TIME Parenting

How Work Culture Changes a Man’s Idea of Fatherhood

Diane Collins and Jordan Hollende—Getty Images

New study says dads are formed by their workplace too

Many, many, many kilobytes of data have been given over to how working mothers balance their mothering and money-earning identities and how that is changing families and therefore society. A new stream of data is trickling out on the other side of the story too, how men resolve their images of themselves as workers and fathers.

A small qualitative study on “new dads” in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that American men switch between four images of themselves as fathers: provider, role model, partner and nurturer. Depending on their work lives, one of these roles is always in the ascendant. The demands of men’s jobs and the flexibility of their working hours have a lot of sway over what area of responsibility fathers feel they should be spending most energy on. Dads with high stress or inflexible positions may find it impossible to spend time being a nurturer, for example. Studies have shown that dads are feeling the stress of work-life balance as well.

Another influential factor is the number and quality of conversations men have about being a dad while they’re at the office. There are workplace environments where any talk of child rearing or family responsibilities beyond breadwinning are rare if not exactly verboten. These workplaces are becoming fewer—a group of men who run a Deloitte Dads group out of Toronto recently made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek— but they’re still the norm. A guy who takes a few days off playing baseball to attend the birth of his son, for example, can still produce a public roasting on sports radio.

Many of the issues fathers face are similar to those faced by females but unlike women, men seem to feel less conflict about which role they should be playing at any one time. This is probably only partly because mothering comes with more historical baggage and higher expectations from society. It may also be partly because of biology, since the role of mothers and fathers in the birth of a child is a little bit like the roles of artists and framers in the creation of a painting. One is essential, the other is helpful.

The study’s authors, Beth Humberd of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Jamie Ladge at Northeastern University and Brad Harrington of the Boston College Center for Work and Family interviewed 31 working fathers with working spouses for their results. They recommend that employers acknowledge that fatherhood is a more time and attention consuming task than it has been in recent history. This isn’t just about creating family friendly leave and work-life policies, although those are important. It’s about that tricky thing, workplace culture. “While work-life policies and programs can be designed to be gender neutral, often organizational cultures are not, ” the authors write. “There is still a strong cultural perspective that when men become fathers, little will change for them on the work front.” Perhaps office mates should start organizing baby showers for new dads, as an act of revolution.

TIME Retirement

Millennials Are Leading Boomers to a Smarter Retirement

In retirement jobs, boomers embrace many of the same work values as Millennials.

Most boomers couldn’t name a song by Imagine Dragons or find much use for the news on Policymic.com. But give it time. Both are popular with Millennials, and in some ways we are turning into our children.

Four decades may separate the two generations, which have had vastly different life experiences. Boomers came of age during a time when jobs were plentiful and pensions were secure. Millennials have reached adulthood amid broad underemployment and a crumbling social safety net. These would seem to suggest opposite economic views. But that isn’t necessarily the case.

Of course, the generations have differing views in many areas, and a Pew survey found extreme gaps in technology, politics, music, religion and parts of the workplace. Yes, Millennials prefer to wear flip-flops to the office and text, not talk. Yet in key ways, boomers and Millennials are, like, so similar:

  • Work/Life balance Boomers once thrived on 60-hour workweeks, getting their social life in at the water cooler, and logging the face time needed to get a promotion or more pay. Now that retirement years loom, they have embraced flexible schedules even if it means no promotion. Many boomers must keep working but they want to live a little too. Millennials have felt that way from the start, in part because they’ve had fewer career opportunities but also because many have seen parents toil away for 40 years and never get ahead. They want a different path; they want to enjoy the process because it may not end with financial dreams fulfilled. “The similarities in attitudes across generations are striking,” the global consulting firm PwC found in a 2013 study. For many boomers, work used to be their personal life. Now more than 60% in both generations agree that work interferes with their personal life.
  • Meaning Boomers have long sought a higher purpose, be it ending a war or fighting for civil rights. But their job was about getting ahead, not changing the world. Millennials link work with doing good and having a rewarding experience. That is partly how they expect to be paid—through job satisfaction. They want to work for green companies, have responsibilities that interest them, be part of a team, travel and feel like they are making a difference. Again, with retirement looming, boomers are hopping on board. Some 57% of working retirees are either volunteers or working at a job that provides a community service, or working as a way to maintain connections, according to a report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, which notes that through work members of this generation “seek greater purpose, stimulation, social engagement, and fulfillment.”
  • Saving Now past 50, many boomers have begun to ramp up saving in a last-minute blitz to reach retirement security. Many won’t make it, which is the main reason that 28% in the Merrill Lynch survey work in retirement. But others are taking advantage of catch-up savings plans and setting aside more pay. The Insured Retirement Institute estimates that 80% of boomers have retirement savings; about half of them have at least $250,000. Perhaps they have taken a cue from Millennials. Eight in 10 in the younger generation say the recession convinced them they must save more now, according to the 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study. More than half are putting away money regularly. An almost identical share of boomers (56%) and Millennials (55%) would like to see a mandatory retirement savings policy in the U.S.

