Do you ever find yourself needing an extra hour or two in the day? Do you desperately need a small surplus of time when you’ve finished your work responsibilities so that you can finally fit in that relaxing run or surprise your spouse by cooking a nice dinner? If so, you’re not alone – especially if you’re a busy executive.
Achieving an executive-level position certainly has its benefits, but it can also put undue strain on your time. The common narrative is that you will need to sacrifice wellness and personal time to achieve success, and maybe you have. However, you don’t have to settle for a life without balance. Below, we’ll share tips for finding more equilibrium between work and life.
Embrace Time Management (The Best Friend of Work-Life Balance)
If you’re accustomed to always putting work first and neglecting your health or relationships, you may be telling yourself that you’ll make up for it in retirement. This is an easy trap to fall into, but it won’t serve you in the long run. For one thing, there is no way to predict the future – and no time like the present. By putting a bit of effort into more effective time management, you can bring more balance to your life right now.
Create a calendar for the week and begin charting the tasks you know will need to be accomplished. Block off the events and meetings that are non-negotiable, then move on to the more flexible events. Try color-coding them to tell what can be adjusted or moved at a glance, and consider giving yourself a hard “stop” time at the office one or two days per week.
Mental wellness is reliant on being able to recharge with sleep, exercise, and time for yourself. Sometimes, it may mean creating more time for yourself by starting your day an hour or two earlier in order to focus on your wellness and personal life. Use what time you have, even if it’s less than you’d like. As an executive, your time likely goes beyond 9-5, so utilize travel time to nap or read that book you have been dying to start. If you only have thirty minutes to exercise, run around the block instead of wasting time driving to the gym and back. Share your hobbies with your family. It may spark their interest, too, and become a fun family affair.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Taking Time for Yourself
An important element of work-life balance is wellness and self-care. To be focused and perform your best, you need time for your batteries to recharge. Just because you don’t have something planned in the evenings doesn’t mean that it’s free time that you can schedule work meetings into. Reschedule during work hours, and do not be afraid to say you’re not available. Self-care is never something to feel guilty about.
There will always be errands to run or projects to get a head-start on, but try not to fill all of your downtime with these things. Don’t hesitate to take some time that’s truly for yourself. It’s important to relax sometimes, and it will give you a renewed focus during work hours.
Feed Your Social Life
When you’re already struggling to find time, it may seem counterintuitive to schedule even more into your days. However, adding structured social activities into your calendar means you’re getting non-work time on the books and, if they’re on your calendar, you’re more likely to stick to them. These activities can be things like book clubs, dinner clubs, or a recreational sports team. Having an event like this scheduled during the week will also help break up the executive monotony and give you something to look forward to at the end of the workday.
Manage the Workload, Manage Your Wellness
There is great value in accepting how much you can realistically accomplish in a week. Putting out exceptional work on time is better than overloading yourself, which can end up setting you up for failure.
When you get into the office, focus on high-priority tasks first before moving on to the others. Work on one project at a time and see it through to completion, doing your best to keep distractions at bay and intentionally avoiding the urge to multitask. Multiple studies have actually shown a negative return on multi-tasking. Instead of scheduling yourself right up to your last moments in the office, reserve a block of 20–30 minutes at the end of your day to wrap up. You don’t want a late meeting or phone call to keep you past your scheduled departure time.
Begin to set expectations among your coworkers about when you’re available and when you’re not. Try to stick to a scheduled time to leave each day. Although there will certainly be many days when an urgent matter requires you to stay late, learn to say no to non-urgent issues and simply take them up the next morning. Make sure your co-workers know that if they need something from you it needs to be brought up with enough time for your response. Be vocal about what time you need it by for a same-day response.
Learn to Truly Enjoy Your Weekends and Vacations
Weekends are meant to balance out your busy and demanding workdays but, if you’re like many executives, work – or thinking about work – dominates your weekend time. If there are tasks you must accomplish for work, front-load them into the beginning of the weekend and prioritize rest, relaxation, and family time for the rest of the weekend.
Vacations are also important to your wellness, so it’s essential to stop treating them as remote work. In the executive world, there is never a good time to leave and go on vacation, but you need to change your mindset. Stop thinking about whether you’ll be able to take the time off and make a plan for when instead. Then, make the appropriate preparations to make it happen. Talk with your boss about his or her expectations, but set boundaries, as well. If a long vacation isn’t possible, consider scheduling several three-day weekends for yourself. Even short vacations – when truly treated as vacations – can make you feel rejuvenated and more in balance.
Stop Trying to Do it All
Your work is demanding, and chances are your life is, too. If you own a home, there will always be upkeep and projects that need your attention. If you have children, there will be innumerable pickups and drop-offs at daycare or school and athletic activities. Errands can dominate your evenings and weekends, and being involved in your church or community only adds more pressure.
Try to remember that, just because you can do it all doesn’t mean you should. Take a look at your schedule and identify responsibilities you can outsource. Can you hire a trusted caregiver to get your children to and from daycare or school activities? Can you use a meal-planning service to make dinner easier? Can you utilize a local lawn care service to save time on home maintenance? There is no shame in simplifying the parts of your life you’re able to so that you can better serve your own health, wellness, and relationships with that saved time instead.
Final Thoughts on Creating Work-Life Balance as an Executive
While the tips above can be helpful in creating more balance in your life, it’s important to remember that there is no magic bullet. Finding the equilibrium you’re looking for will likely be an ongoing challenge, and it may be as much about mindset as any specific actions you take. Never lose sight of the fact that it’s important for you to put limits on how much your work crosses over into your personal life, and don’t be afraid to try new tactics. With focused time and attention, you can achieve the balanced life you’re looking for.