Are you feeling overwhelmed? Need to introduce yourself to your kids when you manage to get home while they're still awake? Does 'environmental impact' mean cleaning up the nearest conference room? You may be having some work/life balance problems. Here are some ways to set that balance to rights:
- Set limits. Give yourself a maximum number of hours to work in a day or a week and stick to it. This might mean doing some ruthless prioritization, or maybe working up the courage to say 'let's pick this up tomorrow', but it will get you moving in the right direction.
- Find a hobby. This should be a hobby *away* from work - coding is not a hobby if you're a software engineer. If you don't already have a hobby, try something new. Practice your hobby for just 10 minutes a day to start with - come on, you can manage 10 minutes. Then work up to an hour a day.
- Get out and walk. You don't have to leave work behind to do this - you can hold one-on-one meetings while you're getting some fresh air and exercise. The next time someone says 'do you have a minute' say 'sure, let's walk while we talk.'
- Understand what the people around you are really doing. If you think you have to work ridiculous hours because 'everyone else does', you be operating under some bad assumptions.
- Have a backup. You can split the knowledge among several people - maybe one person knows about one project, another person has technical knowledge, etc. Back them up as well. If you have a backup (or several), you know that someone has you covered - you can go to your doctor's appointment, your child's ball game, or even (gasp) a vacation.
- Know what you want to do next and plan it out. Not the next thing on your to do list - the next thing in your life. This could be career advancement, a career change, retirement, new skills - whatever it is, have a plan and start executing it.
- Get enough sleep. Really. It sounds simple, but it often isn't. If you wake up tired every morning you're not doing it right.
- Provide a weekly status report. Keep a log. This doesn't have to be onerous - a simple 'what I did this week, what I plan next week, issues/blockers' will do the trick. This serves two functions - first (and most importantly) it tells your manager about everything you're doing. (Managers aren't omniscient - they don't always know all the stuff you're doing. This way you'll at least get credit for it - and you might get some nice management prioritization calls.) Regular status reports also help you remember what you did when review time (or resume time) comes around.
- Be sure your time management system is effective. Keep a log of where every minute goes and see if it makes sense. If you don't have a time management system, get one. If you're working too many hours you may need some adjustments.
- Work important but not urgent tasks into your schedule and track them. These are things like learning new skills, executing that 'what's next' plan we talked about, working on strategic tasks. And when I say work them in, I mean actually put the time on your calendar and keep to it.
We all have to work long hours sometimes, but there's no reason anyone should have to do it all the time. Keeping that balance isn't always easy - but it's always worth the trouble.
Not sure how your balance really looks? Take our quiz and find out!