I had never heard the term “work-life balance” until 10 years ago or so. It doesn’t seem to be something our parents and their parents spoke of much. So why is it such a big topic of conversation today? And more importantly, how do we achieve it?
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the delicately choreographed dance between your work life and your personal life. In today’s world we are constantly plugged in, on the go, and seemingly always “on.” The struggle in separating your work and personal lives comes mostly from electronics and expectations. Having access to email essentially anywhere, anytime has introduced new expectations for the working world to be available 24/7. We can certainly all agree that unplugging and spending time away from work with your family is essential to a happy employee and spouse, and it needs to happen more frequently than a once-yearly vacation.
Be selfish with your time.
In today’s digital age it can be difficult to put your phone down and spend quality time with your family. While sitting on the couch watching Moana for the sixtieth time it can be tempting to check your email to see if your project was approved, or if your boss replied. But it’s important to remind yourself, “No. This is my time and I will decide how to use it.” Something I constantly remind myself and my friends is that you are paid either hourly or you have a salary dedicated to a 40 hour work week. That is the time you’re expected to put in. Anything above that is being taken from your personal time. We all have project deadlines and things that come up, but we all know the difference between what needs to be accomplished now and what can wait for the next work day.
Put your electronics in time-out.
I recommend putting your work phone in the basket by the front door, along with your keys and briefcase. Out of sight, out of mind! Not having your phone within reach at all times will help you unplug and focus on the family and conversation at hand. Enjoy a technology-free dinner, discuss your highs and lows of the day with your family, play board games, and enjoy each other’s company without distractions. This will help your family feel like a priority and refresh you for the next day’s projects.
Turn off email notifications.
A piece of advice I recently received from someone I greatly respect (especially for those who have one phone for work and personal) was to turn off my email notifications on my phone. Excuse me – what did you just say?! I could never! I run my own business, I have about 30 projects happening all at once, and if I don’t get to something immediately I may lose out on an opportunity. But we got to talking, and it started to make more sense. They reminded me that email is a way of communication. When someone sends an email to a colleague, it is with the expectation that they will get around to it at their convenience. If there’s an emergency, that’s when to utilize your phone for texting or calling.
So you know what I did? I turned off my email notifications for a week to see how it went. I was nervous at first – what will I be missing? Will it slow down my productivity? As day by day went by, I found myself less anxious, more present, and all around happier. I wasn’t distracted while driving or while eating dinner with my family by seeing an email pop up on my screen, no matter how mundane or irrelevant. I relied on my team to call or text for anything urgent – and they did. They had my personal cell and home phone should anything urgent come up, and I trusted they knew how to differentiate between urgent items and ones that can wait. Sure enough, there was only one urgent piece of business I had to get to that week that required a text to be sent my way. Other than that, the world kept turning and my home life got exponentially better. My kids thrived with my undivided attention and my shoulders felt lighter because I wasn’t carrying around all of this pressure of always being “on.”
Find a transitional activity.
Something my husband does to help his work-life balance is having a set routine to signify the end of the work day. His ritual of choice is grocery shopping and cooking dinner. The man loves to cook, and I’m not complaining. J Preparing dinner is an activity he looks forward to because it helps his brain switch from work-mode to home-mode. I have since come to realize that my activity of choice for this purpose is exercising. Whether it’s walking the dog, attending a pilates class, or taking a quick jog around the neighborhood, it’s something that helps me decompress from the work day and return home with a new/different focus. Finding a transitional activity is something I recommend to anyone. Whether you’re a CEO or a stay-at-home mom, everyone needs a chance to switch from a task-oriented mindset to a calmer, more relaxed home-mode.
Work-life balance is most certainly tricky to find in today’s digital age. It requires focus, consistency, and dedication to yourself in order to accomplish it. Hold up your end of the bargain, i.e. putting in hard work from 9-5pm every day, but once that clock strikes 5pm, it’s time for your family. If you’re consistent with your schedule in the office and at home, you’ll be respected by colleagues and your family. I hope these tips help you take back some of your personal time and use it for yourself. If you have other tips to achieving work-life balance, please share them below! We can all learn from each other. And as always, reach out to us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to hearing from you,