Wayne Gretzky responded when asked how he scored so many goals, “I skate to where the puck is going to be.” (quote courtesy of Sam Horn).

Therefore, Day 4 of the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series is devoted to creating your work+life fit vision.

First, let’s look back at Days 1, 2 and 3 of the series.  Hopefully, you see how the “how-to” basics we’ve covered set you up nicely to begin to answer this tiny, troublesome question:

  • Day 1: you learned there is no right answer of “balance.”  And you began to see all of the work+life fit possibilities from making both small and big adjustments in how, when and where you worked and managed your life.
  • Day 2: you learned to recognize and challenge roadblocks that pop up when your definition of success related to money, prestige, advancement and caregiving is too limited and rigid.
  • Day 3: you learned how to challenge the all too common, “Yes, buts…” and “What if,…” fear roadblocks that inevitably litter the path to a better work+life fit.

You’re open and you’re ready.  Let’s get started!  The information in this post and in the accompanying Fast Company post for Day 4 is so important that I’ve included even more book excerpts, so please read.  Good stuff!

WHAT IS A WORK+LIFE FIT VISION?

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Note: when I wrote the book, work+life fit was not the accepted terminology, so I refer to the vision as the “work+life” vision.  Today, substitute work+life fit vision).

“By definition a vision is ‘an imaginative insight into a subject or problem’ (Oxford American Dictionary).  Therefore, by creating your work+life vision, you are creating an imaginative insight into how you want work to fit into your life as a whole.

In other words, your vision is not how someone else sees working fitting into your life, but how you see it.  It’s not how work should fit in, but how you want it to fit in.  And it’s not how does your life fit into your work, but how do you imagine work fitting into your life.  This is your work+life vision.”  (Click here for more, and to print or download PDF).

Takeaway Action Step

Like any journey, you have to start with an idea of where you want to go before you begin. In this case, you can’t analyze and change your work and personal realities as part of the Work+Life Fit roadmap (which we will cover in Day 5)without a guiding vision of what you want those changes to help you achieve.

Your work+life fit vision will change countless times over the course of your life and career. After you’ve consciously articulated what you want, you will repeat the process many times in the future.  Like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.

WORK+LIFE FIT VISION: THE TOOLS YOU WILL NEED

If I had to pick a favorite chapter from my book, it would be this one.  The little hairs on my arms stand up every time I read it.  Why?  Because I know that if more people had and understood the Work+Life Fit visioning tools, not only would their personal reality be transformed, but our collective reality would improve beyond measure.  But, sadly, most of us have no idea they exist, or how to use them.

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“In the definition of work+life vision—creating an imaginative insight into how you want work to fit into your life as a whole—the most important words are imaginative and insight.  Why?  These are the words that describe the importance of looking within in order to see the possibilities for your life.  This is how you create your work+life vision.

GROUND RULES:  Leave All ‘Reality’ at the Door, Now It’s Time to Dream!

The only way you’re going to create a vision that truly reflects how you want work to fit into your life is to check ‘reality’ at the door.  You’ll have plenty of time to worry about reality later.  But for now there are no limits, no ‘shoulds,’ ‘cant’s,’ ‘oughts,’ ‘yes buts,’ or ‘what ifs.’  There are only the possibilities and dreams.  Only ‘why nots.’”  (Click here for more, and to print and download PDF)

Takeaway Actions Steps:

There are two possible approaches to creating your unique work+life fit vision: 1) the head-based approach, or 2) the heart-based approach. Neither one is right or wrong, but the heart-based approach adds the power of your internal guidance, that “still, small voice,” to the mix.   As I say in the book, “If you remember only one reason for listening to your internal guidance, it’s this:  Only your internal guidance dreams bigger dreams for your life than your “rational” mind could begin to imagine.”

The Mind, Body and Spirit tools are the key to the heart-based approach for creating your work+life fit vision. All three play an important role, and I’m not talking about religion when I say “spirit.”

The “mind” tools are pretty self-explanatory.  This includes case studies, advice, and research that give you the information you need to succeed.  How have other individuals and organizations benefited from a more flexible work+life fit reality?  What did they do?

The “body” tools are also pretty straightforward.  You want to have access all of your energy and creativity in order to hear your internal guidance and create a work+life fit vision that’s as clear as possible.   And you need all of the resources possible finalize your plan based on that vision and make it a reality.  You do this by taking care of yourself physically as much as possible.

