For most of us, work-life balance is something we talk about as a concept, but often have very little success in making it a reality. I like to think of work-life balance as fulfillment rather than balance. I think the goal should be having a fulfilling life rather than equal parts work, family, sleep, etc.
In that context, let’s take two of the most commonly discussed aspects of work-life balance. The difficulty in making it a reality often lies in the fact that we all have very different ideas of what that actually means. Another thing that makes it difficult is that we often feel as though business dictates how our time will be spent and we really don’t have much of a say in it. The following tips take those two challenges into account in ways that enable us to wrest control in small ways that make a big difference in our lives over time.
#1. Do Not Give People 24/7 Access to Your Life.
It is true that some jobs by their nature are 24/7 where “on call” can be part of the normal structure or even a semi-regular part of the job. We’re not talking about those positions, but we are talking about everyone else whether they be owners, managers or staff. It is important to remember that emergencies are one thing, but poor planning is something altogether different.
It takes a combination of discipline and communication to ensure that you are not taking business calls or emails at particular times during non-working hours. Even if you feel that you must be open to this, you need to set parameters for what types of incidents warrant being called in your off time.
#2. Create Boundaries and Stick to Them
This builds on the first point in that you need to have boundaries for coworkers and your boss as well as for yourself and your family. Whether it is how long you will work beyond a set number of hours per day or week, how long you will spend on specific tasks or having your own quiet time where your time is your own, you should set these boundaries, make them clear, and stick to them.
#3. Get out of the Habit of Immediately Reacting to Everything That Happens
As professionals, we all get into the habit of reacting to everything immediately, but that can be counter-productive. Rather than reacting to each phone call and email that comes in, build structure into your day and night. You may have to take a call that comes in, but unless it is an emergency, set a time with the caller to revisit the issue within a set schedule.
The same goes for emails. Pick specific times during the day to go through emails. Doing these things enables you to be more organized and have greater control over your work time and your free time.
#4. Accept your Limitations and Prioritize
To be productive rather than just busy, you must be honest with yourself and know what you can take on and handle physically and emotionally. Every night should include taking stock of what you need to do the next day and prioritizing the list of tasks and the amount of time you expect to devote to them. Build in a little cushion for the unexpected and set aside some time for what may come up during the day.
Productivity is about getting things done effectively, which is as much about having a plan, boundaries and discipline as it is hard work. Automation tools that simplify tasks or just remind you of set time limitations and boundaries can be a big part of fulfilling that plan.
It’s often the little acts of order that we impose on our home and work lives that enable us to find a work-life balance that keeps us generally healthy and happy.
Achieving a fulfilling work life balance is essentially about being disciplined in setting boundaries while creating a system that works for you and sticking to it. You have the opportunity to design it. You will find that over time you will enjoy your personal time better and be more productive and happier when working within set parameters that leave time for all of the parts of your life.
Sheila Kloefkorn is the President & CEO of KEO Marketing Inc. She was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year by the Phoenix Business Journal. Sheila can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org