Worn out from the year that was? Emma Grey of WorkLifeBliss gives us her top 10 tips for work-life balance in 2011.
1. Have a reason to leave
Just as it’s easy to expand into a higher income, work can morph into the available hours. If you consistently amaze yourself at how late it is when you leave the office, it may be that you made no solid plans for after hours.
Having somewhere else to be sharpens your efficiency and helps you pull the plug on work. It’s harder to ‘just do one more thing’ when you’re coaching your daughter’s soccer team at 6pm, or you’re enrolled in a Zumba class or meeting a friend for dinner.
2. Stop colouring-in the title page
Swamped by more work than it’s humanly possible to plough through? Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and need to make choices.
Ask yourself ‘Am I colouring-in the title page here, or doing the actual assignment?’ Ditch the 80% of time-wasting distractions that bring you 20% of results and focus instead on the 20% of tasks that deliver 80% of your results. If the purpose of a task isn’t clear, there’s a good chance you’re wasting your time doing it.
3. Ignore the shiny things
Trying to focus against a barrage of phone calls, texts and emails in open plan offices swells the time it takes to complete jobs. Control what you can. Learn the power of ‘single-tasking’: turn your phone off and close email down for an hour if you really want to make progress and get to your after-hours activity on time.
4. Say ‘no’ and ‘not now’
Do you accept every task you’re given, even if it pushes your workload over the edge? Managers aren’t mind-readers. They may not know what’s on our plates unless we tell them. Ask about the purpose of the new task and decide if it’s more important than other jobs you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a new deadline or delegate tasks to others if appropriate.
5. Ask for help
If you’re playing the martyr, the control freak or the ‘best person for the job’, you’re probably doing too much. Contrary to what we sometimes like to believe about ourselves, the entire office won’t fall apart if we step away. A study found that there are more than 250 ways to wash dishes, all of which achieve the same result. If you’ve already done enough, let someone else do it their way while you take a break.
6. De-clutter your diary
How much ‘white space’ is in your diary? Block out regular chunks of time for no fixed purpose and experience the gift of breathing space. Correctly estimate the time it will take to get from A to B and build in a buffer to move between commitments in a stress-free way.
7. Switch channels
If you’ve spent all day focussing mentally, de-stress by ‘switching channels’ to a physical activity or escape with some light reading or a movie. If you don’t change the channel, it’s harder to switch off and get to sleep, which leads to higher stress and burnout.
8. Let things go (don’t sweat the small stuff)
Think about the last twelve months. How much energy did you invest worrying about things that didn’t matter? Whether it’s office politics or cleaning obsessively before your mother-in-law visits, we waste a lot of time dwelling on matters that could otherwise ‘go through to the keeper’. Invest that energy positively, towards the things you want to achieve.
9. Get out of your own way
It’s human nature to want to blame other people for the imbalance in our lives, but how do you hold yourself back? Do you think you’re not good enough? Are you over-compensating for this? Are you on a quest for perfection? Do you avoid delegation in different parts of your life due to Nobody-does-this-as-well-as-I-do Syndrome?
Become your best ally, instead of your own worst enemy.
10. Lock in a holiday
Open up your 2011 diary. What are you doing in September?
Ask for the time off when you get back to work. Open a new bank account and set up a fortnightly transfer. Visit the travel agent and make a booking.
Most people fail to take holidays because they ‘don’t have time’ and ‘can’t afford it’. Those who do go away have usually planned for the trip well in advance. If you don’t start thinking about a holiday until later in the year, there won’t be a spare weekend left when you get there, work commitments will be immovable and there’ll be no savings in the account.
If you want things to be different in 2011, become the architect of your own lifestyle and they will be.