WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

My New Year's resolution was a better work/life balance. I am already slipping. Any tips?

The delight of a New Year resolution is in the breaking of it - Oscar Wilde

Strangely enough, my resolution was also to achieve a better work/life balance. I bet there are many in the sector that did likewise. And, as a frenetic worker who enjoys his job, I sympathise with your problem.

The difficulty with some of the work/life balance merchants is they regard work as bad and life as good. This ignores the fact that many of us in the sector enjoy our jobs and get great fulfilment from them. When you are working for an organisation with a noble purpose there is pressure to give your all.

Therein lies the problem. Because we all have such commitment, we can sometimes neglect other important dimensions of our life. A really bad work/life balance can be stressful and damaging to both us and the organisation.

I don't have any magic answers, but I do have some tips.

It's important to ensure that you take all your leave and use it properly.

Don't fritter it away in taking odd days to catch up with the DIY. This is the time of year to properly plan your holidays - all your leave should be taken and used for exploration. I can only ever properly relax if I actually leave the country - a place where mobile phones don't work is an additional boon.

Diary management is key to effective working as well as a good work/life balance.

I have instituted a number of diary rules for 2004. These include blocking out periods of the day for internal meetings and allocating time for reports and strategy. In a sector where networking is so crucial, you can overdose on breakfast and evening meetings and receptions. So never have a day when you have a breakfast meeting and a long evening event. We all think that meetings should be in hour blocks. Why not insist on meetings not running over 45 minutes?

Is it possible for you to spend some time working from home? If you are in a leadership position, have you thought of different work patterns for you and your staff?

You should also think about your "hinterland". It may appear paradoxical to suggest that you take on extra commitments, but there is often value in having other activities to engage with. So perhaps look at taking up a trusteeship or an evening class in something edifying or wacky.

The key is the word balance. Keep at it!

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