7 Strategies to Keep Work at Work: A Life Balance Cheat Sheet
It’s the paradox of running your own business. On one hand, you know that time off equals more productivity and better relationships with the people you’re doing all this work for. On the other hand, you never take time off. Even on vacation, a part of your brain is solving problems, making notes about inspiration and otherwise spending time at work.
You’re unlikely to ever break yourself of that habit, but we’ve tracked down tricks from mindfulness masters to MBA trainers about how to best leave work at work so you can enjoy your home and family during those off hours.
- Take Public Transit Home
Driving home can make your commute short, and keeps you just distracted enough to continue thinking about work. If traffic is bad, you can get home even more stressed and cranky than you were at the office. If you ride public transit, you can take that time to transition by checking off your prioritized to-do list, planning your attack for the next day, then settling into a book, music or podcast.
Or…ride your bike or jog home to transition slowly while getting in a solid workout.
- No Phone Hours
Set a hard and fast rule that you won’t answer your phone during certain hours: family mealtime, midnight to six, weekend afternoons, whatever works best for your personal schedule. People who need to contact you can leave a voicemail. Note that this only works if you observe the rule for yourself. No phone – and that includes texts and apps and games. Turn it off and focus on the people around you.
But…if your business has occasional real emergencies, set a code where people can call your phone, then the house phone to indicate a truly urgent matter – but end the world for people who use it lightly.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness – the ability to stay focused on what you’re doing at the time – is the real culprit for most of this problem. You think about work at work, and at home and while on vacation. Mindfulness is a habit – a behavioral muscle that you can build up through practice. Try taking some meditation, tai chi, yoga or martial arts classes to strengthen that muscle.
Also…read the works of Thich Nhat Hanh for insights into applying mindfulness in daily life.
- The Liar’s Vacation
Sometimes the demands of your employees, clients and friends mean you never have a full moment to yourself. Sometimes the best solution is to lie. Tell everybody that you’re leaving town for the weekend, and can’t be reached. Make up something about lack of signal. Then lock your doors, turn off your phones and relax doing nothing for two full days.
Or…take a real vacation to somewhere you can’t use your phone.
- Morning Me Time
If you schedule your “me” time in the evening, it will be the first thing you sacrifice to catch up on rough days. The solution: schedule your “you” time for the mornings. Most people prefer to meet for lunch or in the afternoon anyway, and many businesses have slow times in the morning. Use the eight to ten hours for a healthy breakfast, workout and coffee with a friend. Save the grind for later in the day.
Also…consider just coming in late. You’d be amazed how much more productive you are if you pamper yourself early mornings, work from home for a couple hours, then go in. In most cases, your staff will be more productive, too.
- The Key Trick
This piece of advice comes from champion kickboxer and life coach Benny Urquidez. When he gets home, before he puts his key in the door to open it, he goes through a series of visualizations to let go of what’s at work and embrace the family he’s about to rejoin. It’s a ritual that helps him switch off the business side and turn on the personal side.
Or…just lock your laptop, papers and phone in the car, then pass your keys to your partner like he/she is the designated driver.
- Keep a Can of Worms Book
One roadblock to keeping your work at work is that you sometimes get great ideas in the shower, while working out or at other “me” time moments. To keep these from hijacking your personal time, maintain a “Can of Worms” notebook. Use a small, portable book to jot down just enough to remember the inspiration, and schedule time each week at work to pursue those ideas.
Also…look into apps for your phone that let you do the same thing without carrying extra stuff.
This is a serious challenge for every small business owner we’ve ever worked with, and it’s probably an unbeatable problem. The traits that make you successful in business are the traits that make this hard to accomplish. Even so, the more progress you can make the better your business, home and quality of life will be.
Do you have any tricks to add to the list? Troubles you’d like some advice on? Join the conversation in the Kabbage community below!