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When Our Personal and Professional Commitments Collide

Your climb to the top of the career ladder depends on your ability to professionally manage your life. We all have commitments to work, our families, our friends and our place of worship, to name a few. With our busy, “always on” lifestyles, it is only a matter of time before personal and professional lives collide.

For some, the default response is simply to focus on one area (let’s say work) and neglect our personal relationships (visiting family or going to your daughter’s recital). While one or two episodes won’t damage a relationship, chronic neglect may result in a strained relationship and ultimately spill over into your entire life. Think of it as anti-networking: where networking can have positive effects throughout your personal and professional life, missing out on key commitments strain those relationships over time.

Before you cancel your commitments, here are some ways to prevent or manage conflicts between your personal and professional lives:

Triage your to-do lists

Do your best to avoid personal and professional conflicts through sufficient planning, as some conflicts arise when we don’t have a handle on our urgent and important tasks. When your calendar is starting to fill up with commitments, make sure to prioritize the urgent and important tasks in each area of life. Look over your plans and your lists ahead of time; knock out tasks that are due around those critical conflict dates.

Manage one calendar

Ever agree to a big meeting, only to remember that your wedding anniversary is the same day? (I hope not!) Some of your conflicts may come from simply forgetting your upcoming commitments. Keeping one calendar (or two separate but overlayed calendars) may help you identify potential scheduling conflicts. This will help prevent “double-booking” and scheduling conflicts in the first place.

Enlist some help

If you need to finish an assignment before attending to a commitment outside of work, ask your co-workers for a helping hand. (Don’t forget to pay it back!) You can also ask family and friends to lighten your load or to fill you in if you missed the beginning of an event. Enlisting help can also come in the form of delegating work. In the services economy, you can delegate work such as dog walking, grocery delivery and more. Use these services to free up some time and increase your chances of making your commitments.

It’s not all-or-nothing

When you’re required to be in two places at once, it’s important to ask yourself where you can be flexible in your presence. You might be able to attend the most important part of a day-long conference and also attend your child’s dance recital. Where possible, leverage technology to be in two places at once or to recap a missed event. You might be able to record a work meeting, attend via phone or read over meeting minutes the next day and achieve the same effect as being there.

If all else fails, notify people as early as possible

Even with the best of intentions and the best planning, you may not be able to fulfill all of your obligations. It is likely a zero-sum game, where one side will ultimately be let down. Notify everyone of your decision not to attend. By notifying people early, you can reduce, or even eliminate, any collateral damage as a result of your non-attendance. While your presence may be missed, there might be time for the affected party to adjust. Don’t forget that you, as a result of not being able to meet your commitment, should accommodate.

Climbing the career ladder doesn’t have to come at the cost of your personal life, but it does require some finesse. With a little planning and some help, you can manage your commitments in an effective way to keep your sanity and achieve work-life balance

For more info on work life balance, read the articles below:

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Managing Work-Life Balance

Keep your Sanity: 10 Ways to Balance Work and Life in Gov

Fredy Diaz  is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.


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Brady Smithsund

This is an excellent article. American workplace culture has heavily become a competition to see who can be the most devoted to their work. It’s nice to hear someone advocating so succinctly for a work-life balance. Thanks Fredy!

Kaitlin Moller

I really liked the “it’s not all or nothing” part of this piece. I think that’s where a lot of people are at fault. Thanks for the insight!