I cover the “spirit” tools and the power of internal guidance in my Fast Company post from today.  I outline strategies for accessing your internal guidance to develop your work+life fit vision, but I also share my personal story.  How my internal guidance informed my work+life fit transition almost 20 years ago from banker to work+life flexibility strategy consultant.

FINDING THE TIME TO USE THE TOOLS AND TO CREATE YOUR VISION (EXERCISES)

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“Over the years, I’ve shared the power of the mind, body and spirit tools to resolve work/life conflict.  And clients and workshop participants so often responded: ‘That sounds great, but when am I supposed to find the time to do all of that?’
When I reluctantly started down the path of seeking my internal guidance, I never believed I’d find the time to use one tool, never mind three.  However, the more unhappy and unhealthy I felt I knew that I simply needed to find the time.  I looked at my life and found time by watching less TV, and going to bed earlier so that I could wake up an hour earlier to meditate and write in my journal.  I made sure I left work on time to make it to yoga class.”  (Click here for more, and to print or download PDF)

Takeaway Action Steps

My personal and professional experience is that you can find the time.  You just have to look, and you don’t really have to do that much to start to notice increased clarity about what you want in your work+life fit.  Here are some suggestions from the chapter excerpt above:

  • Complete the “How Connected Are You to Your Internal Guidance?
  • Try the very basic, super simple “Mind, Body, Spirit” tools practice for one week

What do you want?  How to you create your work+life fit vision?

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story

Day 5:  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want More:

Want more?
•    Order the book with the entire Work+Life Fit process: in print or on Kindle at www.Amazon.com
•    Sign up to receive a weekly email of blog post highlights and/or the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog.
•    Follow me on Twitter @caliyost

Fear–Challenging Work+Life Fit Roadblocks (Day 3)

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Raise your hand if you’ve muttered or thought “Yeah, but…” or “What if…” as you read the posts from Day 1 and Day 2 of the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” series.  If you did (and chances are that you did), then you’ve officially hit a fear roadblock.

Fear roadblocks litter the work+life fit process from beginning to end.  Whether big or small, they will sneak up and derail you unless directly challenged.  Today, Day 3, we tackle your work+life fit fears.

If you’re stuck behind a “Yeah, but…” or a “What if…,” I can’t simply tell you not to be afraid, especially in this economic environment.  It won’t work.  And I can’t say that all of your fears are completely groundless, but I can help you challenge them as they come up, by:

  1. Showing  you “how:” I will give you a process for challenging the validity of a particular fear as being real or imagined so you can keep moving forward and
  2. Sharing and challenging the most common fears: There are three common work+life fit fears that have come up consistently during my 15 years of helping companies and individuals partner to develop and implement work+life flexibility strategies.  You will probably recognize them.

“How to” Challenge Fear Roadblocks

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“I was once part of a corporate work/life consulting project in which more than 100 employees who successfully found a better way to fit work into their lives were interviewed.  We asked them what advice they would give to others.  Much of their advice reinforces the strategies put forth in this book, such as redefining success, making the business case, and taking the lead on your own behalf to find the fit you need.  But many also added, ‘Tell them to just go for it.’  Go for it.  Sounds like something you’d say to someone who’s about to jump off the high dive or climb a mountain for the first time.  What exactly were these people trying to say?

Well, they’ve been in your position—wanting a better work+life fit, but feeling very afraid.  And they know that it feels like a leap into the unknown.  But they also know that once you have a well thought-out proposal, then you have to ‘get past the fear and just do it.’”  (Click here for more, and to print or download the PDF).

Takeaway Action Steps to Challenge Work+Life Fit Fears

#1–Create a solid, well-thought out plan that considers your needs as well as the realities of your job.  And, once implemented, review and adapt regularly.

My experience is that most people don’t do this, for a few reasons:

First, they don’t know how. This is why when I develop a flexibility strategy for companies, one of the keys to successful implementation is giving employees a process that let’s them take the lead and create a work+life fit plan that makes sense not only for them personally, but for their job.

The how-to highlights I’m sharing in this series are from the same Work+Life Fit process that we tailor for our corporate clients.  It is the same process outlined in my book.  Knowing how to partner with your employer to flexibly and strategically manage your work+life fit as personal and work realities change is a skill set that we all need, but that most of us still don’t have.

