ThirdPath

Julian’s Story

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community … Read on to learn about Julian’s Shared Care story, or watch our YouTube interview with Julian.

Julian’s Story

Graduating from college in the early 1980’s having studied social work and childcare Julian found it difficult to find work in his chosen field given the state of the economy at that time. He was newly married, had a young step-daughter and a new baby on the way. As a result, Julian took a job in building maintenance working double shifts to help make ends meet.

Eighteen months later the family faced a difficult choice. His wife, Debbie, was at home looking after two young children with a baby on the way, and Julian just got notice he was laid off from his day shift. He was still able to work nights, however the income from this job was not enough to support a family of five. After some consideration the couple decided it was necessary for Debbie to return to work during the day and for Julian to continue to work nights.

After the birth of their third daughter, Julian was at home with the girls during the day until he left for his night time maintenance job. Then Debbie would take over, making dinner, bathing and putting the three girls to bed. This arrangement lasted for almost 10 years until their youngest daughter reached 3rd grade.

Some would think a schedule like this was problematic, but Julian treasured these years. Walking the girls to and from school each day and attending school events and trips, meant everyone could see what an involved father he was.

Or in Julian’s own words, “I liked the fact that the kids and the teachers saw my girls with their dad every day. I think it mattered to us all.” He can also identify how the time spent with the girls increased his ability to engage as a parent, “One of the benefits of being so involved when they were young is that we saw them grow, in every aspect of their lives. Also, we valued not having to have other people tell us how our children were. We were around to support them in their strengths and we had hands-on input.”

Julian remembers some of the challenges as well. To begin with there were many days when a full day of parenting, followed by a full shift at work was exhausting. In addition, money was always an issue. They rented a house to keep expenses low, and when the car died, they used public transport, not buying another car for years. But both parents new the time they had with young children was finite. Once when Julian was offered overtime at work, he turned it down. He knew the extra money would help, but he preferred to have the extra time for family.

Julian knows his decision to be an involved father was influenced by his own childhood. “My dad was not there for me in my life and that affected me. It made me want to be in my girls’ lives.” He continued, “My mother was at home with us when we were young, but eventually she became a single mom. She made many sacrifices for us. She had seven kids and she leaned heavily on the older boys, as there was just one girl. We boys were the babysitters, and we learned early that being a parent meant sacrificing.”

When asked about the impact of the decision for both parents to share in the care of their children Julian explains; “We were able to take advantage of an open door. This schedule wasn’t planned, it just worked out for us, and my daughters and I forged a strong bond as a result. If I had not been at home all those years, I probably would have had to work much harder to have those relationships.”

Today Julian is the director of a childcare center for a vibrant community church. As he reflects on his story he said, “Hopefully now I am in a position to help teach and guide parents. When we have problems in our families, we have to take a deep look and ask ourselves, what can we as a community do to help?”

Want more inspiration? Tune in to our next Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to meet more inspiring pioneers doing work, family and leadership differently!

Time for Work and Family

October 27, 2019jdegrootBlog

The Many Gifts of Shared Care

Bryan and his wife both worked a four-day work week when their son was born. Now they are “empty nesters” and can quickly see how the “gifts” from adopting this approach just keep on coming. Read on to learn what Bryan gained from sharing care with his wife. Or watch the YouTube recording of our Thursday Webinar where Bryan and another dad explore the benefits of adopting this approach for themselves and their organizations.

Here’s what Bryan learned: I always knew I wanted to be a very involved Dad but until the time comes when the baby is born and real, it can be difficult to know exactly what that means. As it turns out, Shared Care has been an ideal way of being intimately involved in the day-to-day care of my son. By spending the first few months at home with my son and wife and then caring for my son one day during the work week (known to him as Daddy Day, Mommy also has her own day during the work week), I was able to develop the kind of relationship with my son that I had always hoped for.

Being able to truly share in the care of my son with my wife has been a true gift, some of the benefits anticipated, others quite a surprise.

As anticipated, the greatest benefit of Shared Care has been to share many more of the ‘little moments’ with my son so that I felt as though I witnessed his growing up first hand. I knew his favorite books and his favorite playgrounds, the stories he made up while playing with his trains, and how he liked his grilled cheese sandwich cooked at lunch.

