Work life balance cannot exist without setting clear boundaries. If they are blurred we will constantly feel overwhelmed and out of balance. But if we spend some time thinking about how we want our balance between work and life to look like, we will be on our way to success. Here are 6 steps to get you started.
WRITE DOWN YOUR PRIORITIES
In today’s high-paced world, we sometimes lose sight of what is important to us. We are simply so busy running from one thing to another. We are so concentrated on our to-do lists that we forget to ask ourselves: is completing that task really important for me? Is that going to really make any difference in my life?
So write down your priorities. What is important to you in this stage of your life?
It is really important that you don’t think about your life as a whole but rather of the period of time you are in right now. Because our priorities change depending on the stage of life we are in. For example, your priorities will be different if you have a newborn at home versus when you have school-aged kids. Same way as your priorities will change when you are working on getting a promotion at work versus the time when you are well established in your position.
It is also very helpful if you write down your priorities for both home and work. I go into more detail about how to do that in the previous post Work Life Balance – 7 Tips to be More Effective.
And yes, you need to write them down and not just think about them! I have learned a long time ago that the act of writing things down makes things more real. And it really ensures that you will not forget what they are. Our minds are so cluttered with all kinds of information, that whatever we can write down to declutter our brain space, we totally should.
SET BOUNDARIES FOR NON-NEGOTIABLES
The next step for setting boundaries for work-life balance is to think about your non-negotiables. In other words, what are some things that you are not willing to sacrifice. It could be things related to your health: like the types of food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, or your workouts. For example, one of my non-negotiables is working out each morning during the week for 30 minutes. This means that when I travel for work, I make sure that the hotel I am staying in has a gym that I can use.
You should also think of non-negotiables from the view of your family life. What are some of the things that you are not willing to give up to further your career or make your business grow. This could be a two-week family vacation once a year. Or maybe your family loves eating dinner together and your non-negotiable is family time between 6 pm and 8 pm.
Those non-negotiables will be different for each of us. And there is no right and wrong here. Our lifestyles are so different that what will work for one family will not work for another. And remember that the non-negotiables will also change depending on the phase of life you are in.
Deciding on your non-negotiables will help you establish those work-life balance boundaries. It is so much easier to say no when you are clear what your non-negotiables are.
SET TYPICAL WORK HOURS
Some of us have jobs where the work schedule is pretty consistent. But some of us have a work schedule that is very flexible. Either because we our work day does not end at 5pm and we take some of our work home after we leave the office, or because we are business owners and our work never really ends.
This is where our boundaries tend to get very blurry. If we don’t have set work hours, we feel like we are always working. This is why it’s so important to set some typical work hours. They don’t have to be set in stone, but they need to serve you as the high level boundaries.
Those boundaries are as much for you as they are for your boss and your customers!
If you are available all the time, answering emails at all hours of the day and constantly working on projects late at night – people will start to expect that from you! And you need to put a stop to it as soon as possible if you want to have a balance between work and life.
Sure, there are going to be times when you have to work outside of those typical work hours because you are launching a new product or because you are dealing with a huge problem. But those should be the exceptions to the rule and not a normal daily occurrence.
DECIDE ON FLEX TIME
Now what if you are having one of those weeks where your typical work hours are not enough to get a job done?
In those cases I suggest using what I call a flex time. Think about your daily schedule and identify times when you could possibly get some work done that does not interfere with your non-negotiables. It could be using the time when you are waiting in the car to pick up your kids from school. Perhaps you could get some work done when you are at a sporting event during the periods of time when your kids are not actively participating. You can decide to order takeout to save some time on dinner prep and dedicating that time back to work tasks. Or you can work after your kids go to sleep or before they wake up.
But thinking about your options for flex time ahead of time will make it so much easier on you when you encounter that type of week. Instead of being stressed out, you will know that there are periods of time in your day that you can use to get some work done.
RELATED: 5 Habits of Successful Working Moms
START TIME BLOCKING YOUR WAY TO WORK LIFE BALANCE
There are so many different ways that you can use time blocking to your advantage. The main goal here is to make you more productive and effective with the time that you have. In other words, if you get more things done in the limited time that you have, then it will be easier to create the work life balance that you desire.
What is time blocking? It’s basically dedicating a set amount of time to complete a specific task. For example, you can block your calendar between 1 pm and 3 pm to work on a product launch initiative. That means that during those two hours, you are solely dedicated to that task. It is a proven fact that when we don’t have destruction, we are much more productive.
Time blocking is very helpful when it comes to setting work-life balance boundaries. It will allow you to block family time and work time on your calendar. This is particularly important if you work from home and work and home responsibilities tend to get mixed together.
Setting specific blocks of time for work assignments and home responsibilities will help you separate the two and be more effective and productive in each of them.
RELATED: 10 Time Management Do's and Don'ts
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Sometimes despite all your great planning, life will throw a curve ball and you have to be ready to catch it. Life balance will be shaken a bit but it does not mean that you have failed.
It simply means that you will have to make some adjustments and keep moving forward. You have to change your mindset and become more adaptable to change. Because it is so easy to start feeling overwhelmed when things don’t go as planned.
We make a plan and think about possible challenges and solutions to them ahead of time. But there are still going to be things that we absolutely cannot control or predict. Know that you are not alone! We all experience that from time to time. Make the best out of the situation and learn from it. That is all we can do.
Remember that work-life balance is not about perfection. It will look different from day to day. And that is OK!
RELATED: Life Balance of a Working Mom
How comfortable are you with the boundaries you currently have for your work-life balance? What boundaries are, or were, the hardest to set?