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Work-life balance, a leadership perspective

Work-life balance.

Work-life balance.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

It’s an all-to common snapshot of life in the Air Force; an Airman, in an effort to succeed and exercise the core value of Service Before Self, stays late at work consistently, brings work home, or develops such severe tunnel vision on furthering their career, that they forget to spend time on things they enjoy.

To be successful at work and in their personal life, Airmen need to find a balance between their work and the things that matter to them. 

“To be a productive, effective Airman, you can only sustain that short term,” said Col. Richard Gibbs, 377th Air Base Wing commander. “If you’re going to sustain it long term, the things that are important to you have to be in your life. And giving those things your time and attention makes you a more resilient Airman, and more productive and effective at work.”

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just set aside time for those important things. To get the most out of that time, there need to be few distractions from other facets of life.

“Be present in the moment,” said Gibbs. “Whatever it is you’re intended to focus on at that particular time, do it to the exclusion of all other things. If you want to focus on your kids, turn off all the distractors, or at least turn the ringer off and focus. Give 100 percent of your time to what you’ve intended to give it to. And that makes it quality time, which makes it so much better.”

This idea of focusing on one thing at a time can raise a question at work, “What should be done first?” For younger Airmen, they may feel like everything needs to be done before they can go home, creating an opportunity for stress and fatigue to set in. 

“When you’re trying to prioritize and you’re not sure what should rank higher than the other things, it’s easy to get into the mindset of ‘Everything is important and I need to get everything done,’” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Stamper, 377th ABW command chief. “Those are perfect opportunities to talk to your supervisors, talk with your [NCOs in charge], with those folks who are leading you and ask them, ‘which of these are the important things that I need to work on right away and what are the things that I can get to when I get to?’”

Taking time to understand prioritization and making time for the important things can help mold that overworked Airman into one who is happier, more productive and resilient.

“I think the most important thing to realize is that we all have those challenges,” said Gibbs “We are all busy and we all need a hand sometimes. It’s okay, we are all just doing the best we can to figure it out.”


Editor’s note: This is the last installment in a series of four features on work-life balance. Experts from several points of view (spouses, mental health providers and Airmen on the job) have made the case for the need to establish work-life balance. Lastly, leadership has encouraged Airman to find this balance, in the interest of developing more resilient and well-rounded Airmen.