Take Time to Stop and Smell the Pine Trees
As Peter Senge said, “if we don’t choose the boundaries that make the most sense for us, technology and the norms of our workplaces will choose for us.” Peter is the author of The Fifth Discipline, and he showed us how systems thinking helps us better understand how to reclaim our lives.
We talked about how it takes courage to ask for what you want – whether it’s turning off work on vacation or asking to flex your work hours. But when we do this, everyone benefits. You can see this in our story about CJ, a father who changed to a four day work week, and by doing so he created a number of more efficient work processes.
You can also see this in the stories we’ve collected for our “Meet the Pioneers” blog. Stories like Andrea’s, where very early in her career – way before becoming a parent – she made a number of wise choices that became the building blocks for creating an integrated approach to work and life today.
To hear the webinar, click the YouTube video on the right. Or read on to hear some of the questions people asked Peter, and the wise advice he provided.
Question: Creating a vision requires stepping out of the madness and finding a moment for contemplation. Instead people get stuck in “fast forward” mode. What can people do?
More than time, what is needed is giving yourself permission to create the space to do this. It also helps to have others who are willing to think with you, and to encourage you to focus on what’s important as opposed to what’s secondary. In our over stimulated world we can begin to think we don’t have enough time. But actually we have the same 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and how ever many years we are going to live. That hasn’t changed a bit. What has changed is the mental model and the choices of how we spend our time. Once you realize this, you can make the necessary choices to create a different kind of space – a quiet space. It doesn’t matter if it’s running or yoga, just so long as it isn’t something “externally stimulating” like watching TV or surfing the web. There is nothing wrong with these activities. But in our over stimulated environments we never have enough time. What’s required is a shift in mindset.
Question: I get pulled into meaningless meetings. I negotiated a four day work week, but was told to keep it quiet. How do you live with this greater sense of meaning when faced with a work culture that is so different?
When you are trying to be sane in an insane environment, people will call you crazy. Your action is a contradiction to their assumptions. It’s not because they are bad people, they are just expressing the norms of the work culture, and they see you as contradicting these norms. You are also making them recognize that there is a choice. You are taking a stand for something that matters to you, and it probably matters to them as well, and your actions require them to face that they too have options. Do you want to take a stand for something that you really care about? One person might not be able to make a difference, but you can always take a stand for yourself. It’s also important to not do it out of anger. People will only hear the anger. You need to do it because you feel it’s the right thing to do. You need to be clear in your words and actions, “I’m not doing this to criticize you, I’m doing this because this it is what I need.”
Question: I’m supervising a team and doing the job of 3 persons. How can any of us try and work less when my boss’ answer will be to just get the work done?
A lot of organizations are expecting to do more and more without the necessary resources. I would just encourage you to ask your boss, “What do you think about this? It seems like we are trying to get too much done with the resources we have.” What you will be doing is engaging him or her in a process of inquiry. If you start with a simple assumption, that you and your boss have many common goals, it will help. I can guarantee that when you bring this issue up, your boss will feel just as stuck as you do. And if you can then find ways to engage a team of people to think about this issue, and do it by evoking curiosity, it’s amazing what can be done. I guarantee you, things won’t get worse.
Would you like help creating your own unique “third path” – an integrated approach to work and life? Look at the “Get Help” section of our website – we’ve got lots of resources for you.
Why Change is Imperative
The 2017-2018 season of Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars will explore the practical steps you can take on the road to integration – whether you are launching your first career, becoming a new parent, balancing work and the care of school aged children, or work and the care of an aging loved one.
Anne-Marie Slaughter shows us just how revolutionary this approach is in her book Unfinished Business, making the case, “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.”
Both men and women need to change, she argues, but so do our workplaces. “Radical as it may seem, 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.” The workplace she envisions is one where “new fathers would have to opt out of taking it rather than opting in. It also means welcoming whatever arrangements allow workers who are also caregivers not only to stay on the job, but also to stay on leadership track.”
To learn more about her revolutionary vision, listen to the YouTube recording of our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar with her.
We’ve also included her original “5 mandates” for change from the article that went viral. When you read them, you’ll see why they sounded so familiar – especially after we added the words “men and women” to each mandate.
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Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “5 mandates for change” – and their connection to ThirdPath’s mission
Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time – This is at the root of all of the work ThirdPath does as we encourage men and women 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. It also means pushing back at chronically overworked work cultures so that employees don’t just trade long hours at the office for long hours at home.
Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – ThirdPath sees this in the multitude of Shared Care families we’ve met – whether they flexed or worked reduced hours at the same time, or shared different roles at different stages in their family’s development. In each of these stories the parents learned how to maintain their involvement with work while also staying actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for their children.
Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of the work we do with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders. This is a truly inspirational group of male and female leaders who have all courageously followed integrated career paths. Now they are working with us to create wider change. Together we are examining the systemic issues that need to be addressed so even more leaders can follow in their footsteps.
Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy you gain from an amazing vacation (our August blog post), or making the most of summer (our July blog post) or pushing back at overwhelm (our September blog post), this recommendation gets right to the heart of our mission: to assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work and life to create time for family, community and other life priorities.
Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Right again! Lotte Bailyn discovered this concept over a decade ago when she first introduced the term “dual agenda” – solutions that are good for business and good for you. Today this is also central to our work. And just like Lotte discovered so many years ago, we’ve also seen how encouraging employees to follow this approach – from entry level to executive level – means they actually find ways to improve how they work.
Join this year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars – we’ll show you how you can put these ideas into action and join the revolution.
The New Revolutionaries
In Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed, Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, she describes the web of forces that make us feel stuck in a life that is going too fast – a life that includes little time for reflection and even less time for joy.
But Schulte wants us to think bigger:
“What if not just women, but both men and women, worked smart, more flexible schedules? What if the workplace itself was more fluid than the rigid and narrow ladder to success of the ideal worker? … And what if both men and women became responsible for raising children and managing the home, sharing work, love, and play? Could everyone then live whole lives?”
At ThirdPath we are putting these ideas into practice:
People who are part of the ThirdPath community are showing us how to push back at overwhelm. They have also discovered, changing their approach to work and family is not just good for their own lives, but good for their workplaces.
Leaders and fathers are a critical part of the revolution:
Click the SoundCloud icon to listen to our conversation with Brigid Schulte and two progressive leaders who describe how they have redesigned both work and family to create more satisfying lives, not just for themselves, but for their whole teams. Or read on to learn how one young dad switched to a four day work week, creating a win for his workplace and a win for his family. We’re so proud to be part of this movement for change – the groundswell of people who are choosing to step away from constant overwhelm and reclaim their lives.
CJ is one of the new revolutionaries:
CJ is one of the father’s ThirdPath has worked with to “redesign” his work so he had more time to care for his children. Our job was to help CJ find a “win-win” solution – one that was good for him and good for his workplace.
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CJ also noticed how many of his “highest priority” tasks required focused attention for prolonged stretches of time. As the company’s sole engineer, CJ was often the person people came to to ask for help – but these constant interruptions got in the way of him getting his own work done.
CJ decided to talk to the company’s general manager, Molly, about the suggested changes. What CJ noticed was that as he sought input from Molly, they both became more clear about what CJ should really be working on. CJ explained, “I can get confused about what my top priority work should be because everything seems like a priority. I can see where a regular review of what I am doing could be really valuable.”
“In both areas of my work, R&D and process improvement, I have a list that is two miles long. My daily tasks are chipping away at these two long lists. By having too much to do, all that happens is that the progress in both areas slows down. Now I’ve gotten better at asking, ‘What is my biggest priority?’ and, ‘At what rate do I need these things to get done?’”
Molly became an advocate for CJ, even helping him create routine “quiet time.” For example, Molly gently encouraged CJ to take a look at his own reluctance to say “no” to the various disruptions during his designated periods of quiet time. “I do enjoy those interruptions,” CJ admitted, “but my job suffers, and engineering and design tasks get put on hold.”
Six years later we asked CJ for an update. Here’s what he said:
“One of the best thing about the changes I made is that I have more energy at work — which means I’m more productive when I’m at work. I also have more energy at home — which means I’m a better husband and father. Combined with my commute, my work days are long, but then I get 3 full days to focus on my home life. It also means I’ve been able to schedule all personal appointments on Fridays, so I rarely if ever take time off work for personal matters, this is a benefit for both me and my employer.”
Join the revolution.
