Given a choice between sanity and burnout, you’d probably choose sanity. Although it may be difficult in our 24/7 interconnected world, the road to a sane, productive existence requires striking that seemingly elusive work-life balance.
“For many of us, being reactive is the new norm in this world of nearly instant electronic communication,” says Scott Harris, founder and COO of Building Construction Group, a Los Angeles premier builder that constructed Ed Begley Jr.’s LEED Platinum Certified green home in 2015.
“While we all want balance in our lives, we tend to run our days with our spin cycles out of balance,” says Harris. “We overweight one issue while ignoring another, becoming exhausted, reactive, and therefore not as productive as we could be. The next day greets us with a buzzer, and we pick up bleary-eyed where we left off.”
The good news is there are solutions to tilting the work-life balance “spin cycle” in your favor. Here are five ways to get a handle on your schedule so you can enjoy some downtime while still being productive.
1. Own your right to balance.
Before you can actually take the steps to striking a work-life balance, give yourself permission to do so. However you need to—convince yourself that you deserve to take care of you.
“I tell my teams and remind myself that we’re judged not on how hard we work or how exhausted we feel, but by what we’ve accomplished each day,” says Harris. “If you rest by default, you never really rest. But when you relax, feeling that you’ve accomplished a great deal, you enjoy plotting out guilt-free personal time.”
2. Plan your day.
Harris finds that he keeps balanced if he starts his day off at sunrise writing and prioritizing a list of to-do items for the day. “I write mine on my phone, but you could also speak to text,” he says.
For Harris, the list acts as a data dump of all of the tasks swirling around in his head, which allows him to make a plan. “The brain can only process one new and unique thought at a time,” he says. “When you struggle to process multiple thoughts, you get overwhelmed. The list allows you to concentrate on one task at a time throughout the day without worrying that you’ve forgotten something. Doing this, I’m able to finish my work on time or early, feeling accomplished and ready to start my personal time.”
3. Learn to say “no”.
It’s one of the shortest words in the alphabet but may be one of the hardest to say. If you’re going to carve out time for yourself, you need to say ‘no’ to some activities and even jobs.
One of the easiest measures to apply to an optional task is to ask yourself: Is it a definite yes? If it’s not a definite yes, it’s probably a no.
4. Stick to a work schedule.
When you know there are sacred hours each day that don’t involve work, you’ll be more likely to stay balanced. Of course, there’s the occasional client that requires traveling out of your normal range or working longer hours to accommodate. For the most part, however, you should be able to “clock out” each day at a certain hour.
5. Feed your passions during downtime.
If you pursue activities you love during your off-time, you’ll be more likely to make me-time a priority.
“I get the most satisfaction spending my free time doing things that feed my soul and energize my spirit,” says Harris. “One of my passions is going into the garden with my sons in the evenings and picking fresh herbs, fruits, and root vegetables. Then we decide how to prepare them in the kitchen. The result is the next morning I start my day with a smile on my face.”