Second, we expect our manager to come up with a solution. And they can’t. To start, if you need to change your work+life it, chances are your manager has no idea.  He or she can’t read your mind.  And in this environment, they’re probably focused on other issues, so it’s not on their radar screen.  Even if it was, your manager can’t tailor a workable plan for you because he or she doesn’t know your work and personal realities well enough.  Your manager can support the conversation, but you need to start the discussion and present solution.

Third, we think corporate flexible work arrangement policies are the solution. Even with more policies, we’d still need to present a plan and have a discussion.  For years, experts–including me–thought top-down policies outlining the different types of flexibility were the answer.  The truth is even if there is a policy officially sanctioning a certain type of flexibility (e.g. flextime, telecommuting, reduced schedules, compressed workweeks) you can’t simply check a box and expect the arrangement to survive day-to-day reality.

I’ve seen plenty of employers with great flexibility policies and no usage because it’s not supported by process that tailors solutions to the person and the business.  And I’ve seen companies with no policies, but with an inherently flexible way of operating where unique work+life fit solutions are organically created.  The power of a policy is to show what’s possible.  But it’s the work+life fit process that creates a workable plan that’s a sustainable win-win for all parties.

Finally, we think getting a new job that’s more flexible upfront is the answer. Even then, you still need to actively manage and coordinate your work+life fit on an ongoing basis for that flexible job to succeed.

#2–Challenge each fear to determine if it’s based on facts or on assumptions that need to be clarified.

The step-by-step “challenge the fear” process is outlined in the book excerpt above.  There’s also an example of someone following the process and moving beyond a concern that she realized wasn’t valid.

In my experience, approximately 80% of the fears that keep us stuck are based on misunderstandings, misperceptions and a lack of information.  The remaining 20% of concerns, are valid on some level, but in many cases can be addressed.  For those that can’t, you still have choices.

#3–Dig down deep into yourself and find the courage to go for it. You do have the power, as long as you know how.

Challenging the Most Common Work+Life Fit Fears

Fear #1 – They will say “no.” This is the top fear that keeps most people from presenting a plan that adjusts their work+life fit.   The specific ways to challenge this fear are covered in the chapter excerpt above; however, here are a couple of things to consider:

  • Are you a good performer?  If you are, by all means put together a plan, especially if you are getting ready to quit to find a better fit.  I wish I had a dollar for every manager who said to me over the years, “They should have said something before they left.  I would have considered it.”
  • The worst thing that can happen is your manager says “no.”  Then you are back where you started and no worse off.  But my experience is that nine times out of ten, you at least get a fair hearing as long as you have a well-thought out plan.   And if you are really concerned, start out by proposing a relatively small adjustment in your fit, and work your way toward more.

Fear #2 – It will hurt my career. I covered the advancement roadblock yesterday (Day 2), but you have to ask yourself, what happens if you don’t find a better fit?  Are you going to leave?  Will you become so unproductive and unhappy that it begins to hurt your health and/or your performance?  Would finding a better fit actually help your career in the long-run?  How would it benefit your employer?

Fear #3 I will lose my job. In today’s economic reality, I understand the instinct to keep your head down and just work harder, faster and longer. You don’t want to make any wrong moves that put your job in jeopardy.  That being said, your employer benefits from helping you flexibly manage your work+life fit.  You’re more productive.  You’re less distracted.  You’re more creative.  You can provide more coverage.  You’re less stressed.  You stick around.  If you work fewer hours, they save money.  All good stuff that should be front and center in any plan.

While there are always exceptions, my experience has been that if someone with flexibility loses his or her job, it’s not about the flexibility specifically.  It’s either:

  • The individual wasn’t performing overall (I would argue that person shouldn’t have had flexibility in the first place).
  • He or she wasn’t willing or able to adapt the type of flexibility they had to the changing realities of the business.  That’s why it’s so important that any work+life fit plan is a flexible, ongoing dialogue with your manager and not just a box checked on a benefits form.  You want to be in the loop when circumstances change, or
  • There were broader layoffs impacting many people in many different circumstances, including those with flexibility.  But not only those with flexibility.

What are the “Yeah, but…” and “What ifs…” keeping you from flexibly managing your work+life fit in a way that meets your needs and the needs of your job?  Have you challenged your fears?  If yes, what did you do?  If not, why?

