As a manager, executive, or the head of your own business, it can sometimes feel impossible to separate yourself from work and find time for you. If you’re a parent or caregiver, the challenge only gets worse, as time spent outside of the office is rarely time spent on yourself.
If worklife balance is something that you struggle with, the first thing to do is a bit of self-assessment. It may feel like you simply have too much on your plate and there’s no way you can make space for “a life,” whatever that is – but often after a bit of reflection and planning, you’ll find that making space for yourself is possible. Not only that, when you learn to prioritize work-life balance, you’ll find yourself practicing better leadership and contributing to a healthier workplace culture.
If you know you need better balance in your life, start by making some lists. What are the things that you NEED to get done at work? What are the things you spend the most time on at work? When do you feel your time being wasted at work? And what are the things on your plate at work that you can take off?
Often when we write things down, the list becomes less scary. It’s easier to see how pieces can fit together and what the real priorities are. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when constantly being confronted with what’s urgent, so figure out what’s really important to you and how you can make time for it.
One way to do that is to figure out where your work time is being wasted. Maybe you have phone calls everyday that always go long. Or maybe you have meetings that eat up huge chunks of time. Consider making that next meeting a walking or standing meeting so everyone feels encouraged to speed things along. And at the start of that next phone call, let the person politely know that you only have twenty minutes and need to get down to business.
Then look for things on your schedule that you can legitimately drop. Maybe you can delegate the task. Maybe your assistant can help you out. Or maybe it just doesn’t need to get done at all.
Next, it’s time to take a look at your personal life and the things that you wish you had more time for. Make some more lists. Figure out what’s most important to you. And also figure out what you actually spend your time doing outside of work. Do you end up on the couch bingeing shows? Or maybe you habitually spend your weekends running errands and doing laundry?
If you have a vice, identify it and break the habit. If you have too many demands on your time, again, look for what you can outsource and what you can cut. Maybe it’s time to hire that maid and start using that laundry service. Remember that your time has value.
The next step is scheduling time for yourself. Literally add “walk around the office park” or “desk yoga” to your calendar if you need to. When you get home, actually turn off your phone if you can and be present. Before the weekend arrives, decide what you want to do and make a plan so that your free time doesn’t wind up slipping away from you.
Finally, if you’re in a position of power at work, don’t be afraid to be the person who sets the example and says “no.” Prioritizing your mental and physical health over work can feel like a huge sacrifice in the moment, but you’ll thank yourself for it down the line. And learning how and when to say “no” is an important skill that will only make you a better, stronger leader.