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When Work Gets Intense

. . . Your relationships don't have to suffer

What happens to relationships when work must take center stage? When you're trying to balance work, relationships, and faith, there will inevitably be times when one area of your life has to take precedence. For example, when an important work deadline requires you to invest extra hours and energy, it can put a strain on your relationships. During such times, there are steps you can take that will help safeguard your relationships.

Keep balance in perspective

Every deadline should not become a majorly disruptive event. Make no mistake, this requires real discipline. In my book Work, Love, Pray, I talk about the importance of setting firm boundaries around when you leave the office each day, how much travel you do, and how available you are on the weekends. Yes, sometimes you will have to make adjustments, but if you're not careful, those "temporary adjustments" will become your new normal. So be careful: if you let them, many of the demands of work can feel like justifiable disruptions to your relationship routines.

A great way to check yourself on this point is to talk things through regularly with a trusted friend or mentor. It's best to talk to someone who knows and understands your priorities and who can help you objectively assess your time commitments. If you don't have a mentor and you'd like one, consider participating in 4word's mentor match program.

Emphasize quality

When your quantity of time is short, emphasize the quality of time you invest in critical relationships. During extra-busy periods, make your time with loved ones count. Be focused and present. This one is especially tough for me because I tend to always be "in motion," but it's absolutely critical for me to put work away and spend some precious time fully present with my family.

Yes, sometimes you will have to make adjustments, but if you're not careful, those 'temporary adjustments' will become your new normal.

If you're married, make sure you have a daily routine together. Just five minutes before you get out of bed to make sure the two of you are in sync will do wonders! My husband Chris and I used to run together in the mornings, and some days that was the only quality time I got with him. I always knew if I was working late that, come morning, we'd be running together again. Today Chris and I don't get out of bed without praying together if we are in the same city. If we are in different cities, I pray before I get up, then we call each other in the morning.

Prepare in advance

When you know a tough time is coming up at work, talk it through with your loved ones well ahead of time. Chris and I set up regular "coordination sessions" when we'd go to lunch and talk through our calendars for the next month or two. It was especially important for us to make sure that at least one of us was fully available for the kids at all times. But even if you don't have kids, or for that matter, even if you're not married, it's helpful to know what's going on for your loved ones at work.

Another thing you can do when you know a work deadline is headed your way is to plan a special time together with loved ones or family that you can do after the deadline has passed. That way you all have something to look forward to. Chris and I tried to take at least one weekend a month to spend together as a family at our ranch. We also planned special trips for just the two of us, and each of our kids got one special trip alone each year with mom or dad. Knowing that I had these trips coming always helped me through the difficult times, and they were a great way to refresh those relationships.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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July 2014

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