Shared Care brought my wife and I closer together as we felt like ‘true partners’ in this whole business of raising a family.

We shared our lives on several fronts – the ups and downs of clients and projects and deadlines and co-workers and the ups and downs of playtime and napping and discipline and mealtime. Shared Care has helped to foster a wonderful closeness with my wife and as a family.

Shared Care helped me become a better employee as well as a more productive one.

Because I knew my time at work was limited, when working, I found myself very focused. I became better at prioritizing and retaining a perspective on what part of my contribution was the most valuable both to the company and to clients. My company also recognized my contributions both verbally and monetarily regardless of the truth that I continued to prioritize family alongside work.

Another benefit of Shared Care was learning how to create self-time.

Both my wife and I learned how to structure our lives so that we both had a certain amount of private time in any week to ‘do our own thing’ and recharge. We’ve been able to create windows of time where each of us has the night off, or a morning off, where we can pursue our own interests apart from work and children. This time has always been precious to me.


One of the many benefits of ThirdPath and its mission of teaching couples about Shared Care is that it helps to create a vision of a new family structure where men and women contribute in significant ways both in the raising of children and in the generation of income.

It can be easy to feel isolated at times on this new path, especially when I was the the only father on the playground on a Thursday morning, or the only male senior technical person who worked a reduced schedule. But to my mind I have the best of all worlds. I developed a depth of connection with my sons that I never had with my own father, have done work I love and moved ahead in my career, all while also creating a lifelong bond with my wife. I may be biased but looking back, it sure feels like Shared Care has been a better way to combine work and family.

Thanks for being such a pioneer Bryan! We are confidant that forging this path for all of these years has made it easier for others to follow in your foot steps.

Partners in change

September 15, 2019jdegrootMeet Our Pioneers

Men As Partners in Change

We are proud of ThirdPath’s trailblazing role supporting men’s increasing involvement with family. We’re also proud of the men who have been trailblazers with us – men like Matt Schneider, co-founder of City Dads Group and ThirdPath board member.

Here are a few of these amazing dads’ stories. You’ll quickly see how they are forging a new path for everyone around them.

Excerpt from Michael Andersen-Leavey’s post:

My husband, Matthew, and I chose the surrogacy path to fatherhood. When we started our journey in November 2014, my employer provided six weeks of paternity leave to primary caregivers; Matthew’s only provided one day for the birth of a child.

Fast forward to January 2017. My employer, American Express, extended parental and paternity leave to 20 weeks to all care givers! In addition, it was paid paternity leave – at 100% pay – and your job remains protected for the duration – well beyond the protected, unpaid 12 weeks of leave made available to parents through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

I was very open about my plan to take the full 20 weeks when our son, Cole, was expected to arrive in January 2018. My colleagues, including those I reported to, were very supportive of my decision. In fact, I came across many dads – in and out of my workplace – who wished they had such an opportunity to take any paternity leave when their kids were born.

Taking that time off to care and bond with Cole during those early months of his young life was important to us, especially since my husband had to return to work soon after the birth.

While on leave, I used the time to introduce Cole to music through classes offered at a local studios. We also had fun attending “Daddy and Me” classes at a nearby children’s education center. The time away from work provided me with the opportunity to be the father to Cole that I never had growing up. (Read the rest of Michael’s post on the City Dads Group website.)

Excerpt from Marlon Gutierrez’s post:

Before having my daughter, I took a job with a company where everyone worked remotely and it also offered better paternity leave…

When people ask what I do, first and foremost, I talk about being a dad. Then I’ll talk about our real estate investments and then, if I feel like it, I’ll talk about my job. I no longer tie my identity to my career, and it’s allowed me to break free from making decisions that only benefit a toxic patriarchal fantasy as opposed to doing what’s truly best for myself and my family.

As often as possible, I try to encourage myself to think differently.

Sometimes I fall into these periods where I find myself leaning toward working more hours than I should. But then I remind myself that the best job I’ve ever had is being a father. At those moments, I close the computer, play with my kid and worry about getting stuff done later. I also find it interesting, that the more I do this, the more productive I become in the time I do dedicate for work. (Read Marlon’s full post on the City Dads Group website.)