The generations may never agree on what makes a good band or where to find the most pertinent news. But we seem to be discovering common ground in areas that matter.

 

 

 

TIME Parenting

What Single Policy Could Ease Americans’ Time Crunch?

Work-life balance is at the core of why we all feel so overwhelmed. Here are some solutions from thought leaders and experts for how to remedy that.

You’ve probably seen that “Poolside” Cadillac commercial, which debuted during the Sochi Olympics, where a dad looks over his infinity pool and notes, “Other countries – they work, stroll home, stop by the café, take August off.” High-fiving his kid and handing a newspaper to his wife, he tells us why “we” aren’t like that: “Because we’re crazy-driven, hard-working believers, that’s why.” The ad was meant to provoke, but it also illustrates how Americans work hard, play hard, and still expect a warm family and manicured yard as part of living the American Dream.

And yet, 53 percent of working parents in a study published by the Pew Research Center last year said they found it very or somewhat difficult to balance their work and family life. Thirty-four percent of those parents say they always feel rushed, even to do the things they have to do. This is only one of a slew of studies that illustrate how overwhelmed many Americans feel trying to “have it all.” In advance of the Zócalo event “Why Can’t Americans Balance Love, Work, and Play?”, we asked experts what single cultural or policy change could ease American’s time crunch?

1. Retool school schedules and expectations

It seems to me that one cultural shift that has gone way too far is the expectation that parents will be intimately involved in the workings of schools and the goings-on of classrooms.

I realized it had escalated way beyond normality when the parent group at my kid’s elementary school organized not teacher appreciation day but teacher appreciation week. Each day, kids needed to remember to bring in something different: a rose, say, on Monday, and a card on Tuesday, and Wednesday we needed to contribute an item to the teacher’s breakfast–this, on top of endless committees having to do with art contests, silent auctions, book fairs, etc.

Most of it seems to fall on mothers. It just adds to the overlong to-do list. Parents need to say no–and I did, much of the time–but schools, and parent committees, should also ask themselves whether this or that event or request for classroom involvement is necessary. Related to this, of course, is the culture of extracurricular events, which is also its own kind of arms race: travel soccer, camps, teams, fees. There needs to be some sort of cultural pushback, some sort of ratcheting down of the number of things that parents have to do with regard to schooling.

Even more important is a whole scale re-envisioning of the school day and a culture-wide effort to have school sync up better with parents’ work schedules. More school aftercare would help. Also, what would help would be to have the above-mentioned extracurriculars incorporated into the afterschool day, so that it can happen on school grounds, and parents don’t have to do all that driving and organizing. We need a Steve Jobs–somebody obsessed with simplicity and ease of use–to tackle and vanquish the level of complexity that has come to define the raising and education of children.

Liza Mundy is director of the Breadwinning and Caregiving Program at the New America Foundation. A journalist and book author, Liza most recently wrote The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love and Family.

2. Hold employees accountable for results

Americans need to work less. As I chronicled in my book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, overwork is not only diminishing Americans’ quality of life outside the office, it’s making us less effective inside the office, too.

It may sound counterintuitive, but when we work more than 40 hours per week, study after study has shown we actually become less productive. Knowledge workers have four to six hours of solid productivity in a day. After that, productivity starts to decline until eventually we enter a negative progress cycle, which means we’re creating more problems than we’re solving.

Many of us know we should work less. But that’s hard to do in a culture where “full time” often means 50-plus hours a week (not including the commute), and part-timers are treated as slackers (even if, hour for hour, they are in fact the most productive people on the payroll). Roughly half of all jobs in America are compatible with working from home part-time, yet many companies still frown on this practice. Commitment to one’s job is still measured not by effectiveness, but by how many nights and weekends one works.

A simple but powerful change businesses can make is to hold employees accountable to results, rather than fixating on how many hours or days they spend at a desk. One exciting trend management experts talk about is “results-only work environments” where managers stop acting like babysitters and instead, they empower employees to decide when, where, and how to best get their work done. Businesses reap the benefits in increased productivity and morale, and decreased turnover.

Our state of overwork is bad for our health and bad for business. If companies want a competitive edge, they must create environments where employees can thrive—even if that means for many of us, working less.

Katrina Alcorn is a writer, consultant, and public speaker. Her first book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, tells a deeply personal story about “having it all,” failing miserably, and what comes after.