Want to create an integrated approach to work and life like CJ? This year’s Thursday with ThirdPath webinars will be exploring the 8 major crossroads you’ll need to navigate as you design an integrated approach to work and life. You’ll discover the choices we make, skills we develop, and lessons we learn, can help prepare you for the next one. Want to get started today? Check out our many resources. Click here to learn more.
Take A Vacation: It’s Time To Recharge Your Batteries
Taking a vacation is good for you, its good for your family and it turns out its good for your organization!
Here’s what we at ThirdPath have learned about the importance of vacation time over the past 15 plus years of advocating for doing work and family differently. You can also listen to our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we discussed this topic by clicking on the SoundCloud player.
However – some of us might need to challenge a few work norms to make this happen: the fear of being perceived as an under performer; the pressure to see it as a win-lose proposition – either we meet our client and customer needs or our own personal needs; or the worry that maybe there’s no point to take a week off given the demands to be available while away and the difficulty transitioning back upon return.
But there’s a lot to gain when we push back at these norms.
– Time off can have several health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, stress and depression.
– Seeing new places and experiencing different things can have a positive effect on our overall outlook on life, providing a fresh and new perspective.
– Time away from work can also help us remember that work is just one part of who we are and remind us that we have friends, family and other life interests.
Here’s a list of ideas to help increase the enjoyment of your time away and maximize the benefits upon your return. For the full list, click here.
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- Plan vacations around the “seasonality” of your work. Try scheduling longer trips for less busy periods of work and “long weekend vacations” when work is busier.
- Block off pre and post “quiet” work days. Avoid scheduling meetings and phone calls the day before you leave and the day you return to allow for the “unexpected” and for catch up time when you return.
- Create a “what can wait” list. A week before you go, create a list of things that you can wait to get done after vacation, versus tasks that must be completed before you go.
- Decide how “connected” you want to be. If you need to check email or voice messages, plan ahead around what’s least disruptive.
- Carefully define emergencies. Think ahead about what challenges could arise. Clearly define emergencies to avoid everything becoming one.
- Keep track of what worked well. Create a list you can refer back to of helpful ideas for planning your next vacation.
And don’t forget, creating vacations that really recharge our batteries may also require us to change how we approach vacations as a family. Two parents working together as a team to plan and make the most of a vacation, makes it a better experience for everyone. (And while your at it, don’t forget to plan a romantic getaway for just the two of you!)
Making the Most of Summer
Think summer has to be a struggle between work and family? Think again. Here are some of the things ThirdPath has learned about balancing work and family over the summer. And one of the most important things we’ve learned is that taking 20 minutes to write down what you liked (and didn’t like) about this summer will be a big help when you plan for next summer.
- In general summers can allow for an enjoyable “slower pace” at home.
- But summers also take A LOT of planning.
- The age of your children will also have a big impact on what happens during the summer. What worked last year might not work again this year since your child is a whole year older!
- Finding the “right” camp can be a highlight, but finding it can be quite a journey.
- Another summer goal is finding the “right” mix of planned and unplanned activities – balancing boredom versus over scheduling.
- Summers can also provide an opportunity for children to develop independent interests, such as reading and trying out new hobbies.
- Over time families often develop a rhythm to summers that can last year after year, some becoming deeply valued memories and “family traditions.”
You can also listen to what a few pioneering mothers and fathers had to say about summers by clicking on the SoundCloud player for our Thursday with ThirdPath webinar on this topic.
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– Grandparents and extended family can play a great role in summers. Children can spend one or two weeks with them (and sometimes with other cousins as well). This can provide a great opportunity for the two generations to get to know each other and connect.
– A partner in an accounting firm negotiated a “flex year” schedule – working a total of 20 hours during the summer months. This gave her maximum time with her school aged children. Then during her “busy season” – January through April – her husband became the primary parent in charge.
– ThirdPath has also met many families where one parent intentionally became a school teacher as a way to have more flexibility throughout the summers. In one of these families, the other parent negotiated an alternative summer schedule so she could work remotely one day a week.
– Telework can be a great summer solution when caring for teens. It’s also a great option for stretching out limited vacation time. One family planned a two week beach vacation but only used one week of vacation time. They did this by trading off who was working (in the mornings or in the afternoons) while the other parent played with the children at the beach.
You may also want to take a look at this great blog post from author Christine Carter about her 3 steps to a successful summer
Don’t forget our summertime tip: Write up your “summertime” notes, then pull these out in February when you start planning for next summer!