Do you ever feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of things to do, demands on your time, or requests for help?

If so, welcome to the working mum’s world in 2019! 

A simple fact of modern life is that there are more demands made on us every day than there is time available to meet them. With challenging jobs, growing families and the prevalence of increasingly sophisticated technology – demands and requests can come at us from all angles, and all spheres – seemingly 24/7.  If you don’t have a strategy for managing these demands, you are at risk of suffering from stress and overwhelm. Not only that, but you can wave goodbye to your sanity and any hope you may have had of achieving work/life balance.

The problem we often have with managing all these demands on our time is that our willingness to say yes is often borne of good intentions. If your boss has asked you to deliver a piece of work over the weekend, you say yes because he’s your boss and you believe what he says goes. If your client wants to impose an aggressively tight deadline you say yes because you want to put your client first. If your partner expects you to always be the one who drops everything when your child is ill, etc, you say yes because you think you should – (maybe you earn less) – or because you want to keep the peace.

But good intentions are the enemy of work/life balance. Unconditionally saying yes to everything means you’ll never be in control of your time and instead will always be at the mercy of someone else’s agenda. Perhaps you’ll end up working at weekends even if it’s not urgent; or missing a night out with friends or an appointment at your kid’s school for something that could wait.

As we discovered in last week’s blog, sometimes the best way of managing these sorts of demands on your time is to set boundaries and to learn to say no. Obviously – at other times, it is right to say yes, but you can still retain control of your own time and agenda by applying strict parameters to your agreement – or in other words, making your yes conditional. In this way, you can limit the impact of other people’s demands on you and mitigate the negative effects on your work/life balance and health. This is called managing expectations and it means making ‘yes’ work for you so that it reflects your priorities, capacity and capabilities.

Here’s what you need to do to manage expectations:

1. Examine your beliefs about saying yes.
– Increase your awareness of what you say yes to. Think of a time in the past when you’ve given an unconditional yes that put you under pressure or created stress.
– If you are someone who regularly says yes unconditionally (i.e. on someone else’s terms), examine what’s going on in your head when you agree to unreasonable requests. Are you worrying that a client won’t value you or that your boss will penalise you if you say no?

2. Challenge your beliefs about saying yes.
Ask yourself – “Is this belief about the need to always say yes serving me? What if the opposite were true? What if I could be as valuable, maybe even more valuable, if I were more assertive and more effective in managing expectations? What more positive belief could I adopt that would serve me better?” For example, could it be that your client might value your expertise and your ability to deliver results, rather that your blind compliance?

3. Practise saying a conditional yes.
It might be tricky to evaluate decisions and set conditions for your ‘yes’ in the moment so it’s important that you have a plan for developing this skill and that you practise it until it comes to you more naturally:

 – stay alert to the sort of requests you receive every day and observe how you usually respond to them.
– practise slowing down your response time so that you can evaluate your priorities, your capacity  and the urgency of the request.
– practise thinking of conditions that would make demands more manageable or less disruptive.

If you follow all these tips, you should eventually be able to manage other people’s expectations by giving assertive and conditional responses to demands –  like this:

  • I will deliver this piece of work on Monday (not before the weekend) – i.e. yes I’ll do the work, but..
  • I will not be available for meetings or phone calls between 6 and 8pm – i.e. yes I’m available, but..
  • While on holiday, I will only be contactable between 10 and 12pm (as above).
  • It doesn’t / I don’t have to be perfect – i.e. yes I’ll get it done and I’ll make sure it’s good enough.

 

Knowing what to say no to and what to say yes to in life is a vital skill for maintaining work/ life balance – but managing expectations takes it one step further. If you can learn to say yes on your own terms – terms which allow you to still provide extraordinary value, but without any unnecessary stress or disruption to you – you’ll be well on the way to balancing a successful career with a harmonious family life.

 

Don’t forget to check out the babyproof podcast for further insight into managing expectations.