Is a work-life balance possible in today’s hectic, always-on, always plugged-in world? According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, it is, but it requires some planning and prioritizing. It also doesn’t hurt if you put away your smartphone.
Why is it so hard for us to step away from the office and stay away? Can we learn how to have a life at day’s end?
The reason it’s so hard to stay away is that the office is, in a real sense, with us all the time. It’s in our pocket or purse and accessible with ease. That means we need to take steps to turn off the smartphones and reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones.
The routine for keeping the work at work begins … at work. At the end of the day, these steps taken before leaving can help executives to unplug:
- One Small Task. Before you leave, end your day on a positive by ticking off one easy activity on your to-do list. Return one phone call, send one email, or sign one expense report. Small wins can make a difference and let you leave with a victory.
- Make a List. Making a list at the end of the day helps you to identify and prioritize. Taking the last 30 minutes to focus your work for the next day, thinking about what is most important, and leaving yourself a list helps to settle your mind and feel as though you’ve bottled up the day and have a plan going into the next one.
- Tidy Things Up. A cluttered desk … or desktop … can lead to a cluttered mind that requires you to worry about where things are, where projects stand, and where that memo is. Like the list-making, a clean desk helps to bring order to the psyche when not there.
- Define Done. Each day, you need an activity that signifies that the work day is over. It might be shutting down your computer, locking your door, leaving the building, or getting in the car. Whatever it is, this anchor should be your personal signal that it’s time to be done with work.
- Be Positive at Home. Ask family or friends about what was good about the day, what they learned, or what they’re happy about. This sets the tone for the evening and gets you thinking about the good stuff, too.
Smartphones are one of the main causes of the blurring of work and non-work activities.
Keeping away from work is hard when your smartphone also functions as your means of communication and entertainment. Those work emails will still pop up and create the potential to draw you back in.
Consider phone-free times at night or when socializing with friends. Encourage them and your family members to do the same. Finding ways to disconnect physically allows you to do the same mentally, though it’s not always easy to accomplish.
That’s where activities, hobbies, and engagement with others can help. Staying off digital devices can make it clear to work contacts when you are or are not available to them.