Advice for Achieving Work-Life Balance, From a Time Management Expert

April 15, 2019

See how to manage work-life balance, according to time management expert Dave Crenshaw.

Today, we at LinkedIn Learning released our Stress at Work Report. The single-biggest cause of stress at work, according to our research?

Work-life balance, or lack thereof. Overall, this causes 70 percent of professionals stress.

Well, we wanted to help. So, we interviewed LinkedIn Learning Instructor and Time Management Expert Dave Crenshaw and asked him for his advice for achieving work-life balance – and keeping stress at bay.

Here’s what he said:

What are the top three reasons people have work/life balance issues?

Crenshaw: There are a variety of reasons why we can feel that we’re out of balance.

If I’m looking at the top three culprits, the most common culprit I see is a lack of a definit start and stop time to the workday. The second is inconsistent calendar use, which gives us a feeling of not having control of our time. And the third contributor to poor work/life balance is underestimating how long things will take, which puts us in a situation where we always feel like we’re falling behind.

What are the top three ways to overcome these issues?

Crenshaw: First, establish a clear boundary in your day when you are going to start work and stop work. The boundary line actually reduces stress by forcing you to make wiser productive decisions and improve your overall efficiency.

Second, use a calendar. If you already using a calendar, be more committed to it. Your calendar is your time budget and it gives you a bird’s-eye view on how to use all of those 168 hours in your week.

Third, overestimate how long things are going to take. When you underestimate, it makes you always feel behind and stressed. When you overestimate, it gives you a cushion and you feel more relaxed. And, if you get things done faster, it’s like you get extra time.

How do you say no to your co-workers or manager, without hurting the relationship?

Crenshaw: First, recognize that “no” is not a dirty word. The most successful people I know say no far more often than they say yes. This is because whenever we say “no” to one thing, we're saying “yes” to a higher priority. Say yes to too many things, and soon we find ourselves unable to meet all our commitments.

So, with that as the background, how do we balance the need to be a responsible coworker and team member, yet still stay focused?

Often saying “no” is really saying “not now, but later.” When a team member makes a request, we can ask them for a clear due date so we can prioritize properly.  If the answer is “now” and it conflicts with our current priority, a simple, respectful conversation may be all that is needed.

You might say, “I’m running into a conflict with an earlier task you gave me. If I try to do both tasks today, I won't be able to get both done. Which would you prefer me to set as the higher priority?" This gives team members people the opportunity to consider the requests they are making and set more realistic expectations.

How can we prioritize better to reduce our stress levels?

Many of us feel overwhelmed because we're trying to use prioritization methods that worked twenty or thirty years ago. Back then, we had the time to make individual decisions about what's urgent or important.

Today, there are endless opportunities and tasks, leaving most of us feeling like we are drowning. It's the time management equivalent of standing underneath Niagara Falls. We can reduce stress and regain control by focusing on tasks and opportunities that either have high value or give us extra time.

I call this “Time Value Prioritization.” If you're not familiar with this process, you can learn about it in my LinkedIn Learning course, Prioritizing Your Tasks.

How do you manage stress in your life?

Crenshaw: One of the best ways I know how to deal with stress is by building buffer time into my schedule.

The idea is you don’t have every minute filled with activity, you don’t have appointments back-to-back. You schedule maybe 80 percent of your day full, so that when inevitable interruptions occur, you can deal with them.

It greatly reduces the amount of stress I feel because if I make a mistake or have an interruption, I know I have the time in my schedule to handle it.

Dave Crenshaw has taught more than 20 courses on LinkedIn Learning. They include: