In today’s always accessible world, where the line between our personal and professional lives is often blurred, having work/life balance can seem nearly impossible. Yet finding a way to enjoy both is crucial to avoiding burnout and is essential to our relationships and our overall health and happiness, says Phoenix, Arizona-based productivity expert Anne McGurty.
While work/life balance means something different to each of us, McGurty offered five tips to help you draw a line that’s right for you—tips that McGurty believes can also help you make 2015 your most productive year yet.
- Work your values. “Just because you can do it all doesn’t mean that you should. We each have a finite amount of awesome in our brain,” says McGurty. “To make sure you have bandwidth for what matters most to you, prioritize and organize. Decide which responsibilities and relationships are most meaningful, and then use your calendar to actively block out time to ensure you meet those personal and professional commitments.” One clever tip McGurty suggests is syncing your work and personal calendars so you won’t necessarily prioritize one over the other. “That way, you can focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.”
- Focus on first things first. The battle for focus is one that most of us wage daily, yet not all hours are created equal. For some people, the morning is the most productive time; for others, the afternoon is when they hit their stride. This means how you start the day often determines how the rest of it will play out. “Instead of letting the day dictate your schedule, take control and schedule your time according to your energy level and needs. That way you can dedicate 100 percent of your peak performance hours to the tasks that are most important,” says McGurty. The clearer you are on what’s important, the easier it will be to focus and the more time you’ll have to spend productively at work or relaxing with family and friends.
- Don’t confuse urgent with important. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important, and vice versa. As you organize your tasks for the day, ask yourself if what you’re focused on is worth the effort. That way you can avoid getting caught up in the fire drills that can put you behind at work and cut into your personal time.
- Be a tech ninja. University of California-Irvine researchers Gloria Mark and Victor Gonzalez found that it typically takes workers more than 20 minutes to resume a task once they are interrupted. Turn off automated email, Twitter and Facebook alerts and silence your phone (unless you use these tools to generate business) whenever you’re doing something that requires your full attention. Instead, schedule a few times each day to check and respond to emails, texts and phone calls. That way you’ll avoid responding to other people’s needs at the expense of your own.
- Take baby steps. If you find your work/life balance is anything but balanced, McGurty suggests making small changes to introduce more personal time into your schedule. For example, if you find yourself feeling tired all the time, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight than you did the night before. “Once you realize that the world won’t stop spinning on its axis if you power down your laptop at night, you’re likely to get the sleep you need. That can help increase your productivity, creativity and well-being.”
The most important thing to remember in the quest for a healthier work/life balance is that there’s no such thing as perfection. There will be nights when you miss your son’s school concert or have to postpone dinner with your college friends because of work. Likewise, there will be days when you’ll skip a work meeting to bring a family member to the doctor. What matters is that you create a personal and professional life that helps you feel happy, accomplished and healthy overall.
Source: Northwestern Mutual