3 Ways to Balance Work and Life
Ah, January. Another new year filled with possibilities, goals, and–dare we say it–resolutions. But don’t run off just yet!
This isn’t about a new fad diet or a 30-day challenge or a life-changing super-simple life-hack.
This isn’t even about setting your goals or picking those resolutions to help you be a ‘better you’ this year.
This is about how to make whatever changes you decide on happen. You can apply these 3 concrete, doable steps to ANY goal or resolution so that when you look back on 2020 at this time next year, you can be proud of your choices and commitment to success.
In an ideal world, we’d all have our work balanced perfectly with our personal life. If we had to go out of town for a business conference, we’d get the same amount of time off to spend with our friends and family, or to decompress from that work trip and catch up on things we missed. When it’s the busy season for projects or order fulfillment, our children’s events would magically shift so we didn’t have to miss a single game or performance.
Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. And in our capitalist society, we’re told to always be earning that dollar, pushing the envelope, chasing success. So with all these demands on our time, we must often weigh risk and reward and make hard choices. And those choices are not always balanced.
The good news is, there are ways to make an imbalanced work/life situation less painful. Below are a few ways you can tip the scale into a more favorable alignment.
1. Always Be
No, this doesn’t mean you can no longer be spontaneous.
Nor does it mean you’ll become a prisoner of your own calendar, locked in and inflexible.
What scheduling does is allow you to set aside chunks of time for things you want (or need) to prioritize.
It means knowing what time you have available (or not) so you don’t overbook yourself or neglect what’s important.
Work seems to follow all of us home at one point or another. It’s nearly impossible to get away from, especially if you’re in a position of leadership or management. And once it starts, it happens a little bit more and more. Each day, it seems the hours spent on personal activities get smaller and smaller. One way to successfully avoid this encroachment is to schedule out your personal activities. And if you won’t honor those times you schedule for yourself at first, such as for reading or planning, try to pick up a hobby that takes place at a specific time—like a book club or cooking class.
When times are set, people are far more likely to stop what they’re doing so they can show up to their scheduled activity on time. There’s a certain level of anxiety and expectation attached to a planned event, making it just as important as the work you might otherwise continue doing. And coworkers are much less likely to ask you to stay late last-minute if they know you have yoga at 5:30 PM.
If you’re in management or a leadership position, make sure to let those who report to you know that you have a standing appointment each Wednesday (or whenever you’ve scheduled a personal activity). Employees are much less likely to call or text you with questions if they know they’ll be interrupting something planned.
The more you schedule out pre-planned personal activities for out-of-work hours, the more space you’ll be creating for yourself to disengage and not be at the beck and call of coworkers, bosses, or peers.
2. Spread the Word
Tell others to create accountability.
If you think to yourself, “Steve, tonight you’re going home at five o’clock and watching a movie with your wife,” then you may or may not actually do that. But, if you verbally tell your wife you’re coming home at five-fifteen, then you’ve exponentially increased your chances of leaving work at five. Why? Because you don’t want to let your wife down. You want to be a man of your word.
When you tell others your plans, goals, or desires, a strange thing happens. You actually do it. Much like scheduling your personal activities, there is an expectation attached to it. In this instance, it’s not just your expectation but the expectation of people who really matter to you.
Add a calendar event to this accountability, and you’ve got notification and motivation.
3. Make a List
Write to-do lists for two reasons.
Oftentimes, your work/life balance starts to feel entirely unfair when you have too many work activities going on at once. Sometimes—not all the time—this can easily be solved with a proper to-do list.
Even if you’re not the list-making type, and even if you don’t do it regularly or even often, the simple act of writing down what you need to do can help bring you clarity. You may notice right off the bat that your personal to-do’s vastly outweigh your professional ones. Maybe the imbalance is not on the side of your life that you thought.
Or maybe it’s not the length of the list but the time each item requires that’s important. So take your list and estimate the time to complete each task. This can present you with the bigger picture. How overwhelmed are you really? Can you delegate any of these tasks?
Once you can see everything laid out in front of you, you can determine what actually needs to be done by the end of today, or by tomorrow, or by the end of the week. This allows you to properly pace out your activities to give you a more realistic work day—one that ideally won’t creep into your personal life too much. Plus, you get to cross things off when you complete them!
Find Your Balance
As you can see, these are not ‘innovative new ways to get the body you’ve always wanted!’ We’re not promoting flashy new technology or untested gimmicks. These are tried-and-tested ways you can start using today to help you get more balance in your life.
Use pen-and-paper, use an app, use an online project scheduling tool if that’s what you like. We can suggest a variety of options.
But like all technology, it only works if you use it.
Whatever your goals are for 2020, we hope these methods help set you up for success.
Happy New Year!