Creating a Work-Life Balance
Posted by NANCY BAKANOWICZ
8 June, 2016
The lines between work and down time are increasingly being blurred, thanks to the advent of smartphones and other connected devices that have us in an “always on” mode. Leaving the office at 5 PM doesn’t necessarily mean we leave our work there – many companies provide employees with laptop computers so they can do work at home and cellphones so they can be reached after hours. This technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time of the day or night. A Harvard Business School survey showed that 94 percent of working professionals say they regularly work more than 50 hours a week and nearly half said they work more than 65 hours a week.
But all of this connectivity is having a detrimental effect on our physical and emotional health, and our personal lives, creating never-ending work days and lots of stress that can harm our relationships, health and overall happiness. The stress alone is, quite literally, killing us, showing up as sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses that manifest themselves in overly-stressed bodies. Experts believe you should strive for balance between your work life and your personal life, which is commonly referred to as “work-life balance.” But when you’re a busy entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find time for the “life” part of work-life balance. Below are some tips that can help you integrate more of a balance in your life, and as a result, help to reduce your stress and improve your relationships – and your productivity at work:
- Set and keep time boundaries. Yes, as an entrepreneur you will likely be working longer hours than most of your employees, but you should still set hours for yourself and do your best to stick to them. Any activities done outside those hours should not be work-related – spend time with family and friends, go out to eat, watch TV, read, garden…just make sure it’s pleasurable and has nothing to do with work. Additionally, try to give yourself at least one full day off each week. Working at your business 24/7 is not going to make your business better, but it will make you burned out. You need to take a break.
- Learn to unplug. Today’s technology is wonderful, as it allows us to work from almost anywhere. But it has led to this constantly-available mentality, where employers and customers expect us to be available to them any time of the day or night, any day of the week, creating never-ending work days. So when you are off work, turn your phone OFF and just enjoy being off work. Don’t check your emails during dinner with friends; don’t text during your daughter’s soccer game or your son’s Little League game. If you can’t turn your phone off completely (emergencies do pop up sometimes), use your smartphone’s call settings to choose one or two trusted employees or colleagues who will contact you in case of emergency, and set your phone to only ring when they call.
- Meditation is the ultimate stress buster. Numerous studies have shown how beneficial meditation is for the human body – it not only improves our mood and emotional well-being, but it has positive effects on our physical body, too. People who meditate regularly are often less stressed, less depressed, have lower blood pressure, experience fewer illnesses and are better focused. This article lists a whopping 75 benefits of mediation, and this Washington Post article describes how mediation changes your brain for the better. Plus, it’s easy to get started – you can begin with just a five-minute daily meditation. There are tons of websites with great tips on how to get started, like this one from Mindful.org.
- Squeezing some physical fitness into your busy day should be a priority. Not only will exercise help you maintain (or lose) weight, but it can also help reduce stress, too. An article from the Mayo Clinic says exercise is one of the best stress busters because it boosts your endorphins (pleasure hormones) and distracts you from your everyday worries, even if it’s only for half an hour. Any physical activity, from heavy-duty weightlifting or Cross Fit to a causal stroll around the block or gentle restorative yoga, is beneficial. The trick is to find something you enjoy and stick to it.
- Set your priorities. As a business owner, you wear many hats – perhaps even all of the hats, especially if you are a sole proprietor. You may think you can do it all, but when you are trying to do too many things at once, you are creating a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on the activities you value most and those you enjoy and/or in which you specialize. Everything else can be delegated or outsourced, freeing you up to concentrate on what you consider important. It can be difficult to relinquish total control over your business, but the amount of stress it will take off your shoulders will make you happier and a better business owner.
Creating a work-life balance not only makes you a better employer, but it makes you a better person, too. The above steps will help reduce your stress, but also make your life more enjoyable. There is an old phrase that states we need to “stop and smell the roses.” In other words, we need to slow down long enough to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. So take a break, do some meditation and/or exercise, go for a walk. And smell those lovely roses.