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There are years when career is at the centre of our lives. A fresh graduate with a new job can be willing to put extra hours, pursue training and get out of his or her way to climb up the professional ladder.
In other phases in life — like when you have young children or are interested in pursuing a hobby or travel — priorities may shift toward family and personal life. This change doesn’t have to adversely affect your job, but you will need to learn to pick your battles wisely.
In life stages where your energy and time are channelled toward other priorities, knowing how to still maintain a successful career is critical. There is no time when your job and overall career won’t require a significant amount of focus and investment. But if you pick a job that can be maintained within a reasonable set-up in terms of hours and attention, you will be able to get the best of the two worlds — professional development and personal life.
So how can you balance life and work without compromising either? Here are a few points to keep in mind.
Be clear about your goals
No one wants to seem complacent, especially if peers are pushing hard to move ahead. But if you’re at a stage where you know that your energy and time won’t be helping you put the same investment in your career, you must reach a personal compromise on this front. Your goal should be to maintain a natural course of advancement, continue to sharpen your skills, and present yourself as a keeper for your job.
Put aside, for now, anything else that may be time-consuming such as pursuing an additional degree, extensive business travel or taking a new role that requires a significant learning curve. If you focus on excelling at your current role, you may be in a better position than if you bite more than you chew and end up falling short of expectations.
Corporate culture can be tough on those whose lifestyle doesn’t match others. For example, if everyone is working long hours, hanging out afterward and getting together during weekends, you may feel left out if you decide to focus on your own personal life and family time.
This is not uncommon, and in many workplaces, there are people who will have to do so. This typically isn’t something that should be held against you, even though you may feel that you’re missing out.
If your subtle attempts to communicate your desire to end work at the end of the workday fail, make it clear to coworkers and supervisors that you need to have your time off to be focused on your family and personal life.
There are tangible steps that need to be taken into consideration in this regard. For example, no significant work discussions and meetings should be scheduled after hours, if possible. Emails, phone calls and other sorts of communication that are not urgent will have to wait until the next business day to get a reply, for example.
Very few jobs and employers do require people to be available around the clock. In many cases, it is our habits and the ease of communication that make work stretch beyond work hours and into weekends. With that in mind, redefine others’ expectations by setting your own roles and discussing them in advance to make sure that others don’t expect you to be as available and responsive to non-urgent matter when you’re off duty.
Know your time frame
Backing off on aggressive career plans doesn’t have to be the end in itself. Many people choose to do so if they have to care for young children or parents, decide to pursue a hobby or a passion, or for whatever other reason. If you’re honest and realistic about it, you can set a time frame that is acceptable and reasonable for your career.
In this period, you will be able to focus on your alternative goal and be sure that your new — more relaxed — approach toward your career doesn’t become an open-ended routine. It also will allow you to prepare for the next phase. For example, if you plan to push ahead and catch up with your career plans, you will be able to position your comeback at the right time.
Know your priorities
Place career ambition on hold when needed
Know your time frame to plan a comeback
Pursue other passions or care for others
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to Gulf News