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Now is the time to set work-life balance goals
I've been meeting with my team at work to help them set goals for 2016. As a result, it occurred to me that I could stand to set some goals for myself, too, starting with plans to build better work-life balance. - photo by Greg Kratz
October is a hectic month in Cubeville.

In many companies, this is the month for preparing the next year's budget. That means executives are spending their time guessing how much their departments will grow (or contract) in the next year, crunching numbers and trying to defend their decisions.

October is also open enrollment time at businesses that offer employee benefits. That means workers are spending their time guessing how many times their families will visit the doctor or dentist in the next year, crunching numbers and trying to make the right decisions.

It's also a month for employee appraisals and goal-setting at many places. That means middle managers like me are spending lots of time in meetings I had nine in one day last week at which they try to help their team members guess what they will accomplish in the coming year and devise at least a general plan that will allow them to achieve those goals.

Despite the meeting load, I enjoy this part of my job. I'm interested in the people who work with me, and I want them to grow and develop in their careers. They are an energetic, hardworking and dedicated group, and I want to make it possible for them to excel. When they do, it's good for them as people, for the team as a whole and for the company.

As I reflected on this goal-setting process, it occurred to me that I could stand to set some goals for myself, too. Since I'm always trying to focus on work-life balance, I decided that formulating some personal goals in that area would be a good place to start.

I also know goals work best when there's accountability attached to them, so I'm going to share my goals with you today. Feel free to check up on me in the months to come to make sure I'm following through.

Here, then, are a few work-life goals for the rest of this year and into 2016.

Make date night and longer couple activities a priority.

I've written before about the importance of making time for one's spouse, and a regular date night is a great way to do that. The problem is, with hectic work and school schedules and four children to shepherd through life, it can be difficult for my wife and me to get away.

However, I know we can do it if we make it a priority, so I'm going to do a better job in this area. I'll take the lead in planning date nights, including making sure the children have the care they need and even selecting a restaurant when we go out to dinner. (The latter should make my wife happy since I always try to force her to make that choice.)

I'll also plan two more-involved outings, at least long weekends, to give us a chance to get away from the daily routine and reconnect as a couple. We've done this occasionally as our children have grown older, and it's always a wonderful experience.

Make sure I'm connecting with my children through one-on-one activities.

I hold one-on-one meetings with the members of my team at work every other week, and I find those conversations quite valuable. Unfortunately, I don't always do the best job of having similar "meetings" with my kids.

In years past, I've had opportunities to chat with them alone while taking them to school in the morning, but schedule changes have eliminated those conversations. To make up for that lost time, I will plan regular father/child outings.

I've got a good start on this, as I took my second-oldest daughter on a recent daddy/daughter date to the aquarium. We had a great time, and it was nice to focus just on her for a few hours.

Now I need to follow through with my three other children. This may be especially challenging when it comes to my oldest daughter, who has an incredibly busy schedule with school, a part-time job and a boyfriend. But I'm committed to making it happen.

Make time for personal development.

As I've talked to my team members about their goals, I've stressed the importance of going to conferences or reading books that will help them develop new skills and enrich their lives.

Again, this is advice I should take for myself. I've started already by reading more, especially while commuting on TRAX each day. To take that to the next level, I'm planning to set my smartphone aside more often while I'm at home and focus on reading, writing and serving others. I'll also continue to participate in our church choir and will pick up my euphonium more often so I can get back in touch with the joy I've found in making music.

These are the kinds of activities that have helped me grow in the past, and I'm sure the same will be true today.

Those are my three goals, and I think this list is both manageable and achievable. If I can succeed in each of these areas, 2016 will be a year in which I find better work-life balance and build deeper connections with the people who mean the most to me.

Now it's your turn. What are your work-life balance goals as you look ahead to next year? How will you achieve them? And what will success mean for you and your friends and family?
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