3. Make work schedules flexible – and don’t ding workers for taking advantage of that

Simply put, today’s workplace is not designed around today’s worker. Instead, it clings to the 1960s notion of an “ideal worker” – someone who is available to work whenever needed while someone else holds down the fort at home, and who takes little or no time off for childbearing or child rearing. Structuring work in this fashion marginalizes caregivers, men, and women alike.

Women who take family leave or adopt flexible work schedules to have more time with their children often encounter “maternal wall” bias, which is by far the strongest form of gender bias today. A well-known experimental study found that mothers were 79 percent less likely to be hired, half as likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards than identical women without children. Mothers face assumptions that being committed to work makes them bad mothers, and that being committed to motherhood makes them bad workers.

Meanwhile, men face a different type of “flexibility stigma” because childcare, fairly or unfairly, is still seen as being a feminine role. Men seeking to take family leave, for instance, are not only seen as bad workers, but also as bad (i.e., less manly) men. In other words, the flexibility stigma is a femininity stigma.

This is a sobering message for employers: creating flexible work policies is only half the battle. The next step is to eliminate the stigma that all too often accompanies such arrangements. Happily, change may be on the horizon. Many, if not most, talented young men and women want to combine meaningful work with a fulfilling personal life. As the Millennial generation gains influence in the workforce, we can only hope that their values will lead to a change in workplace culture.

Joan C. Williams is Hastings Foundation Chair and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California (Hastings). She has authored or co-authored over 90 academic articles and book chapters, as well as authored or co-authored 8 books, the most recent being What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. You can also follow her work on Twitter @JoanCWilliams and her Huffington Post blog.

4. Teach employees how to be their best on and off the job

We need to recognize, as a culture, that we have to train people to fit work and the other parts of their life together. It’s a modern skill we all need to succeed that most of us don’t have.

According to our research, most of us are flying by the seat of our pants trying to get everything done even though the boundaries that used to tell us where work ended and the rest of life began have all but disappeared.

The good news is we have more flexibility in how, when, and where we can get our jobs done. The bad news is that no one is showing us how to capture that work-life flexibility, intentionally, and use it to be our best, on and off the job.

According to the results of our recent national survey of full-time employed U.S. adults, 97 percent of respondents reported having some form of work-life flexibility in 2013 when compared to the previous year; however, only 40 percent said they received training or guidance on how to manage it. Not surprisingly, 62 percent of respondents reported obstacles to using or improving their work-life flexibility such as increased workload or having no time, and fears of job and income loss.

Teaching people the basics of how to manage the way their work and life fit together makes a difference. For example, we showed a group of 40 employees in a large medical testing lab how to choose small, but meaningful work, career, and personal priorities and focus on these actions for the next seven days, a technique in my book, Tweak It. They planned when, where, how, and with whom they would accomplish those “tweaks.” At the end of six weeks, 92 percent of participants said they were better able to prioritize all of their responsibilities and goals, and 88 percent felt they more actively managed what they had to get done at work and in their personal lives.

Cali Williams Yost is a flexible workplace strategist and author who has spent two decades helping organizations and individuals partner for award-winning flexible work success. Her “how to” work+life fit advice for individuals can be found in her new book Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day (Center Street, 2013).

5. Five mindset changes that leaders should adopt

The pressure to work more hours and to work faster is real. Over 70 percent of both men and women say that they have to work very fast, and roughly 90 percent say that they have to work very hard, according to our research.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we’re going to help ease Americans’ time crunch among the rank and file, the leaders at organizations will need a major mindset overhaul when it comes to how they think about work for themselves and for their employees.

Mindset #1: Priorities, not balance. Balance is static, but life is not, so accept that every day is different, and anchor your day-to-day in your overall priorities.

Mindset #2: Dual centric, not work centric. Don’t put work before everything else all the time. Our research shows that executives who prioritize work some of the time and prioritize personal life some of the time – what we call being dual centric – are less stressed, have an easier time managing work and personal demands, have advanced as high or at higher levels than those executives who were work-centric, and feel more successful in their home lives.

Mindset #3: Better, not perfect. Expecting perfection limits your ability to ask for help, so set expectations that allow for getting better and you will grow.

Mindset #4: Team, not individual. Going it alone limits your options, so get the whole team work it out together. That means the team at home as well as the team at work.

Mindset #5: Rest and recover, not flat-out. Making decisions in a constant time bind affects performance, so step away before diving in.

Leaders and managers at all levels who adopt these mindsets for themselves will both ease their own time crunch and improve their performance – and change the culture at work for everyone.

