Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to use work-based skills to enhance your personal life

I recently was speaking to a middle management hospitality professional about work-life balance and he was telling me about a simple tool to evaluate if there is a balance between our work and personal lives. This is called a ‘wagon wheel’ and looks like a wheel with spokes on it. The spokes are representative of the various facets of life like family, work, friends, health, hobby, etc. Then on a scale of 1 to 10, points are assigned to each spoke, wherein 0 is the centre point and 10 would be the outermost point of the spoke. The rating can be done in terms of happiness or satisfaction with regards to each facet of life and another wheel can be made to represent the aspired level for the same.
Ideally, like all wheels, the line joining all the rating points needs to form a circle. The smoother the circle, the more well balanced it is. The more jagged the outline is, the less of a balance is there in the work-life situation. Of course one could still have a balanced wheel but one which is small and might want to enlarge it. In other words, one might want to achieve more in all facets of life. However, care should be taken to ensure that there is overall progression otherwise the balance would be lost.
Once he finished explaining this to me, he exclaimed that this method was used often to analyze issues in the office. This set me thinking. We all go through life learning new skills on a regular basis. Then for most, the learning falls by the wayside or is used only in certain instances. An obvious example is the vast number of people in management who learn and practice skills like time management, communication skills, team building, etc. on a daily basis. However, these are usually packed away safely in a briefcase or laptop bag the minute one leaves the office.
In their personal lives these skills are rarely used! I wonder why?
Is it because these are taught in the context of business and work and individuals are confused on how to apply them to their personal lives? Or is there an implied expectation that personal and family life would take care of itself, while work and colleagues need to be managed! Whatever be the reason, this is absurd. I have seen experienced finance professionals whose personal finances are in a mess, renowned leaders of large teams whose children don’t seem to find any common connect with them, and so on.
My view is that as individuals we need to access and inventory each skill that we have as an invaluable asset. Just like how no asset is left to idle and waste away but instead deployed to maximize returns, similarly each skill needs to be used extensively. A simple idea would be to prepare an inventory of skills/competencies and then prepare a listing of all possible areas to apply the same in personal and professional arenas. Once done, this inventory needs to be referred to regularly to ensure that each skill is being utilized in every possible situation and scenario. Needless to say, the inventory would require frequent review and updates.
My guess is that such an approach might not only help bring better balance and well-being in the varied facets of a person’s life, but actually help hone their skills and make them better for it! There are some who might say that this practice would rob personal relationships of their spontaneity and warmth. Maybe, maybe not. But, even that can be managed by using the right sets of skills.

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