Thank you Matt, Michael and Marlon for proving how men can be equally competent caregivers. Want more inspiration? Tune in to our next Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to meet more inspiring pioneers doing work, family and leadership differently!

The Importance of Hope

September 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Creating Culture Change Requires Courage and Hope

A guest post from Jessica DeGroot, ThirdPath’s founder and president.
What keeps the ThirdPath community moving forward? Learning from and being inspired by the amazing moms, dads and leaders who have gone ahead and asked for change – even when they’ve had to be the first to do so. Since founding ThirdPath I’ve learned that connecting to this courageous community has made us smarter, it’s also fostered my sense of hope. What derails the progress we are all working towards? Losing hope, and losing courage.

Why do I know this? Change is hard. It requires overcoming many obstacles, But here are a few things that help us stay the course:

  • Previous positive experiences around work-life integration – so even if you are failing at the moment – you stay motivated to keep making changes to achieve integration once again
  • Strong support at home, including someone who keeps encouraging you to reach for an integrated solution, even if it means leaving an unsupportive workplace
  • Seeking out role models who inspire you that integration can be achieved
  • Taking time to recharge and replenish your energy so you can overcome the next obstacle

As Peter Senge taught us long ago (see info graphic on right), when people maintain hope around what’s possible, it helps them avoid lowering their goals, it also helps them discover new and more creative solutions.

Why do I know this better today? Because of how personally challenging this past year has been.

I have always believed there is a “win-win” answer around work-life integration. However, this year, as I balanced my leadership role at ThirdPath with the unexpected and all-consuming demands of elder care, it taught me that some years we will fall short of this goal. Sometimes life will demand more of us, and work will need to take a back seat.

If you think it’s gotten easier for leaders to integrate work and life since ThirdPath was founded, think again.

Here’s why my experience this past year reinforced these lessons:

  • Creating a high performing team that supports everyone’s work-life integration goals is the best way a leader can achieve work-life integration themselves
  • Creating a team like this is harder than you think, especially in a chronically overworked workplace
  • Unpredictability – like what I experienced around elder care – makes planning much more challenging
  • Unpredictability and lack of time for thinking and planning is an increasing problem in chronically overworked workplaces
  • When leaders don’t have time to think and plan, they give up hope of improving their own work-life integration, as well as their drive to think more creatively with their teams around these issues

Given these truths, should we be surprised that so many leaders give up hope, lower their goals, and let work take over their nights, weekends and even vacations?

I know there is a better way. I know supporting leaders to model integrated lives is key to change. However, this year also taught me to more fully appreciate how the road to work-life integration may feel pretty hopeless for too many leaders, and how this hopelessness might be an unexpected obstacle to change.

How do you renew hope? Find support. Take time to recharge. Recommit to your goals … AND listen to the amazing conversation I had with Brigid Schulte about this exact issue. I promise it will renew your hope that change is possible.

Another option? Join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.

5 Mandates for Change

August 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Making the Impossible Possible

When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” went viral in 2012, we immediately recognized adding “men and women” to each of her 5 mandates summarized ThirdPath’s mission. These mandates are also at the root of making “the impossible possible” – supporting a new appraoch to careers and family that doesn’t force people to choose between the two.

During our 2018-2019 Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar season we explored each mandate. We also added a sixth mandate – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries. Check out the May and June webinars, they also demonstrate how this is a key ingredient for supporting men and women to share things at home.

Anne-Marie Slaughter makes the case in her book Unfinished Business, “Most of the pervasive gender inequalities in our society – for both men and women – cannot be fixed unless men have the same range of choices with respect to mixing caregiving and breadwinning that women do.”

She also argues, “It’s time for CEO’s, supervisors, and team leaders to assume that the experience of caregiving… helps people become more efficient, and develop knowledge, patience, adaptability to different rhythms, honesty, courage, trust, humility, and hope.”

To learn more about her revolutionary vision, listen to our YouTube recording of the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar with her.

We’ve also included a recap of the mandates below. Reading them, you’ll quickly see why putting these mandates into action helps make the impossible possible.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Mandates for Change:
Redefining Work, Careers and Family


Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time – This is at the root of ThirdPath’s work; encouraging men and women – at any point in their careers – to look for the unique flexibility in their jobs. Not every job can be flexed in the same way, but there is a flexible solution for every job.

