Between juggling work and home, I always have more to do than I have time. Some of this my own fault by agreeing to do pointless and thankless tasks such as writing an article about work-life balance. Some of it is unavoidable like cleaning your home and grooming yourself, which is required unless you want to live in a place that looks post-apocalyptic and smells as if you just returned from Bonnaroo (although that would reduce your social obligations).
How does one create a happy work-life balance, and is it something real or is it something that has been created by the media to make everyone miserable? I’ll give you my two cents worth. To make the article as enjoyable as possible, I’ll tell you in list format because Cracked.com told me everyone loves a list.
#4: Set Boundaries
Like that creepy uncle everyone has, setting boundaries is necessary for creating an enjoyable work-life balance. Trying to segregate work-life into two completely separate aspects of your day can lead to unhappiness in both. However, just like you have to see your creepy uncle at holidays, work will spill over into your personal life and vice-versa. The key to combating this is to set boundaries and try not to create a scene when your uncle says something inappropriate.
Maintain a no phone policy when you eat with friends or family. This will allow you to focus your attention and enjoy the experience more. Checking work email can distract your time off. For example, I took yesterday off and made the mistake of checking my work email and…there was a problem. The problem could not be fixed by dropping everything and going to work, however, I let it ruin the rest of my day. If you let problems at work creep into your time off you will never achieve a happy work-life balance, regardless of how few hours you put into your work-week. The same principle applies to home spilling over into work. When you are at work don’t worry about personal obligations you can not control while at work.
#3: Be Productive
I know many of you, like me, have fallen into the trap of equating long hours with productivity, but that is just not true. When I hear a colleague worked until midnight the guilt switch flips; however, working longer hours does not mean that you will accomplish more. Just like an electric car, you need time to recharge. So stop by Cracker Barrel and recharge both your car and yourself.
If you have a lot to get done at work on a particular day/week/month do not let that be a reason to resign yourself to staying late. If you assume you are going to have a 15-hour day, you might not be as efficient as possible. Try an experiment, have a week or two in which you work no more that 8 hrs/day, regardless of what is going on (WARNING: Not liable for any repercussion that occurs. Do not attempt the week of a big deadline). You will be surprised at how much more focused and productive you are at work freeing up more time during in the evening for something fun like cornhole-hopscotch.
Studies have suggested that the optimal work-week is between 35-40 hours and that your productivity goes to *censored* after 55 hours. Being able to accomplish the necessary things in this amount of time might require not completing everything on your to-do list. However, is everything on your to-do list also on your must do list? This brings us to setting priorities.
#2: Set Priorities
So many things get piled on us that it can be very overwhelming at times. Make a list of all the things you need to accomplish. Prioritize your list and determine the items that are most important to you and the items that are necessary. Don’t let the length of time required for a certain task affect the order you complete your list. Once you realize that not all the things on your list have to be accomplished it will free up time. This list should represent not only work items but also items that are important for your sanity. Once you have your list organized, it is time create a calendar.
#1: Create a Calendar
Creating a calendar can help ensure that you make time for both work and family/friends. Divided the day into work and life. Remember, in order to be most productive do not typically schedule more than 50 hours/week or 10 hours/day for work. In addition, schedule in at least 7.5 hours of sleep and 1 hour for a personal item.
Include the small stuff on your calendar. Warren Buffett will schedule in time for a haircut. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and CEO of LinkedIn schedule uninterrupted time for thinking into their day.
If you are career minded put networking time into your calendar by adding a pertinent time slot in the week to reach out to someone about meeting up for coffee. Also, incorporate exercise into your calendar, your health is important and exercise can make you feel better and be more productive. I find that exercising in the middle of my work-day helps me be more productive during the second. I can skip my afternoon coffee and still get a lot accomplished.
Working 80 hours per week is not the secret to success, hard focused work is.
Creating a positive work-life balance is about time management and realizing what are reasonable expectations for you, both personally and professionally.