Ten Steps to Mastering Work-Life Balance

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

January 02, 2017

Technology allows you to work anywhere any time. Laptops, smartphones, and hotspots blur the line between work and home. We never have to be in one place at one time thanks to the internet.

Work is no longer just work now that you have access to social media, news articles, blogs, etc. Maybe you’re reading this at work right now.

Home is no longer just home now that you can log in to work or check email. Are you thinking about that project? No? Check your email. You will be.

This often feels like multitasking. People are praised for multitasking, when it actually makes them less productive. You can never be fully present if your mind is always in the other place.

It’s difficult to be mindful of one activity at a time. Here are some of our best tips to master work-life balance:

1. Set a schedule.

A custom schedule is your best ally. Not everyone works best from 8 to 5. Some spend two hours of their morning staring at their computers. Who is that helping?

Know what times you’re most productive and use that to your advantage. If your schedule is consistent, others will know what they can expect from you and this will also keep you from saying to yourself, “I’ll work on this later when I get home. I’m not focused right now.”

2. Get your priorities straight.

Learn what’s important to you. Write down your priorities—having dinner with your family, reading, going to the gym, meal prepping, what have you.

Make promises to yourself. Maybe you find yourself missing dinner at home, or constantly canceling social plans, add them to your calendar to commit yourself. For example, set a recurring appointment at 6 pm to read a chapter of your current book. Can you meet me for a drink? “Sorry, I have an appointment!”

3. Create a work space.

Don’t work where you eat. If you are attempting to work at your kitchen table, just stop now. The issue with working at the table or in bed is that there are no boundaries. You need one place in your house where you work. Only work!

When you sit down at your workstation, your brain will tell you that it’s time to be productive. Likewise, working in the kitchen tells your brain “you’re supposed to be working, but this is so comfortable, look at that crack on the counter, I should call someone about that, should I make a sandwich?”

4. Make a stop-doing-it list.

A useful tool for work-life balance is a stop-doing-it list. Make a list of things you shouldn’t do. Hang it in your workspace where you can see it. This will help keep you accountable so that you can make it home sooner. You could have one at home too!

For example, your work list may say “don’t browse Pinterest” and your home list may say “don’t check your email.”

5. Set goals.

Setting goals for work and home allow you to focus your time on your priorities. Focus is the key word. If your goal is to learn a second language one day, you might not get there. On the contrary, if you’ve written down a goal to learn a new language in 2017 with a list of action steps, you’re on your way!

6. Take all of your PTO days.

You’re at work roughly 40 hours a week. During that time, you become invested in the work you do, your clients, and your coworkers. It’s difficult to take your PTO in times when you feel you’ll be letting someone down.

Look at it this way, you’ll be more productive at work if you aren’t thinking of all of the things you could be doing at home or on vacation. Schedule a few days of PTO every few months. Enjoy your time off!

7. Unplug.

Americans are addicted to convenience. Enabling your phone to receive emails seems like a good idea; however, emails get in the way after you’ve finally pried yourself from your computer. Work should not be able to easily take away your downtime. Turn off your notifications as soon as you walk out the door.

8. Make time for yourself.

Read a book. Meditate. Go fishing. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, make sure that you make time to do it. Again, you work roughly 40 hours a week! That’s a lot of your life dedicated to a business. You have a limited amount of time for yourself. Use it wisely.

9. Observe.

When you find your mind wandering, observe. Take this literally. Look around the room and take a mental note of your surroundings. For example, “the light is shining in, the leather on the chair is ripped, there are four chairs in this room.” This exercise is part of practicing “one mindfulness.” It will help you bring your thoughts back to the now.

10. Have daily rituals.

Daily rituals prepare your brain for what’s happening next. Make a work ritual and a home ritual. For example, make tea every morning at work before you sit down. As soon as you get home, have a small glass of wine. Replace that with whatever you’d like to incorporate into your day. Your brain needs queues sometimes.

Work is important, but never let it drain your life. Your home life is just as important, in spite of what your employer would have you believe. Be present wherever you are. What do you do to help balance your work and home lives? Look for next week’s networking challenge to boost your new year connections!

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