For seven Tuesdays this summer, we’ve been bringing you the sage advice of a fine panel of experts and entrepreneurs well-versed in balancing the demands of work and life.
We talked about how to make “me time” so you are able to recharge and stay motivated, why having a life outside the office is important for your employees and your business, and what work-life policies you need to put in place to make “work-life fit” a reality. We also got practical tips on delegating and building teams that can help you carry the load — and on making sure your tech gadgets support work-life balance, rather than destroy it. Last week, we explored the vital roles of relationships and community in building both a strong business and a rich life.
As a parting gift, we asked our panelists to share their last, best advice. For this final installment of the “Get a Life” series, we asked:
To wrap up, what are your top work-life fit dos and don’ts?
Is it wrong to answer this with: Do as I say and not as I do?
My best advice is to take the time to think about your goals and create (or update) your plans to achieve them. Then you can craft the best work-life schedule that helps you accomplish those goals and still have some semblance of a life.
I’m a big believer in shifting priorities. Some days it’s going to be all about your business; other times your personal life may require most of your time. It’s nearly impossible to figure this out ahead of time, so being flexible and open to going with the flow is crucial. Revisiting your priorities and must-do’s at least once a week helps you keep on top of them and enables you to see where you have or can schedule downtime.
The good news is, if you’re still in the startup throes, it’s likely your business is demanding a great deal of your time right now. But as you grow, you’ll be able to outsource or delegate a lot of what’s consuming your time, paradoxically giving you more free time to “play.”
Most important is to make sure you’re doing something you want to do, something you enjoy. There’s nothing worse than devoting your time, energy and money to something that brings you no joy.
No one really has it all. We are all making choices, each of which comes with tradeoffs. I have learned that feeling good about my choices means being guided by my values.
I have three children, ranging in age from 22 to almost 30 years old, and even though I have worked throughout their lives, I have also had a significant involvement in their lives. This has meant different tradeoffs at different times. Early on, I worked at a small law firm with reasonable billable-hour demands, which meant I got a lot of great experience as a young lawyer, but also meant I was paid about half of what my peers were making in big firms. I have worked part-time and full time. I have worked at large public companies like BlackRock and small non-profits like the Families and Work Institute, where I am today.
In other words, I am the poster child for a customized career, one that has let me fit my work into my life and my life into my work over time. It’s what we are all doing, as I argue in my book Mass Career Customization — and what we should all advocate for as the new norm!
Here are my top 7 tips for work-life fit:
- Work and life is integrated, and there will never be a perfect balance. Don’t feel guilty about that.
- Never give up when things get rough — and have friends that will call an emergency wine meeting when you threaten that you might.
- Make time for yourself. Reward yourself. Celebrate your successes. Most importantly, laugh often! Especially with the company of friends in Tip #2.
- Stress is self-induced. It is like a bag of bricks that you carry around. You can choose to put it down when you want.
- Fear is healthy. It gives you clarity and allows you to focus on the task at hand. You will find courage in working through something for the first time and be stronger for it.
- Surround yourself with people who are stronger, smarter and more successful than you. It will push you to bite off more than you can chew, and you will learn a new way to eat.
- Give yourself permission to say “no” and reduce the negativity in your life. Letting go of something that is draining your energy will make room for something positive to take its place.
My biggest work-life “do” is to remember that work-life fit is a constant balancing act.
While many people don’t like the term “work-life balance,” I do, and that’s because I view it something constantly in motion. Some days, the scales will tip towards work, and other days more towards your personal life.
By seeing it this way, you’ll be less likely to beat yourself up when it feels like you’ve had a particularly long work week, or when your kids are sick and you’ve needed to step back from work for a couple days. You’ll also be more aware of when your scales aren’t tipping back and forth enough — when you’re getting weighed down in one area or the other, which isn’t ultimately sustainable — so you can take action to bring back the sense of balance.
Action may mean making adjustments to your schedule and coming up with a different plan to make more personal time. Just stay in tune with where you are in the balancing act and where you want to be, so you can adjust accordingly.
Maintaining a good work-life balance is crucial to your happiness and well-being. Here are my top 4 do’s and don’ts to help you reach this balance:
- Pursue work that you love and are passionate about. It’s much easier to find a balance when you are doing what you love.
- Surround yourself with people who add value to your life, not that drag you down. People who inspire and motivate you will help you find the balance you need.
- Take care of yourself. Focus on prioritizing healthy habits. Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods and get enough sleep. You can’t be your best self at work and at home if you don’t take good care of yourself.
- Find out what is important to you and prioritize that. Whether it is family, exercise, travel, reading or whatever it might be, make an effort to fit this into your calendar.
- Prioritize work above everything else. Work isn’t the only thing in life that matters. Take time to schedule in fun activities, breaks and relaxation time over things that drain you.
- Expect to do everything yourself. Build a team that supports you and your goals. Focus on your strengths and what you love and don’t be afraid to delegate and outsource the rest.
- Feel guilty about saying no. Part of maintaining a balanced life is understanding that you won’t be able to do and attend everything. Learn to say no to things that aren’t important.
- Set yourself up for failure. Set realistic expectations and goals for yourself. You’ll be more likely to achieve them this way.
As a business owner, my top work-life fit dos and don’ts are:
- Change your mindset and take baby steps to accepting that there is a happy medium.
- Give yourself permission to relinquish control and to delegate authority to the appropriate key personnel, so things will keep going during your absence from work.
- Take extra care implementing work-life initiatives in the workplace, ensuring that your expectations are clear to all employees. This care will protect the company against legal claims.
- Be present and consistent. Your presence and reliability have a direct connection to your business’ and personal life success.
- Get stuck on the idea that because you are passionate about your service or product that it’s a must-have for everyone. Remember it’s not about you and your passion; it’s about the customer’s need.
- Hold on to an “I’ll-do-it-myself mindset.” This type of mindset can seriously hamper you from making personal time with family and friends.
- Be afraid to outsource tasks that consume a large amount of your time, i.e. payroll, administrative tasks, bookkeeping, etc.
- Shy away from nurturing business relationships. Be especially sure to listen to and identify your customer’s top-priority needs.
My biggest dos and don’ts are:
- Replace the rules to live by with aspirations.
- Make time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not.
- Remember to give yourself some grace, and move forward with your new wisdom.
- Hold yourself to someone else’s standard; aspire to find that work-life respect that is unique to you.
- Compare. We all have our strengths, so how you rock work and life could look very different than your friends and workmates.
- Forget to have a sense of humor.