“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” ~ Arianna Huffington
A hectic work schedule, increased responsibility, new technology, and the need to read and respond to a daily deluge of email and voicemail place huge demands on your work life. With all this pressure, you might feel as if your work is a prison that you can never escape. More and more keeps coming at you. Your family also needs and demands your attention—and you don’t want to miss out on extracurricular activities, helping the kids with homework, and family time. How can you manage to do it all—without burning out?
In many workplaces, employees receive assignments from multiple people. You may find yourself pulled in various directions without understanding how to cope with the expectations of multiple people. Work/life balance might seem unattainable.
According to the World Happiness Report, work/life balance plays a central role in happiness. In other words, if you’re always stressed and rushed, it’s hard to feel truly happy. And yet the U.S. ranks 30 out of 38 nations in terms of work/life balance, according to a recent study by Family Living Today and NowSourcing.
Over a five-year span, one of my clients in the biotechnology field kept moving up through the ranks, from manager to senior manager to VP. His responsibilities and the number of decisions he had to make drastically increased. While he needed to make decisions quickly, it became more and more difficult to make the best ones. To thrive in this role, he needed to develop new skills for dealing with a never-ending stream of demands. He had to determine his most important priorities, along with when to say yes and when to say no. After he took the time to pinpoint his big-picture priorities and outline the stepping stones toward those goals, he grew confident in making bold decisions that would help the company achieve its objectives.
Whether you’ve been promoted or are just trying to cope with the relentless pressures of the modern work environment, learning new ways to handle it all will help you achieve that important balance. You need to begin with yourself, changing the way you think about the demands placed on you. Below are four work-life balance tips that will help you to follow through on what’s most important while not overloading yourself.
4 Tips for Balancing Work and Life
1.Set realistic goals.
Do you set lofty goals in the belief that even if you don’t meet them, you’ll still achieve impressive results? That sets you up to feel perpetually behind and always strapped for time. Reevaluate your goals, objectives, and timeframe, making them more realistic where needed. By doing so, you’ll make your workload more manageable. Determine for yourself how you’ll measure your success, too—that way, you’re not always trying to measure yourself by others’ standards (and obsessing about what those standards might be).
2. Underpromise and overdeliver.
You’ll feel great when you send that report to your boss two days early rather than struggling to get it in by deadline. Underpromising is a key secret of those employees who always seem to finish their work on time, without struggling. If you have trouble evaluating the true amount of time a project will require, try this strategy: Take the amount of time you were tempted to promise, then add on one-third of that time to give yourself the full span of time that you need. You’ll find balance in your working life as you use this tip, and that will give you more time to relax with your family!
3. Maintain a strong support network.
Communicating often with family and close friends about your priorities—and how much you value them—will help them understand your level of availability. They’ll continue supporting you when you consistently find small ways to show that you care, like making time for a lunch date with an old friend. In turn, you’ll reap the benefits of having strong social connections even when you have limited spare time.
4. Decide on family priorities.
Talk with your family to figure out which events and parts of your daily routine should be your highest priority as family time. Do you want to make sure to eat dinner together every day, always read the kids a bedtime story, or have a date with your partner once a week? Establishing routines gives everyone family time that they can count on, showing you that you can always depend on each other.
These tips for reaching work-life balance are a real game-changer, and you’ll soon find yourself with more energy and less overwhelm. Communicate with your boss—or bosses—to let them know that you’re working to improve your work/life balance. Emphasize that you feel your efforts will make you a more effective and productive employee by allowing you to better focus and prioritize. If they’re wise, they’ll support you in this endeavor—and encourage others to do the same!