Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here are some ideas that can help you achieve an improved balance between work and family.

At work
- Make a daily ‘to-do’ list and prioritise the tasks.
- Break large tasks into smaller parts and action these one at a time based on the priority.
- Periodically review your work and ask yourself, “is this the best use of my time?” “what can I do to save myself time yet achieve the same outcome”?
- When feeling stretched, ask yourself, “would anything terrible happen if I didn’t do this today?” If the answer is “no,” then re-prioritise during busy periods.
- Ask for support when you need it and seek feedback on how you and your manager / team can work together better to support one another.
- Plan quiet time during the day when you can put your head down and focus on getting your work done – this is particularly important if you have a busy work schedule with many interruptions!
- Don’t try to pack too much into one day. Have realistic expectations of what you can achieve.
- At the end of the day, review your ‘to-do’ list and re-prioritise your work for the next day.
- Delegate!
- Because circumstances change don’t be afraid to re-negotiate expectations and flexible arrangements with your employer as required.
- Remember that if the homefront is organised, you will be more effective at work.

At home
- Plan, shop and prepare meals in advance when possible, making it easier to attend to when you get home. Consider shopping online to save time.
- Keep a family calendar to schedule holidays, events, appointments and other important times so you can plan work and other family commitments around these dates.
- Establish a family routine and share the household chores. e.g. if you do child care drop-off one day, your partner does the following day.
- Get help when you need it for the chores you can’t find time for. Eliminate unnecessary chores.
- Make time to relax. Reward yourself with the things that you enjoy doing in your personal time. This might include walking the dog once a week, going to yoga or seeing a movie with a friend.
- Don’t do too much and run yourself ragged, lean on your partner and family to help you when things get really hectic.
- Look for ways to manage your working week more simply, e.g. allocate a day a week that you have a takeaway dinner, change the sheets or do the shopping.
- Prepare yourself and the children the night before for the day ahead e.g. packing lunch, preparing clothes to wear etc.
- Plan nice things to do with your family on days off work, something to look forward to for both you and your children.
- Find time to exercise. Even a 20 minute walk twice a week can work wonders. This can be done to and from work, during lunch or with the family when you get home.

Sharing parental responsibilities
In over 65 per cent of Australian households, both parents work.

Sharing the responsibility of raising children is critical to achieving a satisfying work and family balance. Both parents are responsible for children they bring into the world. If one parent in a two working parent household is solely responsible for child rearing, pick-up and drop-off, cleaning, and preparing meals, in addition to maintaining their career and supporting their family financially, it can create an unsatisfactory, unbalanced home environment.

A good starting point is to write down all the chores and domestic duties that need to be performed throughout the week. Make sure you include the drop-off and pick-up times for the kids at child care or school.

Talk to your partner about how you can divide these responsibilities. If necessary, create a weekly calendar so family members know what their responsibilities are. If the children are old enough, assign chores to them. Other ideas are pre-cooking meals for the week on the weekends, and hiring a cleaner once every two weeks.

Loving and respecting one another’s life challenges and sharing parental responsibilities will create a more happy and harmonious home environment and loving partnership. And there may be time leftover for you and your partner to go out for dinner once a month!

If you are a single parent juggling work and family, you are amazing. If you don’t have a full-time partner to help you, search for networks or associations for single parents in your community. There may be opportunities to assist each other with before and after school care, for example.

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