It seems as if everyone is an expert about something these days. Whether it’s a type of programming language or how to talk with clients. While I don’t consider myself to be an expert about work life balance, I can offer practical tips, that are based on experience, that will help you along the way.
This is part three of a three-part series on work life balance. Let’s first revisit what this series is composed of. The focuses are:
- What is work life balance?
- What are the warning signs that the paths are starting to cross?
- Tips to help you maintain a quality work life balance.
In part one, we talked about what work life balance is and some statistics and facts around the subject. In part two, we looked at the warning the signs that show that the paths between work and life are starting to cross. Today, we will look at some tips that will help you to establish a healthy work life balance.
How Can We Maintain A Quality Work Life Balance?
We’re all going to face a time in our lives and careers when the live between work and life becomes unhealthy. It can start in the form of a responding to a light night email or taking a phone call while out to dinner.
When is it enough? When will we draw the line?
Let’s look at some practical tips that I have found to be helpful and maintaining a quality work life balance.
Tip #1: Listen
We should constantly listening. But what should we be listening to?
Listen to the ones around you
Your family, friends, and even co-workers should have the freedom to let you know that there is unbalance. Chances are, they will recognize this before you ever do.
Listen to Your Body
Your body is designed to warn you when something is off. When we overwork, our body will let us know. For me, this would come in the form of being physically exhausted. I’m the type person who can thrive off of six good hours of sleep a night. I normally do not toss and turn. My wife says that once my head hits the pillow at night, I’m out (She’s right and I’ve always been that way). But when I overwork, my body needs more time to recharge. This usually comes on the weekends where I have found myself sleeping twelve hours between Friday night and Saturday morning and still taking a nap later in the day (I never take naps).
Your physical warning signs can be different. Whatever is may be, listen! Don’t ignore your body, because at some point, it will shut down.
Listen to Your Mind
Your mind will stop speaking to you as you see it slowly shut down. I’m a front-end developer. My job is to write code and think about how the decisions I am making will affect the user. If my mind is not able to process at its highest potential, I will not be effective at my job. But this goes further than just work. If my mind cannot process as it should, I can’t be mentally available to my wife, friends, and others that are a part of my life.
The mind, along with the body, when not receiving the rest they require, will cease to function as they should.
We need to stop and listen!
Tip #2: Provide Separation and Create Boundaries
This tip may lend more to people who work from home as I do, but a dedicated work space for your work area is vital for success. This area should not dual purpose. Your office should not also serve as your location to escape to when a football game is on. But, we should not let the kitchen table become our place of business. We do not need to allow the living room sofa be the place where we conduct most of our business. When I go into my office, I’m going to work.
The second part of this tip refers to creating boundaries. When you work from home, boundaries can be stepped on so easily. And most of the time, it’s not intentional. While working from home does allow the flexibility to stop and engage in a quick conversation with your significant other or to play a quick game of hide and go seek with your children, there has to be boundaries.
“People who violate your boundaries are thieves. They steal time that doesn’t belong to them.”
– Elizabeth Grace Saunders
In most cases people don’t know or understand that they are crossing a boundary when it happens. We have to honestly say that this is our own fault because we never communicated this to them. On the other hand, there are those who are boundary breakers, and no matter what we say or do, they will never respect them. In those cases, we have to take a hard stance. This is the case for those who work from home or commute to an office daily. Is that phone call or text message that important at the moment?
Tip #3: Unplug
One of the hardest parts of working from home is learning to walk away from my computer so that I can focus on my family. The way that I do this is unplug. I turn it off. I don’t bask in the glow of my office computer monitors when I am not working. Each day when I finish work, I completely shut my computer down. This keeps the enticement at a minimal. Another thing that I do is I don’t check my work email when I am not working. In most cases, if there is an emergency that would require my attention, my team knows how to contact me.
Tip #4: Avoid Distractions
Avoiding distractions may be one the hardest things that we have to do today. We live in a connected world, where not only do we have instance access to anyone or anything, others have instant access to us. Let’s face it, social media, while it can be very enjoyable, is a distraction. It’s distraction not only at work but at home. There is a reason that a lot of companies blog access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others on their network. The escape around that is your phone (which is another distraction in itself). When my wife and I go out on dates, we put our phones away. One text message, tweet, or Facebook message can quickly derail and ruin the time we have set aside to spend with each other.
Tip #5: Be Present and Engaged
We need to be present. We need to be engaged. When I’m working, I need to be giving it my all. That’s what 10up employs me to do. The expectation is that I write great code and craft amazing user experiences for our clients and the people who use their websites. When I’m with my family, my attention should be on them. I should be engaged in the conversation. If I’m out with friends watching a game at the bar, I need to be present.
We need to experience our experience!
Tip #6: Have Fun!
Is it going to hurt you to have a little fun in your life? Go outside, take in the fresh air. Go on a walk. Watch a movie. Do something you enjoy. If you enjoy writing code, and that’s your career, please find another hobby! You may think that sounds crazy, but I have met many developers at conferences and Meetups who are programmers or developers by trade and they spend all of their free time writing code.
While some of the information in this series may not be new to you, can you honestly say that you are doing a good job of providing separation between work and life? That’s the end goal of this series. I want you to be aware that if you don’t enjoy life, it will pass you by. If you don’t enjoy work, you will fall down the hole of being unsatisfied. Let’s become better family members, friends, employees, and overall better people. The only thing that is at stake is everything!