It can be tough to differentiate work time and personal time, especially since we are always accessible via our cell phones. Because of this and the ease of working across time zones virtually, there can be greater pressure to work overtime to finish important projects. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a remote employee, or an executive, sometimes the idea is that since you can work anywhere, you could or should be working all the time. We all know that’s not ideal; you can quickly feel burned out. Extensive work hours are associated with a higher risk of anxiety and depression, to name just two negative consequences. Here are three tips to take charge and establish greater work-life balance.
Set boundaries: Consider how accessible you are willing to be at different times of the day, especially outside of your work hours, and stick to a schedule. For example, your co-worker may have an idea at 10 PM at night, so she writes you an email. Decide whether you respond at those hours or not, depending on your job, role, industry, and the project you’re working on. Be pro-active about making these decisions versus just blindly responding every time, or not. This is also important during weekends or a personal trip. Setting boundaries allows you to recharge your mind and body by taking a break. The real rest happens when you're not taking phone calls, checking email, or even thinking about work. This helps you be more creative and have a fresh perspective when you do get back to work.
Identify when you are at your best: and plan to work on difficult projects and tasks during that time of day. That will enable you to be more efficient yet still get down time. If you work on a team, consider making this a topic of discussion for everyone on the team. Try to plan tasks and projects based on when everyone feels their best. While this may not always be possible, consider alternating times on projects so everyone will get some down time. This will contribute to a more positive but also productive, work environment.
Take a break! Too many of us only take quick breaks every once in a while, or none at all. It’s important to take breaks and even a lunch hour. Take advantage of the settings on your phone during these times; set it to “Do Not Disturb” or put it into airplane mode to really disconnect. And if you live close enough to home, you may find that you can go home during your lunch hour periodically to really get away.
Think about what changes you would like to make in these areas and, if appropriate or possible (choose wisely!), talk to your team and/or your superiors about the improvements you would like to make and the results that will be achieved for the company in terms of your productivity and creativity by doing so. Identify one action step in the next week to implement and then check in with yourself quarterly to analyze how you are feeling.