Posted by Nisha Naik
Work-Life balance isn’t just about balancing your time in the office with your time out of the office. It means balancing work with all the other things in your life that are just as important. I previously wrote about the importance of identifying your personal values and then making decisions based on the real you. This means when you are able to have better balance between office time and personal time, you want to make sure your personal time is productive too – not in terms of getting chores done or zoning out in front of the TV, but in terms of nurturing what’s important to you.
So how do you go about better managing your work time, so you can get more personal time? And once you do, how do you make sure you use that time for the things that are truly important to you?
First, remember what you know. I’m sure you’ve often read suggestions such as setting goals at work in order to keep on task, learning to say no to projects you don’t have time to take on, and limiting the time you spend at work, so you aren’t always trying to get one last thing done. You’ve heard that all before, right? If those aren’t working or you need something more, read on…
Delegate – Some of us are control freaks, some of us believe the only way to get things done right is to do it yourself. Whatever your reason, let it go. I’m sure if you thought about it, there are a few small projects (letters to write, appointments to make) in your office right now that you could delegate to someone else. If you really want to create some work-life balance, this is truly the best place to start. Until you are more efficient at work, you won’t be able to spend less time at the office. Efficiency at work is the key here, and delegating is the foundation.
Delegating is also a useful tool at home. If you have small children, they can help with clean up. Older kids should have chores (and let them pick up some extras to earn spending money), and if they have their driver’s license, have them run some errands. You can make it fun or give them extra rewards, as long as you are freeing up some of your own time – everyone’s happy!
Maintain Your Energy – Unless you take good care of yourself, you won’t be able to maximize your time at work or at home. There’s no point in learning to be more efficient at work if you’re just going to crash once you get home, right? Keep your battery charged by eating nutritiously as often as you can, exercising, and getting enough sleep. When you take care of yourself and are able to maintain a high level of energy, you’ll be more efficient in your time spent at work, you might be able to sneak out a bit early, and you’ll be more present when you are home.
Rethink Your Errands – I know a lot of people spend a fair amount of running errands. Nobody likes them, but they need to be done, right? Think about your work errands. If you have a job that has you running out to do things occasionally during the day, think about whether that’s the best use of your time. Would your company allow you to hire a courier? Can an intern pick up supplies for you? Rather than running out to get lunch, can you bring your meal from home? If you spend part of your work day running in and out of the office, it really won’t allow you to be efficient even when you are there.
You can also rethink your personal errands. Just about anything you need to go somewhere to purchase you can also order online. Groceries can be delivered. You can avoid the bank, post office, and pet store by banking online, ordering stamps, and even ordering dog food online.
Also consider that some businesses will run your errands for you. There are dry cleaners who have drop off and pick up services. You might even hire a local college kid to be your personal courier – no more running to the library to return books, to blockbuster to return movies, or to other stores where you might have to return a purchase.
It doesn’t have to be pricey either. You can pay a flat fee for a set amount of time, and then only give her the errands that are reasonable to get completed in that time.
Change Your Scheduling Habits – If you work eight hours per day and sleep eight hours per night, that means you’ve got an additional eight each day plus the weekends to schedule however you see fit. Try this: pull up your calendar and block out the times that you’ll be at work or sleeping. Next, pencil in other things you would like to do. Not the laundry or the housecleaning or other things you need to do, but what you want to do. That means after you block out work and sleep, write in when you want to watch a movie with your partner. Next write in when you’d like to build a blanket fort with your toddler. Schedule a time to bake some cookies with your teen or a bike ride by yourself or whatever it is that you really want to do but never seem to get around to doing. After you schedule all your priorities, then write in the chores and errands that you want to get done.
It’s a great exercise that can really help you shift your priorities. After all, isn’t good family bonding time much more important than cleaning out the closets?
The point is to think outside the box as you work on creating work-life balance. There are a lot of different ways to do the things you do. You just have to find the most efficient way that works for you.
Being more efficient at work leads to having better balance between work and everything else. Once you have that in place, make sure you are using your time for the good stuff – the things that most matter to you, that feed your soul, that reflect your values.
One last warning: In researching this article, I came across a column on work-life balance that ended with this: “Know when to seek professional help.” Wow! Don’t let that be you! 🙂
Have more time-saving ideas? What tips do you have for ensuring your time is well-spent on the things that matter? Let me know in the comments, so I can learn from you too.