The number one thing we hear from all of our clients is that they don’t have enough staff or enough time to get the job done. Many leaders have described to us the level of stress they feel because they know they could do so much more if only they had more time or more people.
With the pandemic and people still working from home, we hear from some that they have a hard time turning work off. While managers have staff working all hours of the day, that stretches out their day to the point that they are literally working day and night. This isn’t healthy for the manager, the direct reports, or the organization.
Managers tell us that they love what they do so it’s not really work. Although this may be factually correct, someone is going to suffer in this relationship. Maybe it won’t be the manager, but it could be the manager’s family or the people who have to work with the manager.
Working non-stop sends a message to the people in your life, both at work and at home. The message your friends and family receive is that you value work over spending time with them. If you have kids, this message can have life-long consequences. To your employees, constantly working signifies that you—and maybe even the company—value work over individuals.
It’s important to recognize that you model what you want your employees to emulate. An employee recently told me that he was hesitant to ask their boss for vacation time for fear of how his boss might respond since his boss never takes time away from work.
So what can you do to ensure that you have a well-balanced work and personal life? Speaking from personal experience, here are 10 tips that our team has put into play that have made a significant difference in improving our work-life balance:
- Make a to-do list: Make a to-do list of what you need to accomplish tomorrow before you leave today. When the list is complete, prioritize what’s most important and what needs to be done first. And, you may not be able to get everything done at the end of the day, but at least you know that you can accomplish the most important tasks because you have identified them. If you can’t finish everything on your list, don’t worry—that’s why you’re coming back to work tomorrow.
- Leave work at work: If you are back in the office, leave it in the trunk of your car or leave it at work. If you are working from home, put it away in a brief case or drawer and turn off your computer. It is important to remember that you are not needed at work as much as you think you are. If you were wacked by a truck on the way home, the chances that someone will be able to do your work, are high. Since that may not be enough to motivate most workaholics, remember that Paul Tsongas said, “Nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”
- Stay on top of your email everyday: Email is burying many managers and they find that they are spending all their time catching up on emails after hours. Schedule time in your day to catch up on emails. Even if that means you block off time on your calendar, so you are not booked elsewhere.
- Build margin into your life: If you need to be somewhere at 5:30 pm, make sure you block off time in your calendar to leave at the right time so you can arrive early.
- Buy tickets: If you buy tickets at the beginning of the year for your vacations, concerts, shows, etc., you’ll discover something wonderful: when you have tickets, you always find the time to go. As things start to open back up again, be on the lookout for things you want to do and book it.
- Take notes: Create a system for writing down the things you need to remember to do. Worrying about the stuff you haven’t written down is what wakes you up in the middle of the night in a panic. Learn to utilize an electronic ‘to-do’ so you can add to it anywhere.
- Plan down time: Schedule time where you can turn off your email and computer and truly enjoy being disconnected.
- Exercise: To prevent stress from taking over your life, you need a healthy mind and body. Regular exercise is key. Realize that you don’t need to be motivated to continue exercising, you only need to be motivated to start. As Nike says, Just Do It. Once you get moving, you’ll find it easier to accomplish your fitness goals.
- Live in the moment: When you are home, be home. People tend to worry about work stuff when they’re at home and home stuff when they’re at work. Since most worries never materialize, it’s a total waste of what could be an enjoyable moment.
- Decide to be happy: Research tells us that about 40 percent of a person’s happiness is a decision they make. Last week, I asked a gentleman how he was and he replied, “I am on the right side of the ground; therefore I am well and I am happy.” Happiness is a choice. There are people out there who are only happy when they are unhappy…let them be that way. After all, it’s their choice.
All of us are being asked to do more with less. On top of the stress of this workload, the world is changing faster than it ever has. Combine doing more with less with the accelerated pace of change and it becomes clear that something has got to give. That something is up to you. With the above ten strategies, we know that you will take one step closer to better balancing your priorities.