There is only so much of you to go around before you start to realize that the idea of work-life balance is a myth. The best strategy is making the most of your available time in each category of work and life.
1. Play to your strengths – delegate your weaknesses
We all have things we excel at (and things that others excel better). Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can be everything to everyone. Playing to your strengths not only encourages you to do your best work, but it also promotes the same from someone you can delegate the tasks you find more difficult.
2. Prioritize your time and efforts
Stephen Covey introduced a time management tool for managing individual tasks called the Priority Matrix. It is split up into four quadrants, based on urgency and priority:
Quadrant 1 – urgent and important
This quadrant is for tasks that require your immediate attention for tight deadlines.
Quadrant 2 – important but not urgent
This quadrant is for important tasks or projects that are more long-term. While they are not urgent (yet), they do require attentive strategizing to complete.
Quadrant 3 – urgent distractions
These tasks are urgent but not important. Covey recommends limiting any commitment to these tasks (learn to say no), or better yet, delegate them to someone who would benefit from the experience.
Quadrant 4 – not urgent and not important
These are activities with little or no value at all. These are time wasters and should be eliminated altogether (master saying no).
If you find yourself with a to-do list with an overwhelming amount of tasks, start to categorize them into these four quadrants to prioritize what you should focus your efforts on first.
3. Be aware and play to your peak and valley times
Plan your critical thinking tasks for the times where you feel your mind is at its peak of activity. For some, it’s the first thing in the morning, while others prefer after lunch. Plan your tedious (and somewhat mindless) tasks around the time your brain activity is at its lowest, where critical thought is unnecessary.
4. Find your quiet space and visit it to rediscover your focus
Find a space that brings you a sense of peace and wonder as a form of short meditation. We’re not talking about sitting cross-legged, doing anything that makes you feel unnatural.
Instead, give yourself a periodic break to visit that space and rejuvenate yourself. Take five or ten minutes just being “present” in that space. Use your senses. Look around, smell, take a deep breath, and focus on your surroundings. This exercise clears the mind and relaxes your brain for a moment. It helps you to better focus on the work at hand upon your return. No chanting is required at all.
5. Find a job that you love
There’s an adage that says, “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Work shouldn’t just be a way to make money. It should also be fulfilling and satisfying financially and spiritually. If your job drains you so severely that you are too tired to enjoy the things you love, it may be time to find a new job. Find a job with a purpose; you are so passionate about that you would do it for free (if you didn’t need the money, that is).
6. Set aside time to unplug
With the abundance of technology available to us, we could almost NEVER stop working. Do not feel tempted to get access to work email on your personal phone. If they aren’t providing a phone to access communications, then take the hint that the company doesn’t deem it necessary for you to be reached after-hours.
If you must remain connected after work, then define boundaries and expectations (and stick to them) about your available time during off-hours. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to spend quality time with your family or even alone, just unwinding. When that time is over, turn off the app and notifications for the evening so you can focus your time on yourself and your family without any distractions. Being always focused on work, even passively, can set yourself up for early burnout.
7. Take a vacation
More than half of employees deny themselves paid vacation time that they earned. Don’t be one of them. You earned the time – take it! It can be one or two days at a time for some fun long weekends, or a two week trip to a tropical island, the choice is yours, but take that break. Even a staycation at home and unplugging from your routine does wonders. Work2Live’s experiential rewards on the Lifetime Savings Account (LSA) are a great way to save up to make that vacation count. Even if your reward account doesn’t have enough to pay for it all, you can use it toward your purchase and enjoy the deep discount.
8. Kick perfectionism
It was nice as a kid, but perfectionism doesn’t exist in work-life balance. Instead of perfectionism, we have a second set of eyes to catch the apparent needs for correction. In return, we are saved much time and stress, possibly seeking an error that never existed (or wasn’t that big of a deal).
9. Pace yourself
Our week indeed has it’s peaks and valleys of productivity. You may be a bit relaxed at one moment while awaiting content or decisions from another party. The next thing you know, everything is burying you. Take a short time to plan out your tasks for the week (or the day if you need to plan short spurts). First of all, this reassures you that it is possible to complete everything on your plate. Next, it defines a timeline to get it all accomplished.
10. Start small and build from there
Take little steps, small bites, and get a taste for each of the techniques and suggestions we just presented. Don’t try to do it all at once – you’ll fizzle out and accomplish no changes at all. If you start small and see some positive changes, you will be more encouraged to try something else.
Work2Live’s primary goal is to remind employees not to forget the “life” part of work-life balance.