Anne Weisberg is senior vice president of the Families and Work Institute and an executive who has designed innovative practices to build effective, inclusive work environments. She co-authored the best selling book Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace With Today’s Nontraditional Workforce and directed the report on women in the legal profession Women in Law: Making the Case.

TIME work life balance

Why You’re More Stressed by Home Than Work

Could be that you're still laboring but not getting paid

A new study out from the Council on Contemporary Families suggests that contrary to most surveys, people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher at what is supposed to be a place of refuge.

“Further contradicting conventional wisdom, we found that women as well as men have lower levels of stress at work than at home” writes one of the authors, Sarah Damaske, assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology and women’s studies at Penn State (the italics are hers). In fact women even say they feel better at work, she notes. “It is men, not women, who report being happier at home than at work.” Another surprise is that the findings hold true, says Damaske, for both those with children and without, but more so for nonparents. This is why, the authors conclude, people who work outside the home have better health.

What the study doesn’t measure is whether people are still doing work when they’re at home, whether it’s household work or work brought home from the office. For many men, the end of the workday is a time to kick back. For women who stay home, they never get to leave the office. And for women who work outside the home, they often are playing catch up with household tasks. With the blurring of roles, and the fact that the home front lags well behind the workplace in making adjustments for working women, it’s not surprising that women are more stressed at home.

But it’s not just a gender thing. At work, people pretty much know what they’re supposed to be doing: working, earning money, doing the tasks they have to do in order to draw an income. The bargain is very pure: employee puts in hours of physical or mental labor and employee draws out life-sustaining moola.

Usually if the workplace is well organized, and moneymaking enterprises often are, the employee has a defined set of tasks. I am paid to sit at my desk and press letters on a keyboard in an order that will produce something people can make sense of. If I choose to vacuum my floor, that’s fine, but I still have to do my keyboard finger dance. Other people have to teach children. Others build or mend teeth or organize conferences.

On the home front, however, people have no such clarity. Rare is the household in which the division of labor is so clinically and methodically laid out. There are a lot of tasks to be done, there are scant or intangible rewards for most of them. Your home colleagues — your family — have no clear rewards for their labor; they need to be talked into it, or if they’re teenagers, threatened with complete removal of all electronic devices. Plus, they’re your family. You cannot fire your family. You never really get to go home from home.

So it’s not surprising that people are more stressed at home. Not only are the tasks apparently infinite, the co-workers are much harder to motivate.

Damaske and her co-authors suggest that telling people to work less will solve no problems. The answer is more flexibility. “Telecommuting, paid sick days, paternity and maternity leaves, are all policies that make it easier for workers to retain the health benefits of employment and for companies to retain the financial benefits of having loyal employees rather than having to deal with constant job turnover,” they write in the study.

That sounds like people will be spending more time in the home. That’s going to play havoc with their stress.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s Why Your Work Life Will Never Truly Be Flexible

This was supposed to be the golden age of employee flexibility. With everyone connected to the Internet — and their jobs — practically 24/7, there’s no practical reason why an office worker can’t do many of their day-to-day tasks from a home office the side of a soccer field or the beach.

But recent research reveals the illusion of freedom is exactly that: Today’s workforce is as much at the beck and call of their employers as ever, and some hard-won concessions are vanishing entirely. A new study of 545 employers put out by Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work finds that very few are as flexible as they claim to be.

The usual way social scientists measure workplace flexibility is by asking companies if they let any of their employees do things like work from home, juggle their hours or reduce their workload to take care of family obligations. The problem with measuring this way is that the same rules don’t necessarily apply to everybody. A company that is willing to bend over backwards to accommodate a c-level executive or top performer isn’t necessarily going to be as generous with rank-and-file workers. What’s more, somebody who works at, say, a high-tech company is a lot likelier to catch a break than someone toiling away on a factory floor — manufacturing companies are the least-flexible when it comes to offering their workers options.

Working from home is generally the most commonly allowed flexible work arrangement, and even the stats on that aren’t so hot. According to the 2014 National Study of Employers, only 38% of employers let some employees work at home on a regular basis, and just 3% extend this perk to “all or most” workers.

The culprits are poor management training — most supervisors don’t really know how to manage remote workers — and a suspicion that employees will goof off if they’re not under the boss’s watchful eye, says an article in the New York Times.

This is all the more discouraging when you realize that working from home is where companies have made the most progress. Other kinds of flexible work arrangements, including leave for dads, adoptive parents and caregivers, are vanishing. Job-sharing or switching to part-time is a rare option.

“More employers are cutting back programs that would allow workers to reduce hours to better manage the care of, say, an ill parent,” the Times article says. “Employers have also cut back the length of leave to new fathers and adoptive parents, and reduced pay given to birth mothers on leave.” And the number of workplaces that permit job-sharing fell by 11 percentage points between 2008 and today.

