Do you spend your days juggling business responsibilities, fielding unexpected issues and putting out fires, only to come home exhausted?
You’ve still got more work to do, and you’re feeling increasing levels of guilt because you want to spend more time with your family, or you haven’t been to the gym in a month, you can’t be bothered cooking and, that hobby that you love to do is just sitting there – unloved. This is a space that many business owners and managers are all too familiar with; managing your time and headspace so that you aren’t too exhausted to do the important things to achieve perfect work/life balance.
These days we are being asked to do more and more, we are connected 24/7. Our downtime is too often interrupted by emails, messages, or we simply get sucked into the time-wasting vortex of our smartphones.
But how can you break free and start to gain more control? We’ve pulled together 10 hacks to bring a little work/life balance to the hectic life of running a business.
1. Do one thing at a time.
How many times do you find yourself skipping from one task to another, checking your phone, constantly checking back into your emails midway and a notification pops up, and you immediately attend to it? STOP!
Multitasking often doesn’t work. The effort that it takes for your brain to move from task to task is mentally draining and counter-productive. Focus on the task at hand, turn your phone off, turn your email notifications off, remove anything else that you may be tempted to switch to and do one thing at a time.
This is equally important for play as well as work. If you are spending time with family or friends, focus on that activity with them, don’t keep checking emails or rescheduling meetings – be present. Not only will you find you are less mentally exhausted at the end of each day, but you will also get through more of your to-do list, and will have done it better.
2. Find a scheduling solution that works for you.
Whether you prefer a digital calendar, need to write it down, or like the idea of a mix of the two, take the time to develop a scheduling system that works best for you. It needs to be simple, easy to use and keeps everything in a place so you won’t miss anything important. Knowing that all the things you need to remember, meetings, appointments, family tasks etc… are written down so that you can access them or be reminded at the right time takes a huge load off your brain. Don’t spend your precious brainpower trying to keep track of the menial things – keep it fresh for the big picture stuff.
3. Give yourself time in the day to just stop
Now that you’ve got your scheduling under control and you are only doing one thing at a time – schedule downtime for yourself. Don’t plan back to back meetings; make sure you’ve got space in the day to stop and breathe. Whether you take a quick meditation break, grab a coffee or go for a quick walk around the block. Giving yourself time to stop and slow down will go a long way to finishing the day energised rather than exhausted.
4. Make your in-between times more productive
We all tend to have a lot of in-between times each day, which can often be a cause of frustration. But what if you were to make these times super-productive? Take your daily commute, for example, whether you are on public transport or stuck in traffic, use that time to listen to an audio-book or a podcast. Imagine how energised you would be turning up to work after hearing a favourite speaker or business role model discuss inspiring big-picture thinking. Or maybe you love crime podcasts… anything that helps turn the monotony of your commute into something to look forward to.
5. Turn it off
Switch off from work. It is so simple, yet it is something that many business owners have trouble doing. It comes back to hack number 1, doing only one thing at a time. How can you fully focus on that game with the kids, or dinner with your wife, when there is always the possibility of a work email or message popping up? Have times when you disconnect from technology, of being permanently contactable, and connect with the people you are with or the thing you re doing right now.
6. Have a weekend, play hookey
Don’t get caught up in the myth that you have to be working and focused all of your waking hours to be considered a committed business owner. You need to take a break; you need to give yourself time to relax, enjoy yourself and feed your relationships and yourself. If you can, take a day once a month where you don’t work, do something that you want to do, just for you. The added benefit of taking this time for yourself is that by giving your brain time to switch off from work, to attend to other things, you’ll often gain a clearer perspective of many work issues you’ve been working on. But most importantly, your family and friends will love having you around and focusing on them.
7. Organise your to-do list
Do you have a to-do list that keeps growing and becomes so overwhelming that you can’t even look at it anymore? You’re certainly not alone. To-do lists (whether you love a digital or paper one) are a great way to make sure you don’t forget all of the calls on your time. However, a list of 10, 20, 30 actions can lead to in-action, where do you even start?
Take the time each month, week, and day to prioritise and organise your to-do list. What are the priorities, which actions have the most impact? Put these at the top and tackle these first. Categorising your actions into must-dos, important and when-I-get-to-it is another way to make it easy for you to be on top of your priorities, and ensures the key things don’t get lost in a sea of ‘stuff’.
8. Plan the important things in your life
Too often we have in our heads what we would like to be doing, exercise more, eat better, spend more time with the family, get back to learning the guitar. But without actively planning for these things, days roll into weeks, and weeks roll into months where we haven’t done any of the critical things, and then comes the guilt or frustration with ourselves.
Take the time to sit down and write down what is important to you and then head back to the scheduling system you developed (back at hack number 2) and schedule these actions. Book your gym sessions into your calendar, plan your meals and schedule a time to shop, block out times in your day where you turn your devices off and play with your kids… If it’s important, make the time in your schedule to do it.
9. Do something you love every day
This follows on from the previous hack and is pretty self-explanatory. Do something that you love that makes you happy every day.
Take time each day to note down what you are grateful for. This is a great way to start the day feeling positive, and it’s also the perfect thing to reflect on before bed. We have so many things to appreciate and be grateful for, but we can too often get caught up in what’s not going great. Plus, you may find that you have better work/life balance than you first thought.
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