11 Tips to Find the Elusive Work/Life Balance

Blog Series, Community, Good Work, Leadership, Learning

If you do what you love, you’ll love what you do right? But that doesn’t have to mean being connected 24-7-365. In a world of digital devices and social media it’s become easy to stay connected to work even when you are away from computer. While this offers some career flexibility, it is important to find time to disconnect as well.

My dad has led a busy career for as long as I could remember (pre cell phones and laptops), but my most vivid childhood memories of him were the moments when he walked in the door after work, put his briefcase up and sat on the floor playing dolls with me. It was clear he had switched hats on the commute home and was fully in parenting mode ready to engage with my sister and me. However, I think he would admit cell phones and laptops have made this transition a bit tougher for parents today (which is one reason why we wrote Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning).

During Advancing Leadership, where I’m a board member, we talk about this time as your third eight. The late Phil Smart (see his video on the topic), said our days can be divided into thirds, eight hours for rest (most people laugh at the thought of actually getting eight hours of sleep), eight hours of work and eight hours of personal time. How you choose to spend your “third eight” is incredibly important to finding “balance” and internal satisfaction.

I’ve found productivity and creativity in myself and team members actually increases after rest and time off. A walk outdoors, a night with family or a long weekend road trip can help refocus, clear your mind and recharge your energy for your work. Our team loved Arianna Huffington’s thoughts on re-energizing, re-centering and getting more rest in her latest book.

As parents, educators and business leaders we should keep in mind these tips for staying balanced:

    1. Create a routine. Whether you are closing up a classroom, leaving your cubicle or shutting your laptop in a home office, creating a routine of how your work day ends will provide you with closure needed each evening. This may mean making a to do list for the next day, wiping down desks and/or shutting off your devices. Do what is needed to clear your mind until tomorrow and tell your body it’s transition time.
    2. Find a transition practice. Whether its meditation (Carri recommends the Calm meditation app), breathing exercises, or jamming out to your favorite music find a transition time practice that helps you mentally switch gears into your evening.
    3. Turn off. Being able to unplug and recharge means turning off notifications, putting devices down and enjoying the calm or craziness your night likely includes. Our team has turned off email notifications on our iPhones so we have to go in and “fetch” email to come through. Not hearing the constant buzz of your phone will allow you to enjoy family dinner, watch your child’s sports practice, grocery shop in peace or just have a silent glass of wine.
    4. Change clothes. Some people recommend changing clothes after work to “evening attire” that helps you relax and switch gears. Your yoga pants are calling!
    5. Have a dance party. I love seeing photos of parents after work dancing around the living room with their kids. Pick a song, crank it up around your house and get the whole family to join in before you settle in to dinner plans, housework and homework. Megan recommends this list of family dance party songs.
    6. Set an intention. Each evening find a focal point or intention you want to accomplish that night. Chose a word or phrase you can focus on that will drive your evening activities. This intention can help drive a family discussion over dinner, help you choose a television program to watch, a podcast to listen to or community activity to participate in. (See our Smart Parents post: What If We Replaced Family Rules with Core Beliefs for ideas about how to chose family intentions.)
    7. Workout. There is no arguing that a killer workout makes you feel better. Whether it’s running, hitting the gym or your favorite yoga practice, centering yourself through a workout is a great transition activity. I love the the online classes at YogaGlo.com for nights when I can’t make a class.
    8. Don’t take your devices to bed. Being unplugged means getting the sleep you need and not taking work to bed with you either. Leave the phones out of the bedroom and avoid laying in bed scrolling through email and social media that will leave you feeling more drained and stressed for the following day.
    9. Stay accountable. Telling your spouse or a close friend about your intentions to create a better work/life balance can help you stay accountable to your goals. Let them know your plans and ask them to check in on your progress and if you’re comfortable with it, ask them to call you out when you’re doing something that goes against your intentions to “unplug”.
    10. Drink wine (or whiskey). This has been high on the recommendation list across the board. Combining this with the yoga pant tip in #4 seems to work really well.
    11. Don’t give up on being a morning person. You might just realize that evenings will never allow for personal time, so look for other pockets of the day. Ten minutes in the morning in a silent house with a cup of coffee can change the outlook of an entire day.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no one is perfect. Some days we feel balanced, and others out of control. If you find work you are passionate about it’s likely to spill over into your personal time because you’ll choose activities that align your personal and professional interests. Keep checking in with yourself, your family and your team at work about ways to continually grow and improve your life balance. We’d love to hear from you – add in the comments section any tips you would add!

For more, check out: