Work-life balance is a full-time job. But if you do it well, it can make the difference between just getting by and thriving—at work, at home, everywhere. To master the work-life balance formula, you have to project manage your private life as efficiently and with as much planning and diligence as you do your work life.
So how do you excel as a project manager of a busy, growing company—and maintain a well-balanced life? Here are seven work-life balance tips to even the scales:
1. Pace yourself. There’s nothing sustainable about working 65-plus hour weeks year in, year out. Nobody performs stand-out work in burnout mode; and there’s nothing fulfilling about going home with nothing to give your family at the end of the day. Many of us have been there—once you fall in the over-working rut it’s hard to get out, even when your level of productivity takes a hit. Don’t sign yourself up for project work that takes more hours than you’re available for—and then feel like you have to prove to everyone you can keep up. Use project management tools that manage resources and will only schedule work for the hours that you’re available each week. In other words, if you have a 40-hour a week limit, make sure that the schedule doesn’t reflect back a 60-hour work week that you feel like you have to keep up with to save face. In the long run, you want to develop work-smarter habits, not work-harder ones.
2. Give yourself personal goals to balance out the professional ones. For those of you whose lives are tipping the work scale disproportionately, it might be time to distribute your goals. For example, you might have a long list of professional goals you’re striving for, along with the performance goals you agreed to with your manager. But if you don’t have any personal goals to balance all the work ones, some precious areas of your private life are going to suffer. Start by writing a few goals on paper, add some action items that make you accountable (and support the goals getting accomplished). Ask yourself: If the next six months of your personal life was a project, how would you schedule it and manage it?
3. Prioritize and delegate. Do you really need to be doing everything that’s on your plate? Or could you have a more effective prioritization system, one that has a cut-off point of tasks that you then hand off to other team members. If you’re finding it hard to let go, think of this: By reducing your task list you can do a better job focusing on fewer tasks than being spread so thin. Plus, by sharing your project riches, you might give your team members a chance to grow in their roles as well. A win for everyone.
4. Become a master at estimating time. Granted, we’re big fans of estimating in ranges here at LiquidPlanner. But one of the greatest benefits of estimating the best/worst case scenarios of your work is that over time you get better at it. Which means, you get more proficient at estimating incoming projects and tasks, and can stop over-committing to a project that demands an unreasonable amount of your time, and your team’s.
5. Take breaks. Studies vary on this, but generally our brains need a rest every 60 – 90 minutes. Granted, you don’t want to pull yourself away from work when you’re in a productive flow state, but when you can, try to take even five minutes to step away from what you’re doing. Giving your brain a breather—along with some objective distance from the project at hand—could save you hours down the road. Have you ever over-worked a problem so much that you spend hours going nowhere? And that wasted time can eat into precious personal time you could be spending with friends and family.
6. Get outside. Who cares if you have everything in your glorious office building that you need for the day—from snacks galore to a pool table to a fun team you could happily talk to for hours. Going outside, getting fresh air and seeing nature gives you a fresh perspective you can’t get inside. Especially when you’re going through a stressful time at work, or you’re stuck on a problem—having even a brief connection with nature can remind us of the much-bigger world going on around us. Sometimes we need to be reminded that our problematic project isn’t the center of the universe. To supplement, plan weekend activities that get you outdoors.
7. Set boundaries. You are solely responsible for being the protectorate of your time in and out of work. Don’t be a yes-person and feel like working longer hours is a job safety net (it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be). A great time to establish boundary-setting habits is when you start a job and you can show (and teach) your teammates how you work. If you’re already in a job where you’ve been working 60-hour weeks and you want to take it down a notch, have a talk with your manager and even your team to set a verbal contract of how you can shift priorities and working style moving forward. Who knows—you might start a trend that leads to a more balanced, productive and happy team!
Do you have tip No. 8? Tell us, in Comments!