8 Best Practices For Improving Your Work-Life Balance
January 5, 2017
Work-life balance is the Yeti of the professional world – often discussed but rarely seen. And even the people who have claim to seen it, well, you probably don’t believe them anyway.
In reality though, it is achievable. It’s just a skill, and like any other skill, there are best practices you need to learn to master it. Good thing for us, “Chaos Crusher” Dave Crenshaw has spent his career studying work-life balance to uncover those best practices, which he shared in his LinkedIn Learning course, Balancing Work and Life.
Eight of those best practices are:
1. Create a line in the sand between work and personal time.
A “line in the sand” is the time each day where you stop your work and start your personal life each day, Crenshaw said in his course.
Not everyone needs the same “line in the sand” – for some people it might be 6 or 7, for some people it might be 4:30 and then back to work from 8 to 8:45, and then off again. The point is to have a clear line and honor it, Crenshaw said.
2. Schedule power-down time between that line in the sand.
Once you hit your “line in the sand”, you should have some power-down time where you don’t immediately take up family responsibilities, Crenshaw said. For many people, this is the commute, where Crenshaw said it is essential to focus your mind on non-work related thoughts.
If you don’t have a commute or your commute is short, there are other options. For example, you could exercise or do a hobby, Crenshaw said. Whatever you do, this 30-minute-or-so power-down time will give you more energy for the rest of the day.
3. Create a tech-free sanctuary.
One of the biggest threats to a good work-life balance is our phones and tablets, which are constantly buzzing with new texts and work emails. If you aren’t careful, you’ll get swallowed up by all these updates and essentially be working all the time.
To fix that, Crenshaw recommends having a tech-free sanctuary in your house. Maybe it’s your bedroom, so you aren’t checking email before bed.
Also, when you are with your family, you should do your best to stay off your phone, Crenshaw said. This will make that time higher quality and it sends a message that they come first, not work.
4. Use just one calendar.
One problem Crenshaw sees again and again is that people have multiple calendars – say one for work and one for personal – or no calendar at all. A better solution is to have just one calendar, he said.
The reason is that you are just one person and you only have so much time in a week. By having one calendar, you hammer home that point home, Crenshaw said. Also, it’s easier to stay organized that way.
5. And don’t schedule every minute of that calendar.
Along those lines, Crenshaw recommended not trying to fill up every minute of your calendar with tasks, meetings and appointments. Instead, give yourself time to handle the unexpected or even just to give you time to reflect.
6. Schedule your vacations well in advance and make a plan.
Often, before we go on vacation, we work more and our work-life balance is thrown out-of-whack. To fix this, Crenshaw recommends scheduling your vacations as far in advance as possible and then planning accordingly.
It’s also essential to keep your vacations free of work. This will actually allow you to be more productive when you get back, as often your best ideas come when you aren’t so consumed by the daily grind.
7. Proactively schedule time when you are hit with something unexpected.
We all have unexpected events in our lives, whether they be positive or negative, which can drastically change your work-life balance. Using a positive example, your business suddenly booming is a great thing, but it can also mean more work and therefore affect your work-life balance.
How should you handle unexpected events like this?
First, acknowledge the unexpected event and realize the impact it’s going to have on your time. Then go to your calendar and literally schedule time to allow yourself to either process that unexpected event (if it’s negative) or make time for it (if it’s positive). The quicker you can make a plan for dealing with whatever the unexpected event is, the better you’ll be able to handle it.
8. Focus on results, not busyness.
Finally, Crenshaw said the biggest key to having a great work-life balance is changing your perception. And that means focusing on results, instead of busyness.
For example, you aren’t successful because you work 10 hours a day or even if you are a top-five salesperson at your company if that’s affecting other parts of your life. You’re successful if you are getting positive outcomes in all areas, meaning happiness in your job and happiness in your personal life.
That means valuing both your personal and professional time equally. The quicker you do that, the quicker you’ll attain a lasting work-life balance.
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