This past weekend was a pretty major holiday here in the U.S. It's often the time we have with friends and family, when we are not focused on working hard, that we can appreciate and remember why we do. So rather than spending all weekend on Google +, checking your email, and interacting with industry colleagues on Twitter, I hope that you took a bit of a digital holiday and enjoyed the analog world around you.
I won't be the first or last to write about this topic. But I can definitely say that I know a thing or two about achieving work/life balance. Prior to launching my current company, I spent the last four years splitting my time between the marketing industry and running an underwater photography and scuba diving media and travel business. While spending 15 weeks a year traveling to exotic locations, I developed a new perspective on life. With this perspective and a passion for the digital marketing industry, I sold the travel business to channel my undivided focus to the new venture.
Achieving a work/life balance is not only important for your own happiness, but it significantly boosts productivity as well. Here are my top five takeaways to help you develop this delicate and important balance.
1. Be focused: The only way to maintain a work/life balance is to kick ass in the work portion of the equation. If you are not razor-focused, super-productive, and aim to achieve greatness daily, then you can kiss the life balance away.
2. Identify "time sucks": We all get caught up in certain activities that suck up time that can be better used for more productive tasks. Spending extra time on the phone or at the office with chatty colleagues, spending all day at a conference that doesn't add value to your career, long lunches, or spending too much time on Facebook or other social media for non-business purposes will do nothing for your career, nor for your ability to have a rewarding life outside of the office. Remember rule #1: the more focused and productive you are at work, the more time you'll have to enjoy the things in life that you work so hard for.
3. Set boundaries: Decide when to start and stop your workday and try to stick to these hours as much as possible. Hint: most successful people wake up early and start working early. It's a disproportionately uninterrupted and productive time of day. When you have stopped working, don't give in to the urge to check your email or Twitter every five minutes while out to dinner with your spouse or hanging with your friends. I know, easier said than done. Don't ignore important projects that require a little extra time either, but don't burn yourself out after hours, which will leave you less productive during the time within your boundaries.
4. Exercise your body & mind: While this column is not the forum to preach exercise, getting the blood moving does actually help provide more energy during the day. Try to work exercise into your schedule. Additionally, don't forget to add a little intellectual stimulation outside of your core professional category on a regular basis. It's important to keep the mind sharp and the body moving
5. Periodically shut out your digital life: When off the grid - try to actually be off the grid. Live in the here and now. Spend time with those around you and enjoy the physical world. Ignore your mobile device as much as you can. You'll be better off for it, personally and professionally.
Whether your role is in management or still working up the ranks, it is important to understand that work/life balance promotes success. The Gen X and Gen Y workforce in particular gets a pretty bad rap as the "entitled generation" for not wanting to wait until retirement to enjoy life. There's nothing wrong with that. Of course, there is a difference between not wanting to work until all hours of the night and slacking off. It takes new leadership and management skills to manage today's workforce. Work/life balance is as much a cultural change for organizations as it is a personal shift for employees.
Has your organization embraced work/life balance among its staff and leadership? I'd love to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. Chime in on the comments or hit me on twitter @jasonheller.