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story

Day 5:  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want more?
•    Order the book with the entire Work+Life Fit process: in print or on Kindle at www.Amazon.com
•    Sign up to receive a weekly email of blog post highlights and/or the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog.
•    Follow me on Twitter @caliyost

Fast Company: Success: Advancement and Caregiving–Challenge Work+Life Fit Roadblocks (More Day 2)

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On Day 2 of the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” series of how-to basics, we’re challenging work+life fit roadblocks.   It’s important to know how to see, avoid and challenge the roadblocks related to success, fear, resistance and in-the-box-thinking before you begin the process of creating your work+life fit plan.

We started on the Work+Life Fit blog by defining and challenging the Success Roadblocks related to money and prestige that can trip you up unless you flexibly redefine success to match the fit you want to pursue.

Now, let’s identify and challenge the Success Roadblocks related to advancement and caregiving before they derail you.

Advancement—Redefining Success

Excerpt from Work+Life Finding the Fit That’s Right for You

“Advancement=Success.  Advancement is one of the cornerstones of our personal and cultural definition of success. As part of the FWI/Whirlpool New Providers Study, 1,502 women were asked “What makes you feel successful at work?” The answer with the highest percentage of responses by far was “quality of work/doing a good job/doing job right or well,” with 51% citing it as their top measure of success.  How do we gauge how well we’re doing our job? By whether or not we advance—whether or we’re given higher ratings, bigger titles, bigger offices, more money, more responsibilities, better projects,etc.

It’s not surprising then that the idea of plateauing or even stepping back is difficult, especially if you’re a Type-A person who is used to always grabbing for that next rung onthe ladder. If you aren’t advancing, you must be failing. Right?   But this belief is built on myth. Avoiding the red flags and roadblocks caused by an attachment to advancement requires dispelling the following myths…”  (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)

Takeaway Action Steps to Redefine Success Related to Advancement:

There are three lanes in the Work+Life Fit highway—fast lane, stop at the side of the road, and the “slower lane.”  We need to use them all. We pursue, yet resist, life in the fast lane.  When we are overwhelmed and feel there’s no other choice, we look for an off-ramp with the promise of being able to find an on-ramp someday.   We’ve limited our choices to an all-or-nothing highway.  I’m either in, or I’m out.

But in today’s reality there’s no guarantee of staying in the fast lane forever.  On-ramps are rare, if not non-existent; therefore, taking a career break really means stopping at the side of the road.  To stay on the highway, requires using the “slower” lane.

In this new era, over the course of a career, we will flexibly move, voluntarily and involuntarily, back and forth among the fast lane, the shoulder and increasingly, the slower lane.

What I love about this imagery is that even if you are pulling over into the slower lane you are still moving forward, just at a different pace.  Making the decision to not take a promotion, to take a pay cut to save your job, to take a lower level job in a new industry, to give up some of your responsibilities, to become a project-based consultant or to reduce your schedule doesn’t mean you are off the highway or moving backward.  You’re still in the game, just in a different lane for a period of time.

We need to recognize that the theory of spending time in the slower lane doesn’t sound so bad, until you look back over at the fast lane.  What’s happening?  Someone is passing you by.  That can be very difficult if we hold on to our traditional, rigid standards of success.  Moving among all three options means managing our expectations so that we are satisfied when we find ourselves reducing our momentum.   And then, when the time is right, pulling right back over into the fast lane.

Directly challenge common advancement related myths:…(Click here to go to Fast Company for more)

Success: Money and Prestige–Challenging Work+Life Fit Roadblocks (Day 2)

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Yesterday, we kicked off the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” how-to series of highlights from the  Work+Life Fit™ process.  The goal is to give you the tools to take control and manage your work+life fit in a way that meets your personal needs and the needs of your job in 2010.

Day 1 we defined “What is Work+Life Fit?” and how to “See the Possibilities.”

At this point people usually say, “Okay, show me how to create my work+life fit.”  Hold up.  There’s one interim step to complete BEFORE we get to the roadmap to create your plan.  But almost everyone omits this critical exercise, and it’s the reason so many efforts to manage work and life creatively and flexibly unnecessarily fail.  We get tripped up, and don’t even know it until we’ve thrown in the towel.

The trick is to know how to see, avoid and challenge the common work+life fit roadblocks that will inevitably pop up along the way before you begin.  Today, Day 2, we identify and challenge Success Roadblocks.

