For employees and entrepreneurs alike, time is among the most valuable commodities. We live in a golden age of multitasking, which can make it particularly difficult to separate work from personal life.
It may seem like finishing up at home what you couldn’t in the office will take the pressure off later, but it’s actually counterproductive; the overlap of work, family and personal time tends to create a stress cycle that leads to poorer job performance. What’s more, on average our paychecks are the same or even smaller for all the extra labor.
Sounds like you need a vacation, right? If you’re taking your work home with you, you can start a mini-vacation every night by following these work/life balance rules:
Assess Your Work Agenda
We all have a list of things we’d like to get done, and then there’s the list of things we’re most likely to get done. While it’s noble to set high standards for ourselves, it’s best to combine them with realistic time frames. Based on previous experience, how long will it actually take you to write that report? A pragmatic approach to time management is an integral step toward maintaining an equilibrium between your job and your private life.
Power Down Your Electronics at Home
Well, maybe not all of them...sometimes a good, old-fashioned Netflix binge is the best way to end the day. But the oft-cited recommendation to unplug is meant to protect you from the temptation to answer work emails, phone calls, and texts. Even hitting the ignore button on a business call can put your brain in career mode. If you need your cellphone on, try creating a specific ringtone for job-related contacts so that when it rings, you aren’t trained to instantly wonder if it’s work calling.
Limit Email Time
The Mayo Clinic staff suggest checking your email no more than three times per day, and no earlier than late morning. Apparently, checking your email before doing anything else will hinder your productivity as you’ll spend more time accommodating others than attending to your own checklist.
Choose Your Lunch Wisely
Eating right helps you stay focused and task-oriented, which is crucial for getting your work done during office hours. If you’re falling asleep from a blood sugar crash after scarfing that donut instead of a well-rounded lunch, you’ll cost yourself more time in the end. It pays to give your body the building blocks it needs for success.
Accustom Others to Your Schedule
This goes for family, friends, colleagues, bosses and clients: make a regular schedule for work and personal hours and stick to it. You want to create boundaries between the different facets of your life by conditioning others to expect you to be unavailable sometimes.
The key is consistency: between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., you don’t answer friends’ (non-emergency) texts, and after 5 p.m., you’re away from all office-related things until the following workday at 9 a.m. Of course, this doesn’t mean there can’t be some wiggle room, but how much is up to you. Stick to the work and home schedules you set and you’ll have less interruptions and better focus on each.
The sooner you implement an action plan, the better, but if you’re already well-established at your workplace, talk to your boss and/or team about your needs. A healthy professional community is supportive of its members.
Stephanie Hersh writes, reads, and hits the road in search of novel culinary experiences. An avid Belgian beer fan, she dreams of drinking gueuze in Belgium on a foodie trip around the world.