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6 New Year's Resolutions to Integrate Work and Family

Alaina Brandenburger
Dec. 20, 2013

Learning to put yourself first once in a while will go a long way toward making you happy in the new year.

When people talk about New Year's resolutions, you often hear about things like losing weight or saving money. (Yawn!) While these stereotypes are great things to shoot for, why don't you start off the new year with something that will have an even bigger impact on your life: work-life integration.

You often hear tales about that mythical ideal of "work-life balance", but when you're simultaneously trying to read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to your daughter for the 8 zillionth time, while still getting that report to your boss before 9 p.m., balance seems impossible.

Instead of getting hung up on finding just the right balance between your work-life and your home-life, think about how you can weave them both together into something that works for you and your needs. Instead of work-life balance, search for work-life integration! That’s why we’re not saying balance. There’s really no such thing for working parents. But integrating your work-life and home-life with realistic results is a more likely way of achieving happiness and better productivity.

Most people say goodbye to their New Year's resolutions by the end of January, but with these tips from Janis Brett Elspas, of Mommy Blog Expert, and Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of "Mom, Incorporated: A Guide to Business and Baby," you'll start the new year off right and stay sane all year long.

  1. Resolve to Get Your Priorities Straight
    Trying to be all things to all people is neither efficient nor effective. Thinking you need to be superparent, super employee and the world's best partner simultaneously is exhausting and impossible. Sherman Risdahl recommends taking stock of your life to find what motivates you.

    "Make two columns on a piece of paper. In the left column, write the things that make for a quality life in your own mind -- your life. Not the life someone else wants or expects you to live. In the right column, write down the elements of the life you have. If, on the left you crave solitude, but on the right you have noise, there's the beginning of a recipe for conflict." This exercise will help you focus on what makes you happy rather than what you think you need to do for others.

    Once you've done this, make a resolution to revisit the list often and make sure you're staying true to yourself and your priorities.

  2. Resolve to Say No
    While it seems like a no-brainer, many parents feel obligated to many people for many activities. It's OK to take some time for yourself. As Sherman Risdahl states, "It is better to say 'no' first, explore the space and freedom that 'no' has given you, use that time wisely and watch your life fill up with more positive and healthy moments."

    Elspas thinks that you also need to say no to the kids once in a while. "You have to say no sometimes to your child. Otherwise, you are actually doing a disservice to your son or daughter, because when they go out into the world they will expect everyone else to say yes to whatever they want."

    Saying no to events and even your kids will help you fulfill your own needs, rather than putting them behind everyone else's.

  3. Resolve to Get Organized
    One way to make sure you aren't taking on more than you can handle is by organizing your schedule. "Keep a schedule updated on your smartphone at all times and/or posting a family calendar at home where each member's activities are noted as far in advance as possible," suggests Elspas.

    Keeping a schedule will prevent overbooking and help you carve out family time or time for activities that are important to you to help you relax and recharge.

  4. Resolve to Get Help
    Think back over the past year. What were your biggest time sucks -- those to-do list items that took a big chuck of time without much reward? How much time did you spend matching socks, cleaning the shower, dragging your screaming child through the grocery store or walking your dog during the rain? Imagine if you had all of those hours back. What could you have done instead?

    Pick a few items from the past year that you really hated and figure out how they could be easier. For example, hire a housekeeper to take care of that shower or find a babysitter to watch your kids while you go shopping.

  5. Resolve to Unplug
    Technology has made life easier, but it's also caused a decline in face-to-face communication. Elspas recommends taking an electronic time out. "Get the whole family to turn off all electronics for 24 consecutive hours once a week."

    If 24 hours seems daunting, start small. It's important to do something as a family. Go on a hike or bring back game night.

    "If you are with family, be 100 percent there," says Sherman Risdahl. "Put away your computer, your smartphone and your work distractions, and don't split yourself into pieces trying to be everything to everyone at once...And don't forget your friends. Friendships and sisterhood can support, heal and empower you."

  6. Resolve to Do Something You've Always Wanted to Do
    Sherman Risdahl stresses the importance of being true to yourself. Many women think they are being bad mothers if they focus on themselves, but it is important to stay true to yourself, or you won't be any good to anyone else.

    "Wake up one hour earlier each morning and find a quiet corner in your home," she says. "Use that time wisely. Maybe it is putting in a yoga DVD and learning yoga or exploring meditation or reading Julia Cameron's "The Artist Way" and exploring your creative side. Or write that book you're always talking about writing."

Keeping your own life and goals in mind reminds you that you are a person, and you were a person before you were a mother or a wife. To start the New Year right, focus your resolutions on yourself, by being selfish once in a while and you'll be more pleasant and effective in other areas of your life. And maybe you'll even hear the phrase "work-life balance" without cringing!

Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver.

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