Success Roadblocks—Money and Prestige (Day 2)

When I’m asked, “What’s the most important tip for successfully managing your work+life fit?”  My answer is always the same…you have to flexibly and constantly redefine success so that your definition matches the fit you are trying to achieve.  If you don’t, you will feel dissatisfied, frustrated and give up.

For all the countless ways to flexibly manage your work+life fit day-to-day and at major career and life transitions, there have to be as many definitions of success.  Unfortunately, we (as individuals and as a culture) still hold onto very linear, rigid limits around what success can look like.  Unless you consciously challenge these boundaries, you won’t be able to adjust your fit as your work and personal circumstances change and feel good about it.

The aspects of success that give people the most trouble are money, prestige, advancement and care giving.  (I cover money and prestige in this post.  Click here to go to my Fast Company blog for more on advancement and caregiving).

Money—Redefining Success

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:

“We start with money because, in my opinion, it’s the chief obstacle standing between most people and a better work+life fit.  Money is something over which many people feel they have very little control.  As a result, they often feel trapped not only in a job situation where they are financially successful, but trapped in a lifestyle that success enables.  So as their work and/or personal realities change, they feel incapable of changing their successful lifestyles in order to adjust their work+life fit.

The truth is not only do you have control over the choices you make with your money, but you can change those choices at any time.  This is the primary strategy for moving beyond a money-related success roadblock…” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)

Takeaway Action Steps for Challenging Money-Related Success:

Test the flexibility of your definition of success related to money so that you are prepared. The recession confirmed (painfully in many cases) that non-linear career paths are now the norm.  Ongoing rapid change is part the global market in which we operate. It requires organizations to nimbly adapt the way they do business, and in turn, individuals to flexibly manage their work+life fit.  Whether by choice or by force, you may find you have to substitute money in your definition of success by placing greater value on other aspects of your job and/or life.

For example, during the downturn, I’ve watched how differently individuals responded to their employer’s use of strategic flexibility (e.g. reduced schedules, furloughs and sabbaticals) to minimize the number of layoffs, while cutting labor costs.  Many people were able to flexibly redefine success to match their change in circumstances.  To make up for less money, they substituted having more time for their personal lives and gratitude for having a job in their definition of success.  The result was a commitment to partner with their employer to turn things around.

But others responded quite differently.  In the face of flexible downsizing, they were unable to redefine success related to money.  It didn’t matter that they and their colleagues were still employed, and that they had more time for their personal lives.  They felt undervalued and immediately began looking for another job even though many worked in industries with widespread layoffs and few job prospects.  They weren’t able to redefine success related to money and make the most of their new work+life fit reality.   Their commitment and sense of well-being suffered as a result.

A flexible definition of success related to money gives you access to more work+life fit options throughout your career and lifetime. The Baby Boomers who are choosing lower-paying, but more satisfying Encore Careers as an alternative to traditional retirement are great examples.  This transition wouldn’t be possible unless they redefined success related to money.

Plan, budget, and make better, albeit sometimes difficult, money choices that support greater flexibility. There are a number of terrific resources online that provide personal finance information to get you started.  Here are couple of my favorites:

  • Manisha Thakor, co-author of “On My Own Two Feet” targeting women, and “Get Financially Naked,” to help couples talk about money.
  • Jean Chatzky, Make Money Make Sense Blog
  • Rick Kahler, series of books and advice about our perceptions and mindsets related to money

Don’t wait until everyone else shares your commitment to a more flexible definition of success related to money before you start. While the recession has caused a fundamental resetting of our collective cultural relationship to money and debt in the U.S., financial rewards are still a very primary metric of success.  But you can’t wait until everyone else around you begins the process of broadening the rigid limits they put around success.  In the excerpt above, read how Clark started to redefine success related to money in order to adjust his work+life fit even though everyone else in his law firm kept financial rewards as their primary success metric.

Prestige—Redefining Success

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:

“Having a better work+life fit means making trade-offs. Sometimes the trade-off is between having more time and flexibility for your personal life or working for a prestigious organization or holding a prestigious position.

Does that mean you can’t work for a well-known company and hold a high-profile position and have more flexibility? No, not necessarily. There are well-known, prestigious companies that embrace employee efforts to address work/life conflict. If your current or prospective employer falls into this category, they may support your proposal. And there are people in positions that others would define as prestigious who have creatively found ways to fit work into their lives. Hopefully, if you have achieved such a position, you will leverage your value and experience to do the same.

