Back in the day when I was an intern, I worked for a large corporation that promoted this idea of a “Work/Life Balance.” Most of my fellow interns thought it was just a catchy buzz-phrase or a sales pitch, but I have always embraced the idea. As the child of two work-a-holics, I am VERY familiar with work-addiction… and it is definitely hereditary! I am the kind of person who feels guilty if I am sitting around doing nothing – surely there is something that needs to be done that I can be working on, house-work, drafting a model, editing meeting minutes to share with my team, exercising, SOMETHING.
I am the mother of two very young children and I have made a promise to myself (and them) that I will not be more consumed with work than our lives though. This is a hard feat for me to accomplish most of the time, especially when I find myself in the middle of hectic, high-pressure projects. I have found a few tricks that have worked for me lately and I would like to share them with you.
I am very lucky to have a job that lets me to work from home. Working from home allows me to take precious time that is normally spent commuting or putting on a suit and makeup and spend it accomplishing “work” instead. I can put in a full 10-12 hours on a long day doing actual productive work and still spend the same amount of time away from my family. I don’t recommend working 10+ hour days on a regular basis, but if you are in that hectic time of your project that requires that kind of commitment, keep the Work/Life Balance in mind and try to make the best of it…
- Set boundaries: When I work from home, my kids have to go to daycare. Allowing them to stay home and distract me only hurts everyone. I am less productive at my job. Instead of the kids having my undivided attention in the evenings, I have to work longer and I am constantly telling them that I need to work, but I am actually accomplishing very little. This makes for a bad day for everyone. Likewise, when I say I am going to spend time with the family, I have to force myself not to take unplanned calls or constantly check my email. We had a trip to the beach planned a couple weeks ago, my son asked me as I was packing to please not take my computer because he didn’t want me to work all weekend. Clearly I have been breaking my boundary rule a little too much lately. We went to the beach, where I didn’t even have cell phone reception, for a couple days and reset the balance.
- Utilize saved time to accomplish personal tasks: If I am super lucky, Daddy picks the kiddos up from school AND I am able to quit working on time. This gives me an extra 30-45 minutes to spend cleaning the house, picking up toys, putting away laundry, cooking dinner, or whatever other chores need to be done. When the family gets home, we can all spend the entire evening together instead of spending it hurrying to get house chores done before bedtime.
- Watch the total daily hour count: I am working on a project with team members across the world right now. This means I work CRAZY hours. It is not unusual for me to be online at midnight, 4am, 9am, noon, and 6pm… all in the same day. That sounds like one long day, huh? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. That’s the job. When it IS possible, I try to add in comp time. If I know my team won’t be needing anything from me in the afternoon and I have been online since 3am, I will take off early and take my kids to the park or catch up on other things I need to get done. I will do the same thing if I know I need to be online late for meetings as well. I will take a long “dinner break” in the evening and get back online after the little ones in bed. This still results in a long day for me, but it maintains a certain amount of “normalcy” for everyone else.
- Take breaks for you: When I have to be online for meetings across time zones at 3 or 4am, I take a break and hit up a local yoga class at 6am. I have a daily 7:30 meeting; so I have just enough time to run to yoga and be back on the conference call. Doing something relaxing in the middle of the morning helps me to reset. My work day almost starts over after a refreshing workout. Taking a long lunch to let my mind rest will help me to reset again for any afternoon meetings I need to attend.
My Work/Life Balance is very much focused around my kids and family, because that is what I enjoy spending my free time doing. Even if your free time is spent walking your dog or traveling or playing sports, you can still use some of these tricks to utilize your time in a way that allows you to devote the time you want and need to the things outside of work. What other tips do you have for maintaining the balance in the middle of a busy work schedule?