NEW – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries – Following an integrated approach to work and life means learning how to set win-win boundaries, otherwise flex becomes working days, nights, weekends and vacations. However, doing this requires making choices – both at work and at home – so we have the time and energy we need for what’s most important.

Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of our work with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders – the male and female senior leaders we work with who all “walk the talk.” Whether on our bi-monthly leadership calls, or at our Pioneering Leaders Summit, together we are exploring the opportunities and barriers of creating workplaces that support an integrated approach from entry level to executive level.

Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – That’s what we’ve been doing since launching ThirdPath, including our ground breaking work supporting Shared Care families. We help both mothers and fathers redesign work (and careers!) so they can stay actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for children. We’ve also learned this approach is key to balancing work and elder care.

Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy of an amazing vacation, making the most of summers, becoming an active volunteer, or a hobby enthusiast, this mandate gets right at the heart of our work. Most importantly – following a “third path” can continue all the way through phasing into retirement.

Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Lotte Bailyn discovered this in her pioneering work around the “dual agenda” where she designed solutions that were good for business and employees’ personal lives. Over and again, our amazing ThirdPath community has taught us, when you encourage employees to prioritize work alongside life – men and women, parents, single persons and grandparents – they will also find a way to improve how they work.

Listen to this year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars – each episode will show you how to put these ideas into action.

Our join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.

Both Work and Life Matter

April 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Whole Life Leaders are Transforming Organizations

The following is excerpted from the article Transformative Flex, by Jessica DeGroot and Jodi Detjen. The photos on the right are from ThirdPath’s biennial Pioneering Leaders Summit including our Pioneering Leader award winners.

Leaders who follow an integrated approach to work and life are changing a few fundamental assumptions…

First, they discard the outdated notion that a work-first approach is essential to business and the only route to success. Then they reframe this binary assumption into one that recognizes work matters AND life matters. They also learn how to create success in both areas by creating a team at home and a team at work.

Most importantly, when couples jointly follow this approach, they both learn how to push back at out dated norms as they support each other to achieve an integrated solution over the course of their careers.

To Be a Whole Life Leader – Work matters, and so does life

When couples both strive to be Whole Life Leaders, work matters and so do their lives outside of work. Both parents become experts in learning how to set thoughtful limits on how much work they can take on. We call this win-win boundary setting. Both parents also find ways to use flex to as a tool to help them do an excellent job at work, be responsive to the needs of colleagues and clients, and keep their eyes focused on their lives, not just their careers. The core of their solution is a “triple win”.(See definitions on the right.)

Whole Life Leaders become experts in flexibility AND capacity management

Flexibility defines where and when someone works. Capacity management relates to how much work is expected to be done individually, as a team and within the organization.

Flexibility requires agility, and the ability to think outside the box when faced with competing goals. Capacity management requires innovation in how the work itself gets done such as prioritization, expectation management, and strategic delegation. In fact, success in these two dimensions requires a set of 21st century skills that are valuable for everyone who works in today’s 24/7 business environment.

These leaders are changing the rules of the game

Professionals who develop these skills, who are then promoted to managers, begin to spread the skills to their teams. Instead of pre-defining where, when, and how much work gets done, these leaders work with their teams to determine the best way to achieve the desired success.

Managers who follow this approach get out of the business of micro-managing unnecessary details about how work gets done, and into the business of managing effectiveness. It’s also clear, ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders have become role models of a new kind of leadership.

Pioneering Leader Summit

A FEW DEFINITIONS …

Balance:
This happens in the moment – something that one physically “feels” as in “I feel out of balance”

Integration:
This happens in the long run – this happens in the long run – it’s how you create multi-faceted lives, with paid work happening alongside other commitments

Work First Work Cultures:
In these organizations, life needs are always subservient to work and career priorities

Triple Win Solutions:
Flexing so it’s good for the work you do, the people you work with, and good for you

Collective Boundary Setting:
Working together to set thoughtful
limits around how much work we take
on so we can do our best AND our organizations thrive

Want to learn more about ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders? Let us mail you DeGroot & Detjen’s article: Transformative Flex. Send your mailing address to: Time4Life(at)ThirdPath.org

The Challenges of Parenthood

March 15, 2019jdegrootBlog

Together We Can Change the World!