But what if you can’t? What do you do if your prestigious company doesn’t support your arrangement or your prestigious position simply requires more time and energy than your desired work+life fit would allow? You hit a prestige-related roadblock and are derailed…” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)

Takeaway Action Steps for Challenging Prestige-Related Success:

Work for a less well known, but perhaps smaller, more flexible organization. You don’t always have to work for Goldman Sachs.  Maybe you work for the no-name financial group, doing work you enjoy (albeit less prestigious) but getting the work+life fit you need given your current circumstances.  This may require redefining success related to money as well. See Cindy and Alexandra’s stories in above excerpt.

Take a less high-profile position with tasks and responsibilities that accommodate the time and energy available in your work+life fit. The mere thought of giving up responsibilities or a title can cause people to shudder.  But it’s not only possible at certain points in your life, it may be necessary and desirable. Replace the prestige of your position and type work you do with other aspects of your life.  In the chapter excerpt above, read how Glen redefined success related to the prestige of the level he held and found the perfect post-retirement consulting project.

Challenge the more subtle, yet insidious prestige-related definitions of success that can undermine your work+life fit.  Clarify true expectations. These subtle expectations are the pressures we put on ourselves about what we “should” do.  They relate to participation in certain meetings, the response times for emails after hours, or face time expectations in the office.  For example, do you put pressure on yourself to answer every email rapidly day or night without clarifying your managers’ expectations?  Do you put unnecessary pressure on yourself to always be the first one in or the last one out at night, even though it’s not vital for your job?

What are some of the money and prestige roadblocks you’ve encountered as you flexibly manage your work+life fit?  How did you avoid or challenge them?   Share your tips!

Click here for more “Success Roadblocks:  Advancement and Caregiving (Day 2)” on my Fast Company blog.

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story

Day 5:  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want more?
•    Order the book with the entire Work+Life Fit process: in print or on Kindle at www.Amazon.com
•    Sign up to receive a weekly email of blog post highlights and/or the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog.
•    Follow me on Twitter @caliyost

“Work+Life Fit in 5 Days”–What is Work+Life Fit? (Day 1)

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For the next five days—here and on my Fast Company blog—I will give you the work+life fit basics to better manage the way work fits into your life in 2010…Work+Life Fit in 5 Days!  This series will give you the power to partner with your employer to find the fit that meets your needs as well as the needs of your business.

These “how to” basics come from the same Work+Life Fit™ process I’ve presented to tens of thousands of individuals over the past 10 years in my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead, 2005), in speeches, in workshops and in my consulting practice helping organizations develop and implement flexibility strategies.   It’s the same information I’ve shared with groups at Pepsi, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, the U.S. Navy and even the United Nations!

The Work+Life Fit™ process is for real people who have real jobs and real lives.   It shows you step-by-step how to create a solution that considers your needs as well as the needs of your job.

It’s one thing for me to say it works, but check out what others say in the testimonials on the Client Success page of my website.

Let’s get started!  Each day’s posts will highlight a different work+life fit “how to” from the three step Work+Life Fit process.  These basics are the building blocks upon which we all can flexibly manage our unique work+life fit day-to-day and at major personal and professional transitions.  Each post will include:

  • An excerpt from my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead, 2005) which celebrates its 5th year anniversary of publication in paperback this month!
  • Takeaway Action Tips to get you started quickly
  • Additional resources and insights.

One last thing…if you find one or all of the Work+Life Fit™ basics presented over the next five days helpful, please SHARE!  Yes, the news about the current state of our work and lives can be discouraging.  But if given the tools, we can take positive steps to make our personal reality better which helps us all get back on the road to recovery.

What is Work+Life Fit? (Day 1)

Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:book matters

“What is work+life fit? Like the term work/life balance, work+life fit describes how work interacts with the rest of your life.  But it doesn’t simply imply that your ultimate goal is to find a ‘balance’ by dividing your time and energy equally between two separate spheres.  Instead, work+life fit more accurately reflects reality and the need to ‘fit’ work flexibly and creatively into your life as a whole.  In other words, given the realities in your work and personal life, work may at this time be the predominate focus of your life, while at other times it may only fit partially, or maybe even not at all…” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)

Takeaway Action Tips:

Work+life fit is about possibilities. That being said, by all means continue to use the term “balance” to describe your goal as long as it isn’t the “thing I constantly don’t have and can’t seem to get.”  My experience is that for most people, balance has become a deficit model.   In order to find creative solutions you have to be open to possibilities.

