By Christal Bemont
When I started managing my company’s fastest-growing business unit, I began spending more time working at the office or meeting prospects and customers. It was thrilling to be at the heart of such a dynamic time at my company, but it also meant I spent less time doing the things I love, like having dinner with my family or volunteering at the local food bank.
While we should all find fulfillment in our jobs, having time to recharge is vital. It’s how we bring our best selves to work and stay balanced. But in our increasingly mobile world, I found achieving the traditional notion of “work-life balance” nearly impossible. It’s all too easy to fire off an email that comes in at 8:30 at night rather than waiting to tackle it amid the meetings and to-dos I have the following morning.
Women in particular cite work-life balance as one of the top three challenges in the workplace. LinkedIn also reports three quarters of women start their career with every intention of reaching the executive level. This same drive propelled me to where I am today, but it wasn’t without lessons along the way around how to juggle priorities.
Jeff Bezos’ stance that we should stop seeing work and personal time as mutually exclusive struck a chord with me. Instead of being trade-offs, they should complement each other. So, instead of trying to create personal time separate from work, I’ve focused on bringing the activities I love into my day job. Based on what I’ve learned, here are five ways to achieve greater harmony in our work and home lives:
1. Savor that lunch hour
Instead of eating lunch at your desk to crank out that extra hour of work, take lunch as an opportunity to recharge–attend a nearby yoga class, read a book outside, or even stay at your desk and reflect on your latest accomplishments. Start small to make it achievable, adding one standing hour a week for “me” time. Mark it on the calendar and gradually build up to the amount of time that works for you.
You don’t have to tell your colleagues what it’s for, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they consider your new schedule when arranging meetings and deadlines. The pressure of impending deadlines often serves as a roadblock for taking a true lunch hour, but those are the moments you need it most. It’s difficult for a tired brain to develop new ideas or solutions—hold yourself to taking a break and return with a fresh perspective. Better yet, share this healthy habit with others by occasionally inviting a friend or colleague to join you.
2. Make time for volunteering
It’s all too easy for priorities like running errands or walking the dog to take precedence over volunteer time, but if you’re passionate about giving back, try to bring philanthropy into your work. Corporate philanthropy has so many benefits, from improving company culture to forging stronger teams. In fact, employees involved in their company’s volunteer program are 28% more likely to be proud of their company’s values and 36% more likely to feel stronger company loyalty. Get on board if your company has volunteer incentive programs like The Great Delta Give-Back, where Delta Air Lines employees are paid for a full day of volunteering at their organization of choice, or simply arrange a team outing to partake in community service.
3. Extend your travel
Business trips are often a whirlwind of meetings and hotel meals, which can be draining for even the toughest road warriors. Before you go, create an itinerary that schedules time for visiting a museum or dining at a local restaurant so you can unwind.
Or better yet, satisfy wanderlust and extend your trip to include a day or two of personal time. Most companies don’t have issues with adding leisure travel onto business trips—and some even include it in their benefit packages, like Airbnb, which grants employees $2,000 a year to travel anywhere in the world.
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4. Invest in your growth
As an entrepreneur, your plate is often full just keeping the business humming. Unfortunately, this means you’re usually not scheduling time for professional growth or introspection, which is critical to keeping your passion alive and avoiding burnout. According to the same LinkedIn study, women especially feel that not having the time to broaden skill sets has impeded advancement. Make yourself a priority by scheduling time every Friday to reflect on your accomplishments and challenges, as well as regular check-ins with your mentor to discuss your career goals.
It’s easier to set aside larger chunks of time farther in the future, when activities aren’t looming over your head. Register early at conferences and trade events where you can network and learn from your peers.
5. Take advantage of technology
Running a business often means wearing many hats, getting pulled in multiple directions, and sometimes spending nights and weekends working. When time is our most precious commodity, it needs to be spent wisely. Technology can be your biggest ally in making room for personal time. Leverage productivity apps like Slack and Outlook to complete work faster and schedule your day.
And while no employee is safe from administrative tasks like submitting expenses or POs, smart technologies like automation and AI can hasten the process dramatically. To prioritize what to implement, think through your everyday activities and consider which ones will benefit the most from technology.
Start your journey
Achieving balance between life and work is a personal and dynamic journey that looks different for everyone. I know firsthand how tempting it can be to power through a heavy workload, but the effect is often counterproductive as failing to regularly come up for air can lead to burnout and negatively impact performance.
Give these tips a try—even if you start with just one—and you may be surprised to find that the initial time investment is quickly recouped as you work more efficiently. Here’s to finding what works best for you and your business!
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