By Brent Gleeson, Forbes.com
Special to Online Career Tips
Ever find yourself sleeping with your smartphone? If you feel the demands of your career are overtaking your personal life, you’re not alone. With the advance in technology, work can always be with you… if you let it.
Achieving a sound work-life “balance” is a popular concept in theory, but how realistic is it? Notice I put the word balance in quotes. To most people, life balance means less work, more life. How practical is this though, especially for those growing businesses, trying to advance their careers or simply trying to stay employed? At our digital marketing agency, Balance is one of our core values. We believe it is more realistic to look at this from a perspective of blending work and life so as to successfully achieve both work and personal goals.
As a former Navy SEAL, I can tell you that when in that community, your work is your life. We had a saying, “All in, all the time.” The demanding culture makes for highly effective warriors, but very poor personal life managers. And for active military, this is often just a reality.
In the non-military world, the consequences of not properly blending work and personal life can lead to:
- Lack of fulfillment – Focusing solely on work (even if you love it) can ultimately lead to a dangerously narrow focus that leaves you feeling depressed when the work is not there.
- Fatigue – Depriving yourself of down time, exercise, and recreation will lead to low energy that will then negatively impact your career goals. You will simply burn out.
- Lost time with family and friends – Don’t promise to spend more time with your spouse or children AFTER you achieve certain career goals. You will always be busy and there will always be new goals. Your family needs you now.
- Poor productivity and performance – When you have tunnel vision, your work suffers. If you’re able to step away occasionally, you will refresh your mind and your attitude. Studies show that when work is blended properly with personal life and outside pursuits, you will be happier and more successful in your career.
Personally, I don’t want to work less. As leaders and business owners we have commitments to our team, business partners, and shareholders. Many of us can’t simply shut down on a regular basis because people rely on us for communication and things would pile up to insurmountable degrees if we were not engaged. But we also don’t want our teams to burn out so we should encourage a proper mix of life and work.
My theory behind achieving a great work-life blend is holistic. By properly blending these two critical areas of our existence, we can live a satisfying and successful life.
Here are seven tips for achieving a better work-life blend:
- Plan ahead: Create a schedule that incorporates non-work related activities. This could include date nights with your significant other, activities with the kids, or simply time to yourself to pursue a hobby. If you don’t make the time, these things tend to fall by the wayside. Stick to your schedule!
- Communicate: Tell your family, friends and colleagues about your plan. The plan will have some changes, but let them know how important it is to your personal and professional success that your plan stays in place.
- Own each day: Even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes, do something non-work related that makes you happy every day. This will freshen your perspective on work, and increase your personal satisfaction.
- Be fit: I’ve written in this column about the absolute importance of good fitness. Living a healthy lifestyle and integrating exercise into your routine will help you manage stress and give you more energy. Less stress and more energy will give you more confidence and result in better performance at work and a better attitude at home.
- Be organized: Make a to-do list every day that includes action items and goals related to both your work and personal life. And, make it reasonable. Don’t put 10 things on the list if you know you only have time for five tasks. You are only setting yourself up for failure. Schedule what you can accomplish, accomplish it, and sleep soundly knowing your to-do list is done for the day.
- Learn to say no: Commit to not committing. If you say yes to every single work task and social obligation that comes your way, you will never accomplish anything successfully. Obviously, if your boss needs something done right away, it’s often hard to say no. But it’s even worse to commit to something you will fail in delivering. You don’t get points for committing if you don’t complete the task. Be transparent about what you can accomplish. Good communication is key.
- Shut it down: It may not be realistic to “leave work at work,” but at some point in the night I suggest putting the phone and computer away and giving your undivided attention to loved ones or simply take time for you. There isn’t much you can do about an issue at 10 pm that can’t be done at 8 am. On this note, stop sleeping with your smartphone!
It is possible to successfully blend your business and personal lives. If you feel that you’re not accomplishing that right now, take a second to evaluate where you’re going off course. Then make a schedule, communicate it and stick to it. If you find you still can’t do it, you’re either over committing or you have two lives that might not be able to blend. Either way, make changes. Life is too short to be out of balance.
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