We’ve all heard that work-life balance is about being balanced across a period of time vs. at a specific moment. But we also know that those day to day moments can be pretty excruciating. While finding a more flexible position, planning a vacation, moving to shorten the commute, or remembering that this busy period will pass are all on the radar, what can we do today – right now, without drastic changes in our lives or jobs – to make things better? Try these 5 things to help you feel more balanced right now:
Don’t work every evening.
There used to be a time when “quittin’ time” meant just that. Office technology has made huge advances in recent years: we no longer have to be disconnected or unable to work when traveling, sick, or working from home. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to ever stop working. It may be part of your workplace culture to log back in every evening after dinner, but just don’t do it for a few nights and see what happens. Take time after work to relax and focus on other areas of your life. You’ll know when something is enough of an emergency to keep working after hours. A general rule of thumb I use is if this is something someone would have picked up the phone and called me about ten years ago after house, then it’s worth being responsive. If not, it can wait until the next business day.
Don’t look at email / monitor work communications when you’re not at work.
This is a tough one. To simplify our lives, we’ve combined our personal and workplace devices. The endless pings of emails and instant messages could drive one to insanity or exuberance: studies show that the simple act of checking your email is addictive. Even if you’re not on your computer working, continually monitoring work communications means that you’re not able to disconnect from your job and fully focus on other aspects of your life. So, cut the cord. Tell your staff, manager, or colleagues that the best way to reach you when you’re not in the office is by phone. And while this may seem scary at first, it’s really not. Think back to times that you’ve tried to reach someone by email or text message. If they didn’t get back to you right away and it was urgent, you called them. If not, you waited until the next business day. To help break the habit, set a fifteen minute block in the evening or early in the morning where you shift your focus to checking emails and other office communications, if you absolutely have to. After a few weeks, you’ll probably discover that it’s not needed.
Treat weekends like vacations.
Weekends are your time to rest, recover, and recuperate. Don’t waste them. Set a drop dead time for yourself (e.g. 5pm on Friday) when you will officially stop working on office related work. Then, go enjoy your weekend. Resist the urge to get back online on Sunday nights – this is a habit made popular by those that want to “get ahead” of the week. It’s not needed, necessary, or even practical most of the time. Enjoy your Sunday evening and return to work on Monday morning refreshed and ready to go. The major plus of not working on Sunday night: on Monday morning, your email will have the full picture from all the responses and information that got disseminated by those who couldn’t stay offline the previous evening, so you’ll be fully caught up.
Always make yourself whole.
Many people think that giving up personal time in the evenings or weekends is what’s expected from their jobs – and that may be true sometimes. But it’s not expected that you never take that time back and make yourself whole again. If you have a rough couple of weeks while a major project is in full swing, plan a day or two off as comp days after the project launches. Use that time to treat yourself, catch up on personal responsibilities, or just rest and recover. Organizations will take what you give them, so don’t give them everything. And if they take more than their fair share for a little while, take it back for yourself when it makes sense.
Use mobility for productivity and flexibility… not to stay “always connected.”
Technology has changed the way we work and it’s up to use to use it in a way that’s most effective. This means rethinking the purpose of mobility. Being able to work from anywhere makes sense when you are traveling, or need to escape to a quieter, less distracting environment to work on a presentation or whitepaper, or when you need to finish up something you couldn’t complete since you had to leave the office early to pick up your child from school. Using mobile technology in a way that enhances your life is important; don’t use it as a way to extend your work day unnecessarily, or to stay connected when you really should be focusing on something else.
These five things are easy to implement and don’t require any major job or life changes. And bringing them into your life may have an unexpected effect: you may be more engaged and perform better at work! Staying balanced and making sure you take time for yourself each day will enusre that the time you spend at work is the more productive and fulfilling.