Quite a significant proportion of people struggle with the concept of work-life balance. No question, it’s the buzzword whenever there’s a meeting between HR and the staff. No question, all of us want it. But even so, it’s something that is so elusive to actually achieve.
Know About Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s law is that work expands to fill whatever time is available. If you give more time for a task, you are more likely to put more effort into it, which sometimes might not even be necessary. Have you noticed some people wait till the last minute and then quickly churn up something to complete their task? And other people start way early, but still are in the same kind of rush towards the end to complete the task?
That’s parkinson’s law at work. When you have more time, your mind puts more into the task and makes it bigger. When you have only less time, your mind prioritizes the subtasks and gets you to still complete it within that time. How to overcome it? Keep milestones with deadlines. What will you complete before 1 o clock? What will you complete before 3 o clock? What will you complete by the close of work? Without doing this, you are prone to subconsiously think there’s time available until late night and complicate your work more or improve it’s quality more than necessary. Surely, quality is important – but remember, you can be indefinitely improving quality of your deliverable.
Do Not Overestimate Yourself
One of the biggest problems when we plan is overestimating ourselves. If you have ever indulged in some retrospection, you’d remember how many times you overestimated yourself while planning. For example, when I was in school, I used to plan that I will study one chapter every hour of the day. I’m quite embarassed to say that this continues even now more that I’d like it to. Last week I planned I will close 8 bugs in my project at work – without even knowing the root cause of those bugs. But it’s okay because I catch myself most of the time – and you should too. Once you overcommit at work, then you will quickly find yourself sacrificing other areas to cope up for it.
It’s always better to undercommit and overdeliver. Ask for more time than you estimated, finish the task diligently, then use the remaining time to polish your code. That’s how you shine. Not by overworking yourself.
Be a Team Player
Are you often thinking it’s better to complete something yourself instead of passing it on to one of your team mates? Especially if you are in a leading position or you are managing a team? If you are not able to delegate tasks and get them completed, it usually means that you are not a good team player. Think and identify why you are unable to delegate tasks to your team mates. Are you having trust issues with your team? Does your team need more training to contribute better? Are you having communication problems – are you simply shy to talk to people?
The biggest strength of corporate structures is working as teams. If you are not taking advantage of it, then you have a serious problem you need to rectify. The typical workaholic mentality is ‘I can just do it myself in the time it takes to explain it to another person’. Wrong. Even if you are a super-skilled master programmer or something like that, it’s highly unlikely that you’re as efficient as a team working together.
Plan Ahead and Stick To It
Plan ahead for your work. I’ve found my sweet spot planning weekly. Some people like to plan more, or less, frequently than that. But you should always plan. Beware of becoming a perfectionist and spending to much time and effort in planning. I say this because that’s the reason a lot of people give up on planning. The planning itself should not become a stressful chore. At the beginning of the week, I like to just quickly chalk up a few tasks that I’d have to see completed in the week. Better if you can do it with your team. I’m not saying you should do the same, but I recommend you do something similar in a frequency that suits you. Right off the bat, it reduces stress by a lot because a lot of surprises get avoided.
More importantly, do as much as possible to avoid taking up unplanned work, once you have done this planning. Although there are genuine chances of unplanned – yet important – work turning up, in my experience, we often accept such work because we hesitate to say no. If you frequently find yourself unable to keep up with what you commit, you should try this – make a light and easy plan, keeping in mind it should be significantly easier than you can handle, and then stick to it. Lean towards sticking to your plan, rather than impressing people by handling unplanned activities. If you are building a reputation, let it be that you respect your time and will not let it be taken for granted.
Create a Life Outside of Work
Many people who struggle to create work life balance, simply don’t have a significant enough life outside work. You might have a family, but if you don’t give it importance, it’s as good as non-existent to you. Similarly you can’t say you have a hobby, if you only indulge in it a couple of times a year. Commit yourself to atleast a couple of things outside of work. For most people one of these things can be your family. Create habits that keep you connected with them. It can be a little habit like, everyday you will have dinner with your family at 7.30 in the evening. Commit to doing activities with your friends.
If you have more things in your life that makes you interesting, your mind won’t have to rely on your work performance to feel good about yourself. You’re less likely to link work to your ego. You’re more likely to plan and organize your day in a healthy way. It is absolutely necessary that you have time for face-to-face interactions with other human beings outside of the scope of your work.
Let Go of Your Ego
The more committed and successful someone get at their job, the more their ego get’s blown up. Soon they find themselves unable to say no, unable to ask for help. Even if they’re obviously overloaded and are struggling to cope up, they don’t reach out and express it. It’s as if they believe people will think less of them if they can’t handle their load. This is people’s ego talking. You need to recognize when your ego is hurting you. The fact is, people who don’t act on time regarding these things, end up hurting themselves more.
Imagine your project is slightly off track, and you hesitate bringing it to attention, because you think it would be perceived as your weakness. A few weeks later, it becomes a more serious problem, and your sense tells it’s better to bring this to people’s attention. But now, it’s harder, because you also have to answer for why you didn’t highlight it earlier. So you will probably try harder to bring the project back on track, without letting people know the seriousness. Avoid this mess by having a clear head, and never ever give in to your vanity at work. It’s okay to reach out and get help when you are overloaded. It’s okay to say the task might take longer than expected.
If you find yourself in a stressful mess, staying back late, day after day. Stop for a moment and ask yourself. What’s the worst that could happen if I tell my manager that i’m struggling and need help? Surely it’s not worse that having an unsatisfying life or spoiling your health.
It’s not very difficult to create a healthy work-life balance that you need to be researching the internet about it. It’s easy. You just need awareness. Stop being a robot and pay attention to what you are doing, what you are feeling, and whether you are happy. Then do something about it.