Work-life balance means something different to everyone, but we all need it to be the best we can both at work and our personal lives.
Most of us are familiar with the challenge of “living to work” versus “working to live.” It’s the idea that some of us are highly motivated about our jobs, while others quite literally toil their life away.
For me, it’s been a long and painful journey to arrive at “working to live.” Before I found my groove as a professional writer, I spent a number of years in dead-end jobs, mindlessly driving towards my idea of what success should look like. Whether it was a pay raise, a new title, or more recognition from my manager, I’d go to unhealthy extremes to get the job done.
That meant working overtime, and on weekends. Never taking sick days, or time off. I’d say “yes” to every assignment. I was proud of my undying commitment to an underpaying job. And, worst of all, I couldn’t contemplate a life outside of the struggle.
Needless to say, when my manager forced me to use up a chunk of my unused vacation days, I wasn’t sure what to do. How would I spend my time if I wasn’t toiling away at work?
It was a kick in the butt—but necessary. Over the next few weeks, I was able to glimpse life at a slower pace. My morning coffee wasn’t a jolt to my system, but a deliberate moment to enjoy the peace and quiet. I had lunch with a friend. I finally made it to that hot yoga class. I even had the time to read a book before bed.
By the end of my vacation I realized one very important thing: I desperately needed a better work-life balance. I didn’t have to be unemployed, or wait until retirement, to have these moments. I simply needed to shift my priorities.
Today, I don’t have to take two-week-long break to do these things. Instead, I’ve learned to schedule my time better. Now, I work to support the real living I do outside of my job. Best of all, having balance in my day-to-day routine has helped me thrive at my career more than I ever did before.
Work-life balance means something different to everyone, but we all need it to be the best we can both at work and our personal lives. Here are some tips from some of Minutes top contributors on how they’ve been able to create work-life balance.
— Nicole Danna
Let people know you’re open to last-minute meetings. (Heidi Zak, CEO of ThirdLove).
“When you’re a busy executive, planning ahead of time becomes second nature. Which is why the very thought of last-minute plans might seem like an impossibility.
As you grow older, start a family, and get deeper into your career, that mentality needs to change. Everyone is busy. Schedules are always hectic. And time slots open up when you least expect them. I’m always sending people last-minute invites, so I have no problem with getting them.
If you want to maintain strong friendships when life gets crazy, then you have to be open to both sending and receiving invites whenever you can. You’ll always feel better after getting together with a good friend—even if it’s on short notice.”
Don’t make yourself available on the weekends. (Sami Rusani, CRO of Shipchain).
“When you’re running a business, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. And you’re likely going to be working more than 40 hours a week. But there are ways to do it without running yourself into the ground.
One of the easiest ways to create balance no matter how hard you’re working is to take the weekend off—or, at the very least, Sunday.
When you’re constantly available, people come to expect that, and you’re going to find yourself in a vicious circle. But having a regular and consistent day of rest allows you to plan for productive time off the same way you plan your work week. It also gives you the peace of mind to relax and recharge so that when you do return to work, you’re able to give it your full attention.
Don’t worry about what others might think about your time off, or who you might let down. You’ll not only feel less pressure, you might all find people respect you more when you set reasonable boundaries.”
Take time away from technology. (Brandon Metcalf, CEO & Founder of Place Technology).
“Whenever you have free time, try to avoid your smartphone and laptop. This is one of the most powerful steps you can take to draw boundaries between work and personal time.
I encourage everyone to set aside some time every day to escape from technology. It provides an opportunity to reflect and focus on yourself. It also allows you to experience some peace just by being more present and in the moment.
When you take time away from technology you can focus your attention on healthier activities. Go to the gym, take your dog for a walk, or spend time with friends and family. Basically, anything that lets you clear your head so you can get back to work re-engaged and recharged.”
To help see the larger picture you’re working towards, make friends with your future self. (Praveen Tipirneni, CEO of Morphic Therapeutic Inc.).
“When you’re always caught up in the current moment, you can miss out on the things that enrich your life. Skipping a workout, not going to happy hour with our friends, waiting until next week to call a relative—these are all habits your current self usually prefers to do. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain friendships, what you’d rather do in the moment is often the direct counter to your stated goals.
To counteract this, try stepping outside the present moment to picture the ideal life you’re working towards.
The easiest way to do this is to envision your future self. You can even create a Photoshopped older version of yourself as a reminder that there’s a future self you need to take care of. From there, work on setting aside time to get to know that person and mapping out the steps you can take to bring that vision to life.”