As I was preparing to write this article to help entrepreneurs, CEO’s, small business owners, or anyone wanting to find work-life balance, I decided to do some research on best practices. In my research I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that outlines four simple practices to help re-prioritize your life and find work-life balance.
As a work-life balance coach, I am always looking for ways to help my clients balance their personal and professional lives. Here are four simple practices that the author outlines in his article that I believe can really help you get your priorities in the right order, thereby creating greater balance and harmony in your life. Here is an excerpt from the article that outlines these four simple practices.
“What follows are four simple practices that serve a better prioritized and more intentional life:
1. Schedule in your calendar anything that feels important but not urgent — to borrow Steven Covey’s phrase. If it feels urgent, you’re likely going to get it done. If it’s something you can put off, you likely will — especially if it’s challenging.
The key to success is building rituals — highly specific practices that you commit to doing at precise times, so that over time they become automatic, and no longer require much conscious intention or energy. One example is scheduling regular time in your calendar for brainstorming, or for more strategic and longer term thinking.
The most recent ritual I added to my life is getting entirely offline after dinner each evening, and on the weekends. I’m only two weeks into the practice, but I know it’s already created space in my mind to think and imagine.
2. As your final activity before leaving work in the evening, set aside sufficient time — at least 15 to 20 minutes — to take stock of what’s happened that day. and to decide the most important tasks you want to accomplish the next day.
Clarifying and defining your priorities — what the researcher Peter Gollwitzer calls “implementation intentions” — will help you to stay focused on your priorities in the face of all the distractions you’ll inevitably face the following day.
3. Do the most important thing on your list first when you get to work in the morning, for up to 90 minutes. If possible, keep your door closed, your email turned off and your phone on silent. The more singularly absorbed your focus, the more you’ll get accomplished, and the higher the quality of the work is likely to be. When you finish, take a break to renew and refuel.
Most of us have the highest level of energy and the fewest distractions in the morning. If you can’t begin the day that way, schedule the most important activity as early as possible. If you’re one of the rare people who feels more energy later in the day, designate that time instead to do your most important activity.
4. Take at least one scheduled break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and leave your desk for lunch. These are each important opportunities to renew yourself so that your energy doesn’t run down as the day wears on. They’re also opportunities to briefly take stock.
Here are two questions you may want to ask yourself during these breaks:
1. Did I get done what I intended to get done since my last break and if not, why not?
2. What do I want to accomplish between now and my next break, and what do I have to say “no” to, in order to make that possible?
As individuals and as a country one of the keys to our competitiveness in the global economy is recognizing the significance of work-life balance. According to another recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, they state that….
“various cross-cultural studies that demonstrate how far our country is falling behind. For example, International Perspectives on Work-Family Policies: Lessons from the World’s Most Competitive Economies (PDF)reviews work/family policies in 15 countries ranked in the World Economic Forum’s list of the 20 most competitive countries over a period of years — plus China and India, as rising global powers. The findings show that:
- Every country with low unemployment has national legislation ensuring paid leave for new mothers that ranges from 12 weeks to a year — but the U.S. doesn’t.
- Nine of the low-unemployment countries also ensure some period of paid leave for new fathers — but the U.S. doesn’t.
- Eight of the low-unemployment countries provide paid leave that allows parents to address children’s health needs. In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act provides qualified employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, but approximately half of Americans don’t even fall under the reach of the law.
From a macro level perspective, there is a correlation between performance and good work/life policy. Many people wonder what the effect will be from a micro level perspective, and in the article they state that…
“there are several academic centers around the country researching the connection between work-life programs and improvements in companies’ financial performance and benefits to the public”.
I suspect that these studies will confirm the connection between work-life programs and improvement in performance, and personal fulfillment. As we become more self-aware, and begin to integrate practices like these, we will find the balance, happiness and fulfillment that many of us seek.
About the Author:
John Curran is a Certified Master Coach and Work-Life Balance Expert who works with self-employed professionals who struggle with focus, time issues, overload or feeling stuck. He helps them to remove any obstacles and blocks to achieving balance in their personal and professional life.
If you are feeling out of balance and think that MAYBE coaching could make a difference for you, consider setting up an initial consultation and seeing what it’s like. No fee, no pressure. E-mail me or go to breakthrough to Success and fill out the form with a few times you could be available, and please include your time zone. I’ll get back to you!