We are just back from the 8th annual Dad 2.0 Summit – and we are charged up to make change! Did you know that Dove Men+Care is pledging $1 million over the next 2 years to help dads afford to take paternity leave? Why is this so important? Getting dads involved right from the start helps all of us manage work and family responsibilities better – and not just during the diapering stage!

Take a look at the inspiring videos on the right, then read the great example of what we’re talking about – it’s a story from one of the bloggers spotlighted at the Dad 2.0 Summit … Then help us push for more change TODAY by taking the
Dove Men+Care Pledge for Paternity Leave and by sharing this link with everyone you know.

The Chaos Theory of Parenting – by Cort Ruddy

Our typical morning routine is goes like this: Child 1 ostensibly gets up at 6:15 a.m., to be on the bus at 6:52. Children 2 and 3 rise from their slumber when child 1 departs, and they get on their bus at 7:40. That’s when child 4 awakes, his bus arriving at 8:12, which he dutifully boards.

I call this predictable structure the Ordered Family model. And it works well on paper. In reality, it rarely occurs. Here’s a sample of our reality through the lens of one particular day last week when my wife just happened to be away on business.

The alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. as planned. Our oldest child didn’t move, however. Unplanned. Then it went off again. And again. When she did finally move, she announced she needed a shower because “it had been a few days.”

Long story short: she missed the bus. So, of course, I had to drive her. I woke the two younger ones, who are just barely old enough to be left home alone, and ordered them to get ready as I took the eldest to the High School.

When I got back, the house was still standing and everyone was alive, but nobody was ready for the middle school bus, now just moments way. So, I quickly threw together their lunches, prodded them to brush their teeth and get dressed, and then I watched as the bus pulled away while they sat at our counter nonchalantly eating breakfast. Bus missed.

To take them to school, I had to wake the boy, as he cannot be left alone for everybody’s sake. Once his sisters were deposited at middle school. We went back home to get him out of his PJs and ready for his bus, which he missed. So, it was back in the car and to the third school of the day to drop off yet another child.

By the time I got home, I had exactly zero minutes to get showered, dressed and off to work. Needless to say, I was late. Like, really late.

That’s when it occurred to me the similarities between math’s Chaos Theory and the way my wife and I are as parents: the Chaos Theory of Parenting.

In mathematics, Chaos theory is used to describe dynamic systems where minor variations in initial variables can cause wildly different outcomes.

I find it easier to understand Chaos Theory by thinking about the game Plinko on the Price Is Right. That’s the one where the lucky contestant drops a round chip down the Plinko board and it bounces around rather unpredictably until it reaches the bottom.

The difference is that in Plinko there are only five possible outcomes. While in life, and in parenting, there are infinite. Kid 3 could miss the bus. Kid 2 could leave without gloves and have to stay in for recess. Kid 4 could forget his homework, and his parents could get a call from the teacher. Dad could be late so often that he gets fired, and the whole family could have to move to another state. Anything could happen. All based on Kid 1 sleeping through her alarm and a host of other initial variables.

You could be observing us on what seems like an otherwise quiet evening when an unexpected (but predictable) variable occurs, like someone yelling, “Oh My God! We forgot soccer practice!”

And then we suddenly find ourselves scrambling to get our tween to her indoor soccer practice, and the whole plan for dinner is out the window and half our kids are crying because they’re hungry and haven’t started their homework. All because one of us had to run to the store after work to get an ingredient for the dinner we now aren’t making and, in the frenzy, simply forgot it was a practice day.

Clearly, I have only a rudimentary understanding of the real Chaos Theory, however I’ve found that with proper use of vagueness and big words, anyone can sound like they’re an expert on theoretical mathematics.

Parenting, on the other hand, is not quite so easy.

Cort Ruddy is a writer, working and raising four kids with his wife in upstate New York. His writing has appeared in Adirondack Life and Central New York Magazine, and can be found online at RuddyBits.com. He’s on Twitter @DadBits.

Check out our free resources so you can have more fun and less stress. We’ve even included the free CJ case study describing how a dad changed his schedule to a four day work week.

The New Normal

January 3, 2018jdegrootBlog

#MenWomenFlex

Below is a list of some of the key obstacles men face when trying to create a flexible approach to work and family. When you take a look at the list, notice how 4 out of 5 of them look very familiar to the barriers women face.

Top 5 barriers for fathers & family –
#5 Increased financial risk unless you are willing to put work first
#4 Outdated gender norms – both at work and home
#3 Outdated work norms – such as long work hours and face time
#2 Lack of progressive public policy
#1 Men’s invisibility and poor representation of fathers in the media

Thanks to a group of pioneering men (and pioneering organizations like City Dads GroupDad 2.0 SummitNational at Home Dad NetworkBoston College Center on Work and Family … and of course ThirdPath Institute!) – there is growing momentum to push back at these barriers.

Below are the stories of some of the dads involved with this change. To the right (clockwise) are their photos. Want to learn more about what these amazing dads are doing to write a new narrative around fatherhood? Listen to the SoundClound recording and learn how men are as eager as women to create a “new normal” where we have time to be successful at work AND actively involved in the care of our families.

Scott Behson – Scott and his wife have Shared Care since their son was born, each parent increasing their role at home as they flexed around the others work schedule. Scott’s fatherhood blog lead him to write the must read book – Working Dads Survival Guide.

Kipp Jarecke-Cheng – Kipp works full time and is the primary flexer around the care of his children. Kipp and his partner get additional support from their nanny. We met Kipp at one of the Dad 2.0 Summits and quickly invited him to join ThirdPath’s board. Kipp showed us how these issues are both “about gender, and not about gender.”

Lester Spence – Lester and his wife are raising 5 children. Although he works full time while she stays home, he’s also actively involved in the family – from braiding hair to baking bread. As a political science professor, Lester understands, “This is a political issue. If involved fathers are stigmatized, over the generations this stigma will go away, and that’s worth fighting for.”


Read more …
Doug French – Doug and his ex-wife share in the care of their two school aged children, flexing work and child care responsibilities. Doug, co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit, is helping dads use their collective marketing power to create a new narrative for fatherhood.

Brad Harrington – Brad worked while his wife cared for the children when they were young. Now that they are older, both parents flex work and Share Care. Brad runs the Boston College Center for Work and Family. He has also published multiple studies on the changing role of fathers.

Christopher Persley – Christopher dialed his career back so he could be the primary caregiver when their daughter was young. Now he’s added teaching back into the mix. Christopher is a member of NYC Dads Group.

Chris Bernholdt – Chris and his wife decided what made most sense for their family was to have Chris become the primary parent at home while his wife continued to advance in her career. Chris is a board member of the National at Home Dad Network and co-organizer of Philadelphia City Dads.

Tell us how you flexed your work by tweeting it at #MenWomenFlex.

The Truth About Work Life Balance

January 5, 2017jdegrootBlog

Fifteen Months of Chronic Overwork, and One More to Go

The last 15 months have been challenging, not just because of some unexpected life events (learn more), but also because our organization is growing. Growth is a good thing. But the trick is figuring out how to have growth happen at a capacity we can manage.

At ThirdPath we very purposefully build in slower periods of work in order to give us time to make the necessary changes to better manage when things are extra busy. Overwork is never easy, but there can be a silver lining. I now have a better understanding of what it feels like – and how I start behaving – when I’m chronically overworked. I also know that too many professionals in today’s 24/7 business environment are chronically overworked.

Read more …

I like to tell people to think of their capacity for work as a glass of water. Is your glass filled to the brim? Overflowing? Or do you have a little wiggle room at the top of the glass?

When managing my capacity for work, I’ve learned to very intentionally plan around busier and less busy periods of work – or continuing with the glass analogy – to plan for the times when my glass is filled to the brim and when I have a little extra room at the top. If I’ve done a good job preparing for a busy period, I have created extra support and good personal habits to handle this peak period more effectively.

During slower periods, I use the “extra room” in my glass to make changes that will improve how I work going forward.

  • I systematize processes
  • re-prioritize tasks
  • decide what to delegate so that I have more time for what I am uniquely qualified to do

It turns out working this way isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for your organization. It means you are better able to manage the unexpected – both at work and outside of work. It also means I come to work more refreshed, and better able to keep my perspective about what’s really an emergency and what’s really most important. However, I could tell living with this on-going level of stress wasn’t good for me.

