12 Ways to Make Work-Life Balance a Reality—and Not Just a Buzzword
Your team looks to you as a leader, and most days, burnout is simply not an option. After all, the responsibility for being successful falls on your shoulders—and that can mean serious pressure.
So how do you find a simple work-life balance that allows you to take charge, but also helps you to maintain your sanity? In this post, we’ll share some ideas on how to do just that.
How to Identify Burnout
Psychology Today defines burnout as a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of ineffectiveness, cynicism, and detachment. Ever been there? It’s not a very nice place to be.
When we reach a point of burnout, the effects seep out into employee relationships, business decisions—and often, home life, too.
Here are 12 simple work-life balance tips that will help you thrive as an entrepreneur in 2016:
1. Turn Off Push Notifications
If you feel shackled to your computer or smartphone and are incessantly checking your email, your brain never truly has time to rest and recover.
Plus, ever seen someone at a restaurant who’s totally ignoring his or her significant other and is tapping away on the phone instead? It’s more than a little rude.
During non-working hours, turn off notifications from:
- Social media accounts
Taking this small step lets you be more in control of your time (and a better participant in your relationships.)
Managers often have a do-it-all mentality—which is honorable—but not always good for work-life balance.
This tendency is fairly common: London business professor John Hunt found that only 30% of managers felt they were good at delegating, while 33% of subordinates felt their managers had strong delegation skills. This means only one of every ten managers knows how to properly parcel out tasks.
Here are a few tips for delegating effectively:
- Identify the tasks that could be re-assigned
- Consider which team members have the proper experience and skills to execute the tasks
- Propose the tasks as an opportunity for increased responsibility and growth within a role
- Discuss task objectives, time frame, and requirements
- Be patient and reward a job well done
- Delegating can be a simple way to show your team members you trust them enough to handle new responsibilities
3. Put a Time Window on Responses
Whether it’s an email, a phone call, or an employee question—make it clear that you will respond to questions and requests within a specific time frame.
For some, this simply means a 24 to 48 hour window, while others opt to only address questions during a specific time frame each day (like 9 AM to 10 AM) This will keep you from rushing to respond while also letting others know when they can expect to hear back from you.
4. Schedule Vacations
Yes, you read that correctly. You need to schedule your vacations.
Think of it like any other work task: At least once a year, you need to schedule a time slot of two or more days when you can get away from the daily grind and decompress with your loved ones.
If you don’t literally put it on your calendar (even if you don’t have the details yet), your schedule is constantly at the mercy of external events and deadlines.
5. Start a Journal
Journaling can help you to reflect on your work or to visually see what you’ve accomplished in a day, but it can also be a way for your mind to prepare for or wind down from a hectic day.
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, advocates for journaling in the morning. He says, “I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me.”
Setting aside as little as five minutes each day to get your thoughts on paper can be an excellent exercise in relaxation, finding balance, and reflection.
6. Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique, developed in the 1980s by entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, is a tactic that can help you boost productivity by working in short, 25-minute sprints.
During your 25-minute work sessions, you’ll work without interruptions or breaks. Once the timer goes off, you take at least a three to five minute break where you get up and move around. If you’ve taken four pomodoros in a row, you then take a longer, 15 to 30 minute rest.
This exercise in metered productivity can help you make a conscious effort at boosting efficiency in your workflow.
7. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is not only good for you physically, but the American Psychological Association found that it also has ties to helping the human brain cope with stress, depression, and anxiety.
Research showed that exercise causes a release of norepinephrine, which is a neuromodulator that helps the brain handle stress.
8. Monitor and Analyze Your Activity
For managers who want a clear picture of balance, these relatively low-cost tools can paint an accurate picture and help you get back on track with healthier habits.
9. Set Working Hours—and Stick to Them
As a manager, your workdays can vary based on the number of crises you handle on any given day. But setting normal working hours is a simple step you can take to ensure you’re getting enough work time in while still making it home for dinner.
Make your set working hours clear to your whole team, and stick to arriving and leaving on schedule. Over time, your employees will come to understand that they can only reach you during that specific time window.
10. Cut the Caffeine
Many managers lean heavily on a hot pot of coffee each morning that’s jam-packed with caffeine. They’re not alone, either. Over 83% of Americans reach for coffee to jump-start their days.
But caffeine is a drug that can cause anxiety, shakiness, and general unpleasantness. Scientists recommend no more than 400 mg per day, which is about three eight-ounce cups of coffee.
11. Start a Consistent Wake Up Time
Without a regular wake up time, the body never has a chance to establish a natural circadian rhythm—which is a fancy name for patterns of our internal clocks.
And hitting the snooze button can have worse effects than you think. Waking up abruptly (say, after realizing it’s 15 minutes later than you thought it was) is hard on both mind and body, as researchers noted it throws both into overdrive to compensate for lost time.
If you want to gradually work on waking up earlier, try setting your alarm for just five minutes earlier each day until you reach the desired time.
12. Make a Daily List
Creating a daily to-do list ordered by “Must Do Today” to “Can Wait ’Til Tomorrow” will help you get organized mentally. Throughout the day, you’ll have the satisfaction of swiping your pen through items on your list, and you will know what items need moved to the next day’s.
Finding a simple work-life balance takes time and effort, but can dramatically impact your happiness and overall success.
More From Inc.
- 7 Secrets to Solving the Work-Life Balance Conundrum
- 3 Practical Ways to Avoid Job Burnout
- The Surprising Way to Reduce Your Stress Levels
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