Offering flexible work options on such a limited basis kind of defeats the purpose, according to Sloan Center director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes. “Employers who implement limited programs might become frustrated if they don’t see the outcomes they had hoped for,” she says in a statement. “Employers and employees are better able to reap the benefits of workplace flexibility when the initiatives are comprehensive.”

TIME health

Slacker’s Guide to Productivity: 6 Ways to Goof Off and Get More Done

I’ve posted about how people at the top of their field are relentlessly productive.

But you can’t sprint for miles. There’s plenty of research showing that being a touch lazy might be beneficial at times.

Here are six research-backed ways to get more done in less time by taking it easy.

1) Work Less

Working too hard for too long makes you less productive.

Yes, pulling 60-hour weeks is impressive.

But pull them for more than 2 months and you accomplish less than if you had only been working 40-hour weeks.

Via Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much:

One study, on construction projects, found that “where a work schedule of 60 or more hours per week is continued longer than about two months, the cumulative effect of decreased productivity will cause a delay in the completion date beyond that which could have been realized with the same crew size on a 40-hour week.”

(The best system for time management is here.)

2) Go Home

If you’re doing creative work, research says you’ll be more productive at home than in the office:

On the uncreative tasks, people were 6% to 10% less productive outside the lab… On the creative tasks, by contrast, people were 11% to 20% more productive outside the lab.

(More on what boosts creativity here.)

3) Take A Nap

Naps rejuvenate you and increase learning. Some of the most successful people of all time were dedicated nappers.

Via Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

Napping is common in talent hotbeds, and features both anecdotal and scientific justification.

The anecdotal: Albert Einstein was good at physics, and he was really good at his daily post-lunch twenty-minute snooze. Other famous nappers include Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and John D. Rockefeller. Spend time with any professional athletic team, and you’ll find that they’re also professional nappers.

The science: Napping is good for the learning brain, because it helps strengthen the connections formed during practice and prepare the brain for the next session. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that napping for ninety minutes improved memory scores by 10 percent, while skipping a nap made them decline by 10 percent. “You need sleep before learning, to prepare your brain, like a dry sponge, to absorb new information,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Matthew Walker.

What you can learn about good sleep from astronauts is here.

4) Procrastinate

Yes, that’s right, procrastination can be a good thing.

Dr. John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination, explains a good method for leveraging your laziness:

The key to productivity, he argues in “The Art of Procrastination,” is to make more commitments — but to be methodical about it.

At the top of your to-do list, put a couple of daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t). Then, farther down the list, include some doable tasks that really matter.

“Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list,” Dr. Perry writes.

A similar tip is described by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation:

“My best trick is to play my projects off against each other, procrastinating on one by working on another.”

Dr. Steel says it’s based on sound principles of behavioral psychology:

“We are willing to pursue any vile task as long as it allows us to avoid something worse.”

(Here’s more on “positive procrastination.”)

5) Go On Vacation

For up to a month after a vacation you’re more productive at work:

One hundred and thirty-one teachers completed questionnaires one time before and three times after vacationing. Results indicated that teachers’ work engagement significantly increased and teachers’ burnout significantly decreased after vacation. However, these beneficial effects faded out within one month.

(Here’s how to improve your vacations.)

6) Hang Out With Friends

Easily distracted? Having friends around can make you more productive, even if they’re not helping you.

Via Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are:

Just having friends nearby can push you toward productivity. “There’s a concept in ADHD treatment called the ‘body double,’ ” says David Nowell, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist from Worcester, Massachusetts. “Distractable people get more done when there is someone else there, even if he isn’t coaching or assisting them.” If you’re facing a task that is dull or difficult, such as cleaning out your closets or pulling together your receipts for tax time, get a friend to be your body double.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

Productivity Ninja: 5 Powerful Tips For Getting More Stuff Done

Stay Focused: 5 Ways To Increase Your Attention Span

Work Smarter Not Harder: 17 Great Tips

This piece originally appeared onBarking Up the Wrong Tree.

MONEY Careers

Get Out From Under a Too-Heavy Workload

Buried by tasks on the job? Here's how to speak up if you're maxed out, without sabotaging your next promotion. Illustration: Mikey Burton

Ready to collapse under your workload? Consider it a form of flattery: With companies today demanding that employees work faster while tackling more complex tasks, the nimble professionals who “get it” have been deluged, says Anat Lechner, associate professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “When you’re that kind of person, everyone knows who you are.” Lucky you. Here’s how to speak up if you’re maxed out, without sabotaging your next promotion.

