If balancing work and family is a challenge for you, you’re not alone.
Eighty percent of Americans claim that balancing work and home life as a key factor in finding a job or career. Yet, in a survey of 38 countries, the United States came in at number 30 for work-life balance.
How can you rise above this trend and achieve a balance between your career and your home life? In this article, we’ll share some essential tips for making this happen.
Some of these are simple to apply. Others will take work. But the net payoff to your health, your relationships, and your overall happiness should be worth the effort.
Set Definite Boundaries on Your Time
Balancing work and family is all about mastering your time. This starts with setting definite times to:
- Go to bed.
- Get out of bed.
- Leave for work.
- Leave work for the day.
If you don’t have these boundaries clearly set, you’ll default to whatever is most urgent. This is why author Stephen R. Covey cites “putting first things first,” as one of the seven habits of highly effective people.
Covey claims that most people don’t put first things first because they’re too busy putting urgent things first. He also explains how to tell the difference between urgent things and important things.
For example, your relationship with your family is probably the most important thing in your life. But, there are dozens of other urgent (yet less important) things competing for your time.
Setting definite boundaries on your time helps you get out of urgent mode so you can focus on what’s really important.
Guard Your Most Productive Hours
For most people, morning is the peak productive time. This makes it the best time to get your most important work done.
Unfortunately, morning is also a prime time for other people to interrupt you. Many of these interruptions are urgent, but not nearly as important as what you’re working on.
The only way to break this pattern is to form the habit of protecting your most productive hours.
For example, make it a point to close your email and turn off any instant messaging, texting or chat applications during your peak productive hours.
Set up an auto-response email to let people know that you don’t check or respond to email during these hours.
If you expect incoming calls, emails or messages which demand immediate attention, start training someone to handle these for you.
One of the primary productivity killers is distraction and interruption, so make it a priority to set aside two to four hours when you can work free of distraction.
Get into the Habit of Quieting Your Mind
Your mood affects your entire workday. Spend the first 15 minutes of your day in meditation, prayer, or something which helps you quiet your mind. It can be 15 minutes reading or just listening to music with your headphones on.
Morning exercise can also get you in the right mental and psychological state. The goal is to do something that helps you get control of your state as early as possible.
Stress and anxiety are productivity killers. They also put you in a mode of hypervigilance, making it impossible to switch out of “work mode” at the end of the workday.
Get into the habit of quieting your mind, and watch this anxiety decrease dramatically.
Most importantly, carve out some time for simple recreations. For example, people who live in master planned communities have more options for enjoying their off time, without having to travel or spend extra money.
If you don’t live in a place like this, find some interesting or relaxing things to do at home or nearby.
Stand Up to Overbearing Bosses, Clients and/or Vendors
Sixty percent of Americans claim that a “bad/overbearing boss” has the most negative impact on their work/life balance. The same thing can be true for an overbearing vendor, client or business partner. Overbearing people might overstep your personal boundaries by:
- Texting or emailing during non-work hours and demanding an instant response.
- Dumping last minute projects/requests on you and demanding unreasonable timelines for delivery.
- Creating unnecessary workplace drama, making it impossible for you “leave work at work.”
In many cases, your boss, client, co-worker or employee might not even know they’re creating these problems. They likely have a habit of giving in to urgency and expect everyone around them to do the same.
This is why you have to be the one to bring discipline and boundaries to your professional relationships.
How to Negotiate Your New Work Habits With Other People
Once you’ve established clear time boundaries, and carved some interruption-free time in the morning, you’re halfway there.
The hardest step will then be to get other people in your life (friends, family, clients, bosses, coworkers etc.) to respect your new habits.
To make this easier, tell your boss, or client, what the benefit will be to them if they respect your time.
For example, if your boss is complaining about the quality of your work, let him know that you can “serve him better,” if you work on fewer projects so that you can give them your very best.
Let them know which urgent tasks/projects are taking priority over important ones and ask them to help you prioritize.
Let people know that you can serve them better if you can work interruption-free during your peak hours. If you tell people how respecting your boundaries will benefit them, they’re more likely to comply with your wishes.
Final Thoughts on Balancing Work and Family Life
Balancing work and family might seem impossible right now. But remember, just about everything that comes naturally to you was once very hard.
Learning to drive was hard. Learning to read and write was hard. Even simple habits like walking, eating and going to the bathroom were once hard for us to learn.
But if you start with small steps, you’ll find that balancing work and family comes just as naturally as any other habit.
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