It’s about time and energy.  Here’s where too many people get lost.  We think work+life fit is a matter of managing our time better.  And, to a degree, it is.  But, it is also about managing our energy so that we have access to as much of it as possible.   For example, many of us are being asked to do more work in either the same or fewer hours.  So, we’re worrying more, sleeping less, not going to the gym, and grabbing fast food for meals.  It may seem like this gives us more hours and minutes to do the work, but we actually end up with less time and energy.  Sources of energy like sleep, relaxation, exercise, and eating well aren’t optional activities that can be eliminated to get more time.  Their net energy benefits as well as the hours and minutes in the day are the resources you need to manage work and life in today’s reality.

There’s no right work+life fit answer.  Everyone is different. Like snowflakes. One of the reasons I love my job is that I’ve never heard the same work+life fit reality twice.  Realizing there is no right answer or “balance” can be very freeing.  It eliminates the harsh judgment we put on ourselves but also on others.  All of our work and personal realities are completely unique at a given point in time.  All that matters is what is possible today, where you are.

The “+” matters. Believe or not, that little symbol is important.  Too many of us still think that work and life are two separate spheres.   Maybe they were back in 1940 when you went to the factory, cranked out widgets during a standard 8-hour shift, shut the factory door and went home until the next day.  No longer.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t try to create a fit that keeps work and life as separate as possible.  For some people, that will be a goal.  But the point is we need to start working on a solution from the premise that work and life are one and the same.  So whenever you see a “-“ or a “/” between work and life, mentally replace it with a “+.”  That’s reality.

It’s an everyone issue (not just moms). Actively and flexibly managing your work+life fit is something that we all need to do, not just parents and mothers.

Understand that the trends transforming work and life go way beyond you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to take action. Work and life have fundamentally changed.   In order to understand why managing your work+life fit is so critical, it’s important to understand how broad economic, sociological and demographic trends have converged over the past ten years. Why?  Because you realize that the issue is not that there’s something is wrong with you, or that you can’t “hack” it.  Understanding the macro context doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to take action and make your fit better, but it does makes it easier to understand why you need to exercise that power.  Here’s some recent research about today’s work+life fit reality that reinforces, it’s not just you:

40% of employees in a recent Harris Interactive poll said their productivity was negatively impacted by layoffs.  Sixty-six percent said that morale has suffered and people are less motivated, and 64% report that there’s too much work and not enough people to do it.

Watson Wyatt/World at Work’s 2009/2010 U.S. Strategic Rewards Survey found:

  • 41% of employees think changes the business made has had an adverse impact on quality/customer service.
  • 44% of employees said there’s been a negative impact on productivity.
  • 79% of employers said there’s been a negative impact on employee workloads.
  • 64% of employers felt employee work-life balance has been adversely impacted.
  • 69% of employers said cost-cutting made managing work-related stress worse.

A recent Career Builder survey of employers painted an equally dismal picture in terms of potential relief from increased hiring.  Sixty-one percent of employers said there would be no additional hiring, and only 20% said they would increase headcount in 2010.  This is an increase from 14% in 2010, but still most employers won’t be hiring full-time employees.

For the next part of today’s segment, click here to go to my Fast Company blog– Seeing the Possibilities (Day 1)

Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:

Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities

Day 2:  Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success:  Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving

Day 3:  Challenge Roadblocks — Fear

Day 4:  What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story

Day 5:  Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win

Want more?

  • Order the book with the entire Work+Life Fit process: in print or on Kindle at www.Amazon.com
  • Sign up to receive a weekly email of blog post highlights and/or the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog.
  • Follow me on Twitter @caliyost

Work+Life Fit Blog Adds Video in 2010! Annoucing “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series

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I’m always looking for new ways to bring to the best, most innovative, and helpful information about work+life fit and flexibility to as many people as possible. As you know, one of my guiding words in 2010 is “Reach.” This past year I dove into Twitter (@caliyost). In 2010, it’s video! As we get going, let me know what you think. And, please be patient as I experiment and learn not only how to video, but how best to use it to add value to the information you receive from the blog.

Join me tomorrow as I kick off the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” event!