Work getting you down? Giving too much? Try some of these strategies

Finding balance between life and work is an ongoing challenge for most people. Today’s webinar (facilitated by Dave Burton, Heather Eccles, and Vicki Hagenaars) was designed to provide some tools and practical suggestions for thinking about how we can work toward achieving some sort of balance.

The model is designed to shift us from inspiration to reality, and rise to the challenges that will help us fulfil the things you are inspired to do.

Map of Meaning: A model

The key model discussed was the Map of Meaning (originally developed by Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, Lani Morris, and Patricia Greenhough). The tool was unpacked during the session and stories shared that opened discussion to help us find ways to recognise and value how we balance the demands of life and work – from reality to inspiration. Some of the key areas of behaviour were:

  • Developing the Inner Self – Developing oneself and one’s resources.
  • Unity with Others – Building and maintaining relationships. Dave suggests that there is less and less time at work to ‘chew the fat’, to build relationships.
  • Expressing Full Potential – Promoting or representing oneself, taking oneself to market. One element of this is “exercising one’s mark and putting it on the table so that others can hear it and respond to it. For example, a head of department needs to be aware of what you have done”.
  • Service to Others – Delivering the goods. This one has “much more of an action to it. Doing what one says one will do. It’s rather more practical and involves doing the things and getting the results”.
The top two are more about being, and the bottom two are more about doing.
Several participants indicated that “I don’t find it easy to promote myself. I am much more a team player”, and “I don’t promote myself to any great extent either so I can sympathise and empathise!”. This led to a discussion about the discomfort many people feel ‘putting themselves out there’ and promoting ourselves, but the positive outcomes that can come about when you take the plunge are well worth facing this discomfort. Gaylene indicated that she finds it easier to talk about her strengths when they are framed within the notion of what other folk think about you. Heather suggested that ” I find another less scary way to promote yourself is to suggest what you think – and ask for feedback – as a learner”. Lorraine observed that “Relational trust is huge. This is one of the barriers students have with anyone in our community”. Another interesting question was posed ” Also, what spaces do schools create for staff to shine. We have this ideas that often the answers are in the room – but do we give staff a platform for their voice?”.How do we know when we have done enough to stop? Our jobs are about serving others, so actually getting to a guilt-free spot about doing some of these other things can be challenging. There was a lively discussion and sharing about the impact on health when expectations at work are seen as unreasonable. There was mention of “running myself ragged”, “overdoing it”, feeling replaceable and disposable by employers. One of the strategies that was mentioned was shifting the stress and feelings about these types of things allows you to be more comfortable with yourself, and promote what you are capable of. This serves self and community, and also increases confidence.

One participant shared that “I put in way too many hours into my job. I don’t really find a lot of time to fit other things in and I find my job all-consuming”. Dave said that “I know from my own experience that getting locked into any of the quadrants is a recipe for burn-out. So, it’s not so much ‘can I afford to spend time in the other quadrants’, rather it’s a case that ‘can I afford not to’?”. Another strategy that Dave mentioned was thinking about other things that inspire you outside of work…”it’s having those inspirations that motivates you and brings more of the balance”. Sometimes you need to focus away from goals, and go back to inspirations.

Vicki’s experiences

Vicki shared some of her experiences as well as some great images to illustrate some of the points she made. For example, she showed a lovely photo of herself that was taken before she went to her first eFellow session, and how it feels as though it was “a huge risk”, and in some ways “not deserving of some of the accolades that are already starting to come”. Vicki emphasised that looking after herself holistically is also hugely important, and she described some of the strategies that she has undertaken since starting to think about the map of meaning. These include going to the gym, spending time outside, and with her family. Some of the health benefits have been huge as the stress levels have reduced, and the family feel as though they aren’t encroaching on work time.

Heather experiences

Heather described that the personal and professional are inextricable, and since using the map of meaning she has felt energised, excited, and keen to go to work. Recently she has also had a baby, which has re-defined her life, and she is trying to build a relationship with her new son and “with other new mums”. In another sense she is feeling disconnected from her professional community, so she is using social media extensively to help maintain these relationships. Heather talked about the first time she ‘took herself to market’. She was petrified beforehand, but the Iginite session she gave went well, and she got great feedback, which was a taste of some of the positives of putting yourself out there.

Cultural dimensions of self-promotion

Madeline asked “is there a cultural dimension that impacts self-promotion??”, and Heather responded “Good point Madeline – I’m thinking of Pasifika communities where the collaborative is huge and the individual not valued as much”, and Rosey suggested that “I guess it depends on the individual. For some people, the cultural aspects are very important”.
This was a super presentation with some incredibly valuable opportunity to reflect, share and recognise that there are many other folk experiencing the same sense of struggling to find balance. If you missed out on it, please follow up via the recording below.

Questions to consider

You are invited to consider the same questions that were posed during the question:

  1. How’s the relationship between what really moves you?
  2. What’s your self-development strategy and how is it going?
  3. How often are you able to have meaningful, perhaps challenging, conversations with your peers?
  4. To what extent do others understand what you’re really on about?
  5. What sense of being useful in the world (or your part of it) do you have?
  6. Do you get a chance to pause and reflect on how you are going?
  7. Who gets first call on your time; you or those around you?

Missed the session?

If you missed the session you can always access the recording, here:

And you can watch a video about the map of meaning here:


About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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