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I feel fortunate to work for an organization that openly values a healthy work-life balance.  A deliberate effort is made on a daily basis to ensure employees are not being forced to work hours beyond reason.  In addition, the organization makes a conscious effort to accommodate to the non-work needs/schedule of its employees.  However, even in such a proactive work environment, the modern day workplace makes it quite easy to find oneself out of balance.

As a project manager, it is in my nature to be connected to my projects at all times.  And in this world with increasingly blurred lines between the workplace and home, the ability to keep myself connected is as easy as pulling my smartphone out of my pocket.  I would be lying if I said I was comfortable with the number of times I check my mail remotely on any given day.  Often I find myself struggling to keep boundaries between work and home.

This is a struggle that I hear echoed from nearly every young professional I come across.  In fact, according to a recent study, the United States currently ranks 9th to last in developed countries for work-life balance.  It’s not hard not to understand why.  Ease of access to email, social/professional networks and beyond makes it difficult to ‘turn it off’.  This can quickly lead to an overworked workforce – which has proven detrimental to productivity time and time again, not to mention the ill effects one may experience from stress, health-related issues and general level of satisfaction. 

Are you feeling a lack of balance?  Here are a simple set of steps that can help you in the right direction:

Determine Your Priorities / Define Your Balance

Focusing a great deal of time on work is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, working long hours is what many attribute as a requirement for success in the workplace.  The first step in achieving balance is to define what success looks like for you.  Some aren’t happy unless they are at the pinnacle of their field.  Others find a focus on home and family life to be more rewarding.  Once you understand your vision of success, it will make defining your ideal balance a significantly easier task.

Set Boundaries

Work is for work, home is for home.  Okay, perhaps it doesn’t need to be that black and white.  Come up with your own set of boundaries that enable your defined measure of success.  First, set times, places or situations where work is off-limits.  Also, make sure that you stay on task within the boundaries you have set.  For example, just as you make a conscious effort to avoid work in off-work times/areas – try to keep personal tasks in the workplace at a minimum.  Be on task and efficient in the space you are in.

Block Your Calendar

When you are planning your schedule, make a point to physically block time for non-work activities.  If your goal is to leave work by 5:30pm every day, put an out of office reminder in your calendar.  This will not only reinforce the boundary with yourself, but it will also signal to others that you are unavailable for work-related activities.  Make a point to schedule time specifically for family, friends and activities that help you recharge.

Enjoy Downtime/Unplug

Make sure to take time for yourself.  Simply by taking 15 minutes a day to do something you really enjoy can recharge you considerably more than you may think.  Read a book, exercise, listen to music, watch that movie you’ve been intending to get to.  Make the time to do the activities you want to do.

Also, consider truly un-plugging from time to time.  Shut down the computer.  Turn off the television.  Power down your smartphone.  Enjoy the world around you for what it is, without our modern day conveniences/distractions.

Re-Evaluate Your Balance

Getting to the right balance is not an overnight process.  And often, life throws us curveballs that adjust our priorities.  For example, when I was a single man, I had the ability to devote much more of my everyday focus to work.  Now married with children, spending time enjoying my family has moved considerably higher on my balance sheet.  From time to time, audit your defined notion of balance to confirm you are being true to where you want to be.

Sounds easy, right?  I can assure you it is anything but.  Hopefully these handful of tips can act as a reminder to search for your desired balance.  If nothing else, rest easy – we are all in this fight together.