First it was television that took over our lives, then the Internet, and now the Internet's golden progeny, Facebook. If your work-life balance is topsy-turvy, perhaps these days Facebook is playing a role. An illusionary role, since the time it gobbles up in your life seems to be directed to friends and the life side of the work-life balance equation, but it is an artificial and twisted addition to your life.
That's why entrepreneur Daniel Gulati claims Facebook is making us miserable. On Harvard Business Review blogs, he warns that Facebook is creating a den of comparison, in which we try to share our positive milestone with others, in competition to one-up them. Since there will always be areas where others are more successful, the comparisons make us unhappy with our life.
Second, it's fragmenting our time. Facebook used to be a desktop phenomenon, but now spare minutes go to checking it on smartphones, making us less "present" where we are. He says the result is a loss in productivity, as we switch our focus and activity.
Finally, he says Facebook is eroding close relationships. Instead of meeting with friends and getting together with family, we connect by Facebook, a poor substitute for the real thing.
He recognizes that quitting Facebook is unrealistic, but recommends blocking out designated times for Facebook and making more of an effort to cultivate offline relationships. If you're particularly courageous, he suggests you might delete Facebook from your smartphone and tablet computer, and log off the platform for long stretches of time.
To better focus on the present, try slowing down instead of rushing to work in the morning. As you head out the door to your car, slow your pace, check in with your body, and notice any tension. Then as you drive, go slower. Instead of fuming when you hit a red light, relax, and use it as an opportunity to notice your breathing.
Those are some of the tips offered by clinical psychologist Elisha Goldstein, on mindful.org. Paying attention to the present moment allows us to reduce stress, increase clarity of mind, and be more productive.
Continuing with her advice, when you walk into the office, breathe in and out with every three steps, noticing the sensation of walking. When you sit down at your desk, take a few breaths before checking the computer for e-mails or updates. Try to eat at least one day a week alone, in silence, noticing the food you are eating.
On the return trip home, again take it slow. Reflect on what was positive during the day. On arrival, she urges you to take a few minutes in the car alone, checking for tension, and trying to soften those muscles by breathing in and out of them, and just letting them be.
For some, Facebook makes it easier to connect with friends when travelling on business. Coultant Patricia Katz finds it handy to use when travelling on business. She checks it when there's a chance, and if a friend is also online will chat a bit.
Her other tips for staying well on the go, which she offers in the Pause newsletter, include packing granola bars to have for breakfast in her room along with the in-room coffee, to avoid packing in too much food at the hotel restaurant, and taking fruit and nuts to avoid those beckoning vending machines at night.
After work in the late afternoon, she dumps her things in her hotel room and immediately heads out for a walk. It energizes her, and keeps her from just lounging on the bed with the TV on. "Although I often take other work to do in the evening, I rarely feel like doing more work after a full day on my feet. So I treat myself: Catch up on reading, watch TV, browse magazines, do my nails, and occasionally order up a movie that I've been meaning to watch. I've been known to access the room service option. That way I can kick off the shoes, and change into the casuals earlier in the evening – very comforting after a full day in working clothes," she writes.
An alternative is to socialize: Contact friends in the city, and arrange for a dinner or coffee, to beat back the loneliness of the road.
- Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is urging women to marry other women, if they want a lighter load at home. With data showing when a couple works full time, the woman does three times the amount of child care and two times the amount of house care, Ms. Sandberg concludes: “If you marry a man, marry the right one. If you can marry a woman, that’s better because the split between two women in the home is pretty even, the data shows.” She is married, by the way, to Survey Monkey chief executive officer David Goldberg. Jezebel.com
- Consultant Judi Huck urges young people to think on Sunday of what you will be eating for the week and getting the proper groceries, so you avoid the after-work pizza default option. NYCreativeInterns.com
- The next time someone says you need better work-life balance, ask them why they are making those comments, advises executive coach Lisa Quast. They might well be just projecting their own emotions and desires onto you. “The only person we should judge is the person staring back at us in the mirror. If we ever feel the urge to tell someone else they need better work-life balance, we should keep our mouths shut and then look in the mirror and analyze our own lives,” she says. Forbes.com
- The Stress Tracker app for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod allows you to keep a diary of your stress levels, as well as sources of that stress, stress symptoms, and lifestyle conditions at the time. AddictiveTips.com
Special to The Globe and Mail
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter