This post originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com.
The common term for the balance between life and work is “work-life” balance. I would argue that we’re putting too much emphasis on work by putting it first. It’s time we start looking at creating more of a “life-work” balance. You should invest in yourself first – put your family, health, and personal time first. We all know how important it is to bring in money to live, but why does that have to drive how we live? When we talk about life-work balance, we are really talking about work-time-health-relationship balance.
To achieve a healthy life-work balance, you need to set up a few rules and routines for yourself that govern your personal life versus your work life. Here are four areas to focus on.
Find extra time
How many times have you said, “there are just not enough hours in the day.” If I had a dollar for every person that has said that, I would be a millionaire already. Although the solution is simple, many people get so caught up in the day-to-day that they forget to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Planning your days properly can save you time. In conducting a time audit, you will be surprised at how much time you can find/save. This saved time can be re-invested in more important endeavours. Here are a few time-saving approaches that will help:
- Don’t schedule meetings before 11 a.m.: Travelling anywhere in any city before that time is simply inefficient.
- Run errands counter to other people’s schedule, if possible: Run your personal errands on a Wednesday morning (return items to a store on a Wednesday 10 a.m., haircut, get car washed, etc.)
- Outsource: hire people to do the things that take too much of your time (accountant, lawn cutting, house cleaning, etc.). Use that time to connect with friends and loved ones. That is balance! And that is return on investment on time and finances.
- Use technology: Technology exists to make life easier, so take advantage of it. For example, why would you spend time going into a store when you can use Amazon for shopping? When you do have to go somewhere, use technology to tell you how to get there fastest. I use Waze every time I get in the car.
Putting life first in the life-work balance means figuring out how work fits into your life rather than the other way around. You need to maximize the time you spend working so you can afford to spend quality time outside of work, knowing you’re getting things done.
Here are a few things to consider:
- You’re not that important: Remove yourself from as many meetings or decisions as possible. You need to learn to delegate and trust those around you.
- Time blocking: Set your workday up in blocks of time that are pre-scheduled. Working on the fly won’t get you the same results. Either weekly or at the beginning of each day, figure out which tasks you need to accomplish and schedule when you will achieve them. For example, in one day, you might spend one hour on emails and then move into one hour of reading to keep up on your industry trends.
- Time-off apps: While technology generally keeps us connected at all times, there are apps that will actually help you disconnect every day. I use Time-Off to block notifications on my phone for up to three hours at a time. That way you won’t be distracted while you are spending time with friends or family.
- Pomodoro technique: Use an online timer app, this is basically HIIT training but for work. Go hard for 20 minutes, take a five-minute break, then go again. Working in this way will help you stay on task.
- Have a cut-off time: Stop working everyday at a certain time. Your brain will get into the habitual rhythm.
Take care of your own health
Part of being successful in business is showing up and that means you need to be healthy so you don’t miss out on opportunities. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Here are the obvious, but forgotten, things to remember:
- Go to the gym at a set time every day: Don’t put it off for a meeting or a call or to send an email. Even if it’s a short workout, get it done. Nothing makes you more productive in a busy day than a quick workout.
- Eat right: You have 28 meals in one week (including one snack every day). Aim to eat 80 per cent of them healthily. If it helps, invest in a meal prep service. You’ll be able to justify the extra cost when you start seeing the effect it has on everyday living.
Put relationships first
You will go further in life and business with a support system in place. Nurture your personal relationships even more steadily than your work relationships. They are there for the long haul.
- Schedule date nights: Spend quality time with your significant other. Planning date nights will give you something to look forward to.
- Disconnect on weekends: Take a time outside of work on the weekends. Read a book, go for a walk, visit your grandparents, or call an overseas friend. Whatever you choose to do, put work aside.
Implementing these rules and routines will help you to improve balance in your everyday life. However, keep in mind that life is always in a constant state of flux and this balance will swing as life throws its many unpredictable situations your way. Having a system will help you get back to balance quickly.