When constantly in a state of overwork I began to notice how smaller things pushed me off balance very easily.
I was quick to lose my perspective. I even caught myself working less efficiently, and even making some mistakes. For example, my husband and I planned a long weekend away to celebrate my birthday. I pride myself in my ability to turn off work while on vacation, and I was able to do this during this trip as well. But even with this break, when I got back to work, I was shocked to see how quickly I returned to the same stressed perspective I had before vacation. Once again there was a task that needed to get done that was going to require more time than I had available. And just like before vacation, it pushed me immediately into a stressed response, instead of being able to step back and imagine a more creative solution.

The truth is with so many months of stress behind me and a few more to go, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still behaving this way. I didn’t do anything wrong. Growth is good. Life happens. But I also have to admit that during the last 15 months, sometimes I have traveled to a bit of a dark place. A place where I start losing hope, and believing things will never change.

Luckily I have developed and maintained a number of good habits to regain my normally optimistic outlook.

  • I exercise regularly
  • My husband cooks amazing healthy dinners for our family
  • I carve out routine times during my work week without calls or meetings so I can get focused work done
  • And all year long I relied on my staff to help me keep focused on my top priority work
  • When I get overloaded, I also try to remember to stop and take a walk, or to call a friend, or to do both. This helps remind me that it is probably the chronic overwork that is causing me to see things worse than they are.

Did you make a resolution to push back at overwork and create more time for life? Let us help you.

Check out our free resources, including our “Key Integration Practices” handout.

Take Back Your Time

Every few months we feature the pioneers who are part of the ThirdPath community.

John de Graaf – Founder, Take Back Your Time

John believes …
Using our time, not just for both productive work, but also for enjoyment in life, is pivotal if we want to improve our overall quality of life.

He joined one of our Thursday webinars to talk about the work he does and the organization he founded – Take Back Your Time. John’s organization is dedicated to redefining the cultural perceptions of how we utilize our time. Although this type of work can be done on the personal and organizational level, John has a long and impressive history of fighting for public policy change.

It’s about improving our health and the communities we live in …

John started the call by describing his work fighting for paid parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time. As he pointed out, without the opportunity for vacations, the likelihood of heart attacks and depression increases for both men and women. And when workers can’t afford to take time off, including to care for their own health, research shows they come to work sick, stay sick longer, and spread illness to coworkers.

John went on to describe some of the important work he’s done around mandatory paid vacation time. John even drafted and proposed a paid vacation act, which would offer 1 to 2 weeks of guaranteed paid vacation time depending on the size of the organization. Though the US is one of only five countries not offering paid vacation time, many were still rigorously against this proposed bill.

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What can we learn from success stories?

During our conversation, John provided a perfect example of people embodying the “whole life” mentality John believes in. In Bhutan, a small country settled into the hills of the Himalayas, instead of just prioritizing the importance of gross national product, this small progressive county has been focusing on increasing gross national happiness.

In service of this goal, Bhutan has created an index for looking at 9 dimensions of life that lead to sustainable happiness, one of which is time balance. John then provided a number of inspiring details of how he ended up working with the people of Bhutan as they drafted a proposal on a happiness index for the UN.

And what did we fail to learn …

John also shared a powerful story about the Kellogg corporation. In 1930, Kellogg allowed one location of its workers to change to 6-hours shifts, 5 days a week. Within two years of this shift, the company discovered it produced the same amount of cereal in the 6 hour shifts, as it had during the 8 hour shifts.

However, in 1985, because of the high cost of benefits, these workers were forced to return to an 8-hour workday. Around this time, John interviewed a number of the men and women who had been working the shorter schedules to better understand how it had impacted their lives. No surprise, he discovered the shorter work day brought many benefits, including extra time for divvying up housework, enjoying hobbies, and volunteering.

Clearly our conversation with John underscores how supporting people to have time and energy for their lives outside of work leads to happier and healthier individuals and communities.

Keep up the great work John! And thank you, for being such a long-term advocate for this important cause!

Our Mission

Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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ThirdPath Institute
P.O. Box 9275, Philadelphia PA 19139
Phone: 215.747.8790
Email: time4life (at) thirdpath.org