Speak to the firm’s interests

Your manager probably hasn’t thought about what else is on your plate when she asks you, in passing, to take on a new proposal. It’s up to you to speak up if you don’t have bandwidth. “But you have to be able to react within seconds,” says New York City career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Related: Don’t let divorce wreck your finances

Keep a running tally of all your projects, so you’ll be ready to respond. Then, rather than whining to the boss that you already do the job of five people, you can explain how taking a new project will prevent you from achieving some other equally important task, says Atlanta executive communications coach Darlene Price. You might say: “Jim, the client in New York needs my attention this week so I can close the deal, which is worth $1 million. What should we do?”

Related: Baby on the way? Time to make a budget

Of course, the right approach depends on your manager’s personality and the security of your job. You may find it safer to agree to a task but ask for the resources you need to do it. “Say, ‘Yes, but to do that, I need x, y, or z,’” suggests Lechner.

Name the right recipient

Aim to hold on to high-profile jobs and offload work that won’t help you advance. Instead of letting the duties fall upon your peers, who may not be pleased to pick up your discards, suggest that a junior colleague take an unwanted project as a stretch role. “Something you don’t want to do can be useful to someone else,” says Ceniza-Levine.

Draw a line in the sand

If a manager essentially tells you to suck it up, you may be part of a workaholic culture or chronically understaffed department where the only way to scale back is to leave, says Price. Once you have a “walkaway” strategy, consider making a final attempt with your boss.

Related: Budgeting for a new home, and a disability

One executive Price coached — who traveled so often her 6-year-old asked her where she lived — tried repeatedly to get her manager to reduce her business trips. Finally she told him she couldn’t accept the working conditions and asked if he’d write her a letter of recommendation. “That called his bluff,” says Price. With this tactic, you’ve got to be ready to hear “buh-bye” — but you may be better off in a new job anyway.

TIME psychology

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance in 5 Steps

Achieving work-life balance can look impossible. And, frankly, it seems like it’s getting harder.

In the ten years from 1986 to 1996 work-life balance was mentioned in the media 32 times.

In 2007 alone it was mentioned 1674 times.

Via The ONE Thing:

A LexisNexis survey of the top 100 newspapers and magazines around the world shows a dramatic rise in the number of articles on the topic, from 32 in the decade from 1986 to 1996 to a high of 1674 articles in 2007 alone.

The Onion jokingly implies that the only way to achieve effective work/life balance is to not have a job:

That’s hysterical — because it’s not remotely realistic. So what actually works?

You Need To Draw A Line

I’ve posted plenty of research on productivity, time management and procrastination – but that’s not the issue here. Not at all.

Those are hacks that help you be more efficient but in the modern world you are getting 25 hours of to-do’s thrown at you every 24 hours.

Thinking that if you spend enough time you will “get everything done” is an illusion. You will never be “done.”

The happiest people are not people who don’t have a care in the world. Those people are bored.

Research shows the happiest people are busy — but don’t feel rushed.

Anxiety is reduced by a feeling of control. And what do studies say about work-life balance? Same thing — a feeling of control is key.

You have to draw a line. You must decide what is important and what isn’t.

How do you draw that line? By asking yourself one simple question a few times a day.

“What’s The Most Important Thing For You To Do Right Now?”

The main problem people have is they try to do it all and treat everything as important.

You can’t do it all and everything is not equally important.

So how do you determine the most important thing for you to do right now?

1) What Are Your Values?

Clay Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of How Will You Measure Your Life?, knows what he values.

Watch from 34:55 to 38:50:

He works Monday to Friday. Saturday is for family and Sunday is for God. Period. No work on the weekends. No exceptions. No matter what.

Clay knows what’s important to him, drew a line and probably doesn’t suffer from many work-life balance worries.

Is this effective for everyone at every company? No. But you have to start with knowing what matters most to you and drawing a line.

2) What gets you disproportionate results?

Face it: often you start by doing whatever happens to be in front of you. But proximity does not equal priority.

In his book The ONE Thing, Gary Keller applies the “Pareto principle” to the workday:

Most of us get 80% of results from 20% of the work we do. So focus on that 20%.

What really creates progress vs treading water? What gives disproportionate results? Do that first and most frequently.

3) What’s the thing only *you* can do well?

If someone else can do the laundry at home, let them do it. If someone else can do the filing at work, let them do it.

But if you’re the parent, you need to be at the parent-teacher conference and if you’re the sales lead you need to be at the sales meeting.

Via The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done:

All in all, the effective executive tries to be himself; he does not pretend to be someone else. He looks at his own performance and at his own results and tries to discern a pattern. “What are the things,” he asks, “that I seem to be able to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?”

Management guru Pete Drucker says focus on the things that only you can do. Delegate, outsource or neglect the rest.

4) What’s most important right now?

