Running a business is exhausting. Raising a family is exhausting. Spending time with your friends, while fun, is exhausting. There may have been a time years ago when I could’ve put in my eight hours, gone out for drinks after, and woken up the next morning as fresh as a daisy, but that time is gone. As a CEO, a mother of two sons, and a volunteer, I know firsthand how tough it is to give my work, family, and social lives the attention they each deserve. And maintaining what balance I do have is a daily challenge. There is always some unexpected surprise to get in the way of my carefully laid out plans. But, rather than stress out about my balancing act, I have learned to take a deep breath, focus on what matters, and maintain my peace of mind along the way by using these five steps.
1) Learn to love the list.
I adore lists. Before I leave my house in the morning, I have a bulleted list of what needs to be done either in hand or sitting on my desk at work. As everyone who has run a business knows, it is absolutely impossible to recall every single meeting, appointment, and assignment that needs to get done right off the top of your head. A list gives you a visual representation of everything you need to do at work, and really helps you to manage your time effectively so that you don’t spend all day on a handful of tasks.
Many people tend to de-prioritize exercise. You promise yourself you’ll stop by the gym after work, but then you get stuck in your office two hours after closing and after that you just want to veg in front of Netflix in your sweatpants. Since I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the day, I start the morning by exercising – it is really easy to get in thirty minutes of spinning while watching the morning news and checking my work email. Regular exercise even helps alleviate stress, keep you focused, and boost your energy levels, all of which are important to maintaining a healthy work-life balance!
3) Stay focused.
With texts from family, constant meetings, and Outlook’s incessant email pinging, it is all too easy to get distracted and stay there. It is important that you learn how to focus, and set aside a time to finish the work you have planned. Calls and emails can wait until the most pressing projects of the day are wrapped up. Even a ten second distraction can lead to a huge time sink. So before you start work, promise yourself you’ll tackle the larger jobs before starting on the smaller ones.
4) Delegate your work.
Sharing responsibilities with family or friends is extremely freeing. I often use the buddy system for my kids – I pick up a friend’s children from school one afternoon, and they let my kids carpool with them on another day. At work I step back and trust my employees to take care of whatever I don’t have time to. Remember that being open, honest, and communicative is a major part of sharing responsibility. Know what you can do in a day, and trust your family, friends, and co-workers to help you out when you need it. Delegation is a big part of time management, and by not trying to do everything by yourself, you’ll free up a lot of your time and you won’t be as stressed when the inevitable surprise pops up.
5) Relax whenever you need to.
We all need time to be alone, relax, and unwind. Occasionally taking some time off is nothing to be ashamed of, and is actually an important part of keeping yourself mentally and emotionally healthy. Even something as simple as reading a book, or going out for coffee with a friend can do wonders for your emotional well-being. Plus it’ll help you feel like you aren’t spending all of your time at work. Just remember to turn off that iPhone, avoid all distractions, and really enjoy your ‘me’ time.