Simon Sinek once said, “The goal is not to ‘work hard, play hard,’ the goal is to make our work and our play indistinguishable.” This is an interesting premise. Not unlike the folks who say "love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life" it sounds aspirational. It crafts the idea of a wonderful environment. People in their workplace are fulfilled, enriched, operating at their best, and thrilled to be there. Making that come true is a great goal to work towards. While we're on our way there, many of us have workplaces and workdays that include, well, a lot of work. On those days, establishing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult. Sometimes it feels like there's no play in sight, and burnout feels close. In our ongoing mission to make your day even better, I wanted to share a few things that might help you strike that ideal balance of work and play.
Establish a Rhythm
YCNS has a training we’ve recently revamped around “getting more done now,” and one of those first steps is getting into the habit of creating a blocked-out schedule for work. More specifically, to build a schedule that helps get more done with less wasted time, I recommend:
- Don’t leave today without a plan for tomorrow
- Take some time at the end of the day, don't go to bed without thinking about what's most important for me to do tomorrow, where am I starting, and how will I accomplish it
- Plan backwards from goals
- If we start with our goals, we can set our guidelines to lead us to that goal with a clearer picture in mind of the required steps along the way
- Make action items truly bite-sized morsels we can tackle
- If we try and do too much at once, we can get distracted, get interrupted, or slow down from tediousness, but if we break our tasks down into smaller pieces, we have a better shot at getting them done in one sitting
- Stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter
- If we keep a record of our goals with us, we can look at what we need to accomplish and determine what can be put off in favor of what is important, and we can get better at prioritizing
- Keep our “reading” with us
- Keeping some materials that are relevant to our jobs is easier than ever with phones, and when we're standing in lines, going on car rides (Not if we're driving the car, of course), or doing other idle tasks, we can use that time to study
- Know thyself and eliminate distractions
- If we think about what pulls our attention away from our work, we can anticipate it and eliminate distractions before we get started. Is it my phone that distracts me? I'll turn it off and put it across the room. Do messes distract me? I'll clean up before I get started. If we know ourselves, we can plan for ourselves
- Plan the work, work the plan, anticipate the hurdles
- We can make a schedule and take it with us to ensure that we don't miss any of the things we need to do, and even a bit of risk management can help us be more prepared for when things go awry
- Try it, reflect, give ourselves grace, improve, try again
- Making mistakes is what humans do, it's alright if it happens. But we can learn from those mistakes, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try again using what we've learned
- If we need help, ask
- Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Better to ask for help and succeed together than to fail alone
Some of those tips may resonate more at some moments than others, but any of them might be useful in putting together a schedule that works for us specifically. By planning backwards from our goals, we can figure out how much work we must do, and dividing it into bite-sized morsels ensures that we don’t stress too hard about it…you get the picture. By creating a schedule, and blocking out our time in a day, we can get more done without getting stuck trying to figure out what is next, which you can read more about at another blog we have here.
I'm also a big fan of taking full advantage of the break time we are allowed. Taking the time to eat a snack, grab or lunch, refill our water, or talk with our coworkers, gives our brains space to step back from the pressing matters and relax. A study conducted by Michigan State University recently found that breaks can help improve focus, decision-making, productivity, and more, like stretching a muscle before a workout.
There is also science around the idea that looking at something cute can give us a burst of energy to finish our day, based in the concept of the different chemicals that give us happy feelings in our brain! We like to post a social animal of the day and a positive quote to our Facebook and LinkedIn every day, like this one, because of that reason!
Use Your Time Off
Many workplaces allow paid time off, and many of those have don't carry unused time off past the end of the year. Even if your organization allows you to carry time off over, in theory, time off is meant to be used - not saved! Just make sure you let everyone know when you’re taking it well in advance! Just like workday breaks, our time off gives us time to relax and focus on something else, giving the work part of our minds time to re-center and get ready for when we return.
Additionally, our personalities are formed by what we enjoy doing, and taking time to indulge in our hobbies can help us feel fulfilled. Conversely, cutting them out for more work can make the world feel dull and gray. Plus, there are our friends and families, who likely prefer to see us in-person rather than through a text message sent from our desks. With our PTO, we can spend time with them doing things that we love, and enrich our lives by focusing on the people and moments that bring us joy.
Humans are meant to live, and while money is important to life, so is joy. While finding that joy in what we do for a living can help keep us happy, work can still be draining at times. It is a promising idea to try to take some time to focus on the things outside of the workplace that make us happy. If you're worried about the risks involved, you can check out our "How to Manage Project Risk Even Better Than You Do Today" on-demand training!
By improving our work time at work, we can improve our work-life balance, and by enriching our lives outside of the office, we can make every day when we come in for work even better. How about you? What will you try?