Imagine a friend telling you that she half fantasized about having a car accident because at least it would force her to take some much needed rest.

I did a double-take.  I was shocked.  I was so incredibly sad at the sentiment of what this must have meant for this lovely soul in front of me to say such a thing.  Her life was so crazy out of balance that she felt her best option to gain some balance was to be in harm’s way.

Something was drastically wrong.

Then I started thinking about it.  One doesn’t have to look far to find people are “stressed out, overwhelmed, too busy”.

Recently I attended the BC HRMA conference, where again the same message was provided by Josh Bersin, Principal of Bersin, Deloitte.  He provided some data that the rate of change is exponentially exploding to the point that 90% of organizations surveyed believed their core business would be disrupted fundamentally.

Interestingly enough though, technology is not leading to productivity gains the way it has at other times in history (i.e. industrial revolution).  In fact productivity has plateaued and people are merely coping with a significant amount more change than ever before.  Also part of the Deloitte Survey, they found that 40% of those surveyed believed they could not be successful at work and have a balanced happy family life.  That was a startling statistic.

I have come to wonder – just how satisfactory are our working lives these days?  We are inundated with useless information, tethered to our desks screening copious amounts of email.  We are being asked to do more with less, continuously.

Where is the recognition that in order to do some things well, trade-offs will have to be made?  Is sacrifice an old fashioned concept?  It takes courage in leadership to provide discernment and guidance for what to focus in on to be truly successful.  In my opinion, the easy default answer is that everything is important.

So what are we to do?

Well, a couple of things I believe may make the difference or at least let us feel that we are intentionally moving our lives in a direction we can be satisfied with. They are:

1. Accept that “busyness” is not the life we want–that we will intentionally create boundaries to build something better. Ask for what you need – which may be rest, space, greater guidance;

2. Understand that your power may be low in your relationship with your boss, so work at investing in this primary relationship and keep educating about the cost of working in certain ways. Find creative ways to suggest new thinking, not just accepting the same ‘ole thing;

3. Ask your leadership to articulate priorities on a regular basis;

4. Keep working at improving relationships in the workplace, as your ability to influence is highly correlated to the strength of your relationships. This means investing in relationships with even those you struggle with;

5. Connect with people on a human level – get curious about others, take an interest in them. People want to connect. It’s our natural state—to be in connection, so be reliable to connect with others regularly.  Make sure you surround yourself with others that you enjoy spending time with;

6. On a weekly basis, plan your work and negotiate around the plan. Decide what is in and what is out – for example, make commitments you can keep and manage expectations: “I can accept this work, unfortunately I won’t be able to get to that work until next week, does that work?”;

7. Keep moving your life in a direction that gives you more balance. That doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you want—ie., just because you start a new job, poof – half the work will be gone and therefore more balance.

But what it does mean is stop accepting that your current circumstance is not fixable or improvable. Find the next thing along the path that will create some improvement and do that.

Joanne Spalton, Senior Consultant