You feel good when you check a lot of things off your to-do list. But were they things that are most important and urgent? That’s what matters.

Via The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking:

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

As the Eisenhower Matrix above reveals, just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important.

And being important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s urgent.

And as Clay Christensen points out, it’s all too easy to put off important family time for urgent work deadlines.

If you’ve been neglecting your loved ones recently, work might be urgent but not important while family is both important and urgent.

Sum Up

So how do you deal with work/life balance? Here are some key ideas:

  1. Everything is not equally important. Do fewer things and do them well.
  2. Decide what your values are — and which ones take precedence.
  3. Do the things that get disproportionate results.
  4. Focus on the things only you can do.
  5. Do the important things which must be done now.

It’s not simple and it won’t be resolved tomorrow but you can get much, much better at this with time.

What’s the most important thing to remember?

You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

4 Lifehacks From Ancient Philosophers That Will Make You Happier

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

How To Make Your Life Better By Sending Five Simple Emails

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME motherhood

Gwyneth’s Mom Problem: Working in Movies Is Hard for Her, but Harder if You’re Not the Star

Gwyneth Paltrow attends the 49th Golden Camera Awards at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin on Feb. 1, 2014
Gwyneth Paltrow attends the 49th Golden Camera Awards at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin on Feb. 1, 2014 Luca Teuchmann—WireImage/Getty Images

Goop says it's too hard for her to be a top-billing actress and have kids, but imagine how hard that schedule must be for the woman who puts on her makeup. No wonder there are fewer women working behind the scenes in Hollywood than ever

Just after Gwyneth Paltrow “consciously uncoupled” from her hubby Chris Martin, she found herself in the middle of a mommy war after she said that working as an actress on set was much harder than working an “office job.” Internet backlash was swift and cruel, with moms all over accusing Goop, as she’s known, of being out of touch with the lives of normal women.

Yes, Paltrow’s complaints about the hardships of movie stardom sound pretty tone-deaf. But they sound especially whiny when compared with what other women who work in the movie industry have to endure. A-list actors like Paltrow have to work 14-hour days, but they only have to do it a few times a year for a few weeks at a time, and they have plenty of help at home, not to mention on-set assistants. But women in production work that schedule every day, for most of the year, and for much less money.

In other words: Paltrow’s life is way easier than the woman who stands outside her trailer wearing a headset, or the mom who gets there an hour before her to do her makeup, or the woman who drives the camera truck.

(MORE: What Gwyneth Paltrow Really Means by ‘Conscious Uncoupling’: A Goop-to-English Dictionary)

But let’s backtrack. Paltrow told E! that being an actress was much harder than having an “office job” because she has to work long hours and be away from her kids:

I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.

Paltrow also said she was taking a break from acting so she could “go back to [being a] mommy,” and she has a rule that she’ll only make one movie a year.

It’s much harder for me. I feel like I set it up in a way that makes it difficult because … for me, like if I miss a school run, they are like, ‘Where were you?’ I don’t like to be the lead so I don’t [have] to work every day, you know, I have little things that I like and obviously I want it to be good and challenging and interesting and be with good people and that kind of thing.

Moms of the Internet were not amused, and one woman wrote a rant in the New York Post titled “A Working Mom’s Open Letter to Gwyneth,” where she skewered the lifestyle guru for being so out of touch with the lives of normal women.

‘Thank God I don’t make millions filming one movie per year’ is what I say to myself pretty much every morning as I wait on a windy Metro-North platform, about to begin my 45-minute commute into the city. Whenever things get rough, all I have to do is keep reminding myself of that fact. It is my mantra.

I’ve done a few different jobs in production, and while I don’t have children, I can see how it would be nearly impossible for working moms to manage a production schedule and a family. Each day is a minimum of 12 hours (usually more), often spread out in a variety of locations and with zero flexibility. All breaks come at specific times throughout the day, and cell phones have to be off while cameras are rolling, which makes it hard to communicate with the babysitter. You can’t leave until the director announces it’s a wrap for the day, which could happen any time from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. (and sometimes later). And if anybody leaves early (to pick up a sick kid or go to a doctor’s appointment), the entire production can grind to a halt for the day, costing the company thousands of dollars. I’ve seen people fired for less.

I only worked in the entertainment industry for about a year, but in that time I met many young, childless women like me working on set. But of the few high-level women I met working in production, almost none of them had children.

So it’s no wonder women are so underrepresented behind the scenes in Hollywood; working on a film set is one of the least flexible, least family-friendly jobs a mother can have. The Celluloid Ceiling report released earlier this year found that women made up only 16% of top behind-the-scenes roles in Hollywood, the lowest percentage since the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film started counting in 1998.

