In our modern digital world, it’s all too easy now to be available. We are connected using the latest technology pretty much 24/7. I have recently been chatting to businesses around the challenges faced by them and their teams, especially around setting work/ life boundaries.
Achieving the balance between not working crazy hours and still finishing everything you want to get done is not an easy task! Work, homelife, family life and still trying to have some time left for you can seem impossible.
Something must give, you can’t be everything to everyone!
Well if we are being totally honest, I doubt a ‘perfect’ balance can be achieved. What I advise to businesses is that they should look to build a culture where they can create their own blend and where employees feel the Company is invested in their well being and home life (as well as their work life!).
How do you build this? Well, a good starting point is to look at what your business priorities are. There are those key objectives your business needs to achieve, once you’ve identified these you can begin to set the necessary boundaries.
Be in control of your time; plan your week out in advance and communicate your plans to your colleagues and clients. This way, if you need a couple of hours out in the day to attend something, tell people you’re unavailable and when you’re back. This will help to reduce your anxiety about missing communication and their frustration at your lack of response.
An example of this is emails – I know several people now who tell people (or put it on an out of office message) that they will only respond to emails first thing and late afternoon – this way they can do the work they need to do during the hours of say 10am-4pm without getting distracted and/or disrupted by emails which may be just a quick email back, but often actually mean the person stops working on what they needed to work on and goes off on a tangent to get the information needed to respond to the email received.
Again, by telling people the hours they respond to emails, they feel more relaxed about concentrating on what they need to work on and the recipient is ok as they know when they are likely to get a response. (This may not work for everyone but perhaps a version of this could be possible!).
Take regular breaks, it may seem like you’re powering through work but sitting at a computer or desk for long periods of time can be counterproductive. Get up, take a walk, stretch it out, go and get a drink, whatever it takes to move away for 5 minutes. You’ll be recharged and much more productive as a result. You’ll also be much more creative if you’ve had a break and then come back to it.
Don’t feel guilty! As a business owner myself (and actually, this applied when I was in full time employment), I would feel guilty if I hadn’t responded to someone straight away or couldn’t attend to their request immediately. I still struggle with this now sometimes but I have got better and hopefully will improve even more! You have to realise you can’t be available 24/7 and it’s about setting your own parameters and then letting others know what they are.
In summary, yes, you may still work long hours but taking those moments out in the day, however, brief will increase your focus and ability to do more!