5 Steps to Better Work-Life Balance
Published: December 22, 2014
Author: Adrienne Abrams
When I sat down to write about work-life balance, what really came to mind was less about balance and more about ‘taking control of your life’. While they aren’t the same thing, they are related. I think the hardest part of the work-life balance conundrum is finding your own balance. The struggle to maintain a life outside of work is universal, yet the issue is as pervasive as ever.
I know everyone’s situation is different. However, I do believe there are steps we can take, some small, to gain at least a bit of control. Now, if you work all the time and love it, then that’s your balance, and more power to you! But for the rest of us, there’s more to consider in order to find our own balance, even when we’re working for a company we love.
First, we need to stop playing the victim. We are all grown-ups – so if things don’t feel right or you are struggling to stay above water, then it’s time to take a hard look at everything. Continuing to complain won’t get you anywhere (and will probably make you feel worse).
Conversely, it’s never going to be perfect. There will always be deadlines, staffing issues, and general craziness. Sometimes work is going to take over and the scales will tip in work’s favor. Hopefully, though, these situations will be limited, and you can get back on track to your balance.
This is my point of view and what has worked for me…
1: Prioritize! On a daily basis, look at your workload and evaluate. Flying by the seat of your pants won’t fix anything. Be critical: what is your top priority, and what can wait ’til tomorrow? You should have a system to keep track of your To-Dos and also a way to prioritize them. If you don’t get your immediate deliverables done, you won’t be able to leave work – so get those done first.
2: Evaluate your schedule daily. Don’t just wait for your meetings to pop-up; rather, plan your day. If you know what’s ahead of you, it’ll really help you stay organized.
Is every meeting imperative? Find a colleague and have her look at your calendar. Often an objective third party can help you look at things critically. You are busy; don’t waste your time with unnecessary meetings. I block my calendar so I can get work done. It’s really the only way– unless you want to do it after hours.
I received valuable advice from a mentor years ago, and I carry it with me today. The work will always be there – so, figure out what can wait ’til tomorrow. While I am not preaching procrastination, it’s important to be mindful. Sometimes coming back to a problem with a fresh, well-rested perspective is just what you need.
3: Plan your time off. It sounds so simple, but it’s key. If you don’t put something on your calendar, it’ll never happen. We all need to relax, recharge, have fun, and get away from work for a bit. If you plan it in advance, there is plenty of time to figure out your back-up support. Yes, no one will do as good of a job as you – but it will all be okay.
4: I’ve talked a lot about work, but what about outside of work? What can you do to make your down time easier? Your time is valuable, so try to figure out what may make your life just a little bit simpler.
Don’t overschedule. I have trouble with this one… but having a crazy, busy home life doesn’t give you the balance you want either. While all this ‘fun’ stuff is important, it doesn’t let you refuel. So, think about what you want your down time to look like and then make it happen.
5: Finally, think about how you are spending your time at work. While it’s important to socialize and to have fun while you are here, there’s also a smart way to do this. You want to be really productive while you are here so you can actually go home and get some of that balance you are striving for.
Are you taking an hour for lunch out of the office everyday? While it’s important for your productivity to get away, it probably doesn’t need to be that long every day. Is a good chunk of your day spent chatting or on Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps these outlets are giving you the balance you want, or perhaps they’re taking up more time than you think – and you are now at the office an extra hour.
While I know I don’t have all the answers and admit that my work-life balance is far from perfect, these tips, along with working for a great company, have helped. Often my work-life balance means knowing that I work somewhere that supports me leaving early to pick up my kids from school because they trust that I’ll always get my work done. And to me, that is the balance that works.