Yes, Paltrow’s comments were tone-deaf, but she just might be getting at the reason why women are so underrepresented in Hollywood. Maybe the flap she’s caused will draw attention to other women in production who have to maintain those rigid schedules every day all year without a driver, a personal shopper and as-needed child care. And who knows? Paltrow might even put her energies into changing the working conditions on set for everyone. She could even throw in some free quinoa.

Also, let’s cut her some slack. Divorce sucks.

TIME Careers

Arianna Huffington on the Key to Finding Success (Without Burning Out)

With her new book, Thrive, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post aims to redefine what we call success

In her new book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes the case for upending our culture of overwork and 24-hour connectivity. TIME spoke to Huffington about her mission to change corporate priorities and what we should be giving up to get more sleep.

TIME: You have a lot in Thrive about the importance of sleep. And I know a decent night’s sleep is the holy grail for many of us. So why is that so difficult to achieve?

We are now moving to the point where people know they need more sleep, but actually doing it is the key. That’s why I’ve included baby steps at the end of each section of the book, about three little things we can start doing, like making your bedroom dark and keeping it cool. You can start by giving yourself 30 minutes more a day, or at least taking a nap. I went from 4-5 hours sleep a night, to 7 hours a night. It was a gradual changing of habits over a period of weeks. But then you begin to feel better and it’s such a reward and that makes it easier to prioritize.

What do you say when people tell you it’s impossible for them to get enough sleep?

People say they don’t have time, but if you actually look at what they’re doing, at their day and their night, they do. You don’t need to stay up to watch Jon Stewart. The key for me has been saying no to good things. Now I know that if I get enough sleep, my life is going to be much happier and more creative. In my pre-awakened state I would drag myself through the day. I would look under my desk and wish I could crawl down there and rest.

So it’s about changing our priorities?

I was looking at my phone and saw that it was 95% charged and I thought, we are so much more conscious about how charged our phones are versus how charged we are. It’s too bad we don’t have the same kind of indicator to show how depleted we are. We have a million ways to recharge our phones, portable chargers, cables, extra battery packs, but look at how we treat ourselves. Our own energy has to be below 5% before we figure out that we need to sleep, to recharge, to take a break. That has to change.

In the wake of the recent recession, a lot of people are afraid to set limits with their employers that would help them combat burnout. Do you have advice for them?

I feel very strongly that we’re going to be better at work when we’re taking care of ourselves. We are able to see the one red flag that others are missing or be more creative and more productive. We’re moving to this new era, the second machine age, where a lot of tasks are being done by robots and machines, and increasingly, creativity is going to our most valuable asset.

Let’s be realistic though, there are situations where you might have a terrible boss and horrible working conditions. Let’s imagine all those conditions are true, but even then we still have the opportunity to take care of ourselves outside of work. Our choices do not end with the boundaries of work. You may be struggling to put food on the table, for example, but you still can choose your attitude, however terrible your working conditions. Choosing your attitude has a deep impact on how you feel.

There are lots of new books with advice for young women. How do you think young women should navigate that push and pull between starting a family and ramping up their careers?

I think a lot of young women look at my generation and say we don’t want to do it this way. They say, ‘we don’t want to burn out in the process of climbing the career ladder. We don’t want to make those sacrifices in our health and happiness. They’re prioritizing giving.’ But I have a bigger dream and wish for all women where we lead a third women’s revolution. We don’t just want to be at the top of the world, we want to change the world because it’s not working. I think it’s a stunning statistic, that women in stressful jobs have 40% increased risk of heart disease.

What role does media play in our culture of overwork? After all, we’re still seeing movies like The Wolf of Wall Street in which money and power are glamorized.

We are living in a split-screen world. On one side of the screen you have the old paradigm in full force with people running around the clock thinking that they can’t stop pushing to get more, like the rats in the Skinner experiment who keep pulling the lever even after there’s no cheese. There are billionaires who keep pushing the lever even though more money won’t add anything to their life. And then, on the other side of the screen, you have the 35% of corporations that have incorporated some form of stress-reduction practices in their workplace and a number of CEOs coming out about their own meditation practices. And of course all the scientific data supporting the benefits of slowing down.

How do you change corporate culture in companies that might not have a CEO who has discovered meditation or any other healthy living measures.

The way you do it is to expose leaders to thee facts and the data we have showing the benefits of stress-reduction programs, like yoga, acupuncture and meditation. After CEO Mark Bertolini made these changes at Aetna he brought in Duke University to look at whether there were cost savings. They found a 7% reduction of health care costs (in 2012 for Aetna employees who participated), and these employees had 69 additional minutes per day in productivity. Those numbers are the way to convince leaders that this matters.

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. You can find more about Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder here.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser