It’s Thursday afternoon and you’ve been in meetings literally all day just like the day before and the day before that. Your email box is loaded with unread mail just like it is everyday at this point in the afternoon. You’ve wanted to work out this week but that just hasn’t happened. You had planned a dinner with friends last night and had to cancel. You’re counting down to the weekend, but it looks like you’re going to have to spend at least part of Saturday and Sunday in the office working on a new biz pitch.
No balance between work and life…Sound familiar?? How can you change this scenario?
For years, I struggled with finding balance between my agency life and my home life. I felt like I never could do the things I wanted to do to take care of me. I canceled drinks and dinners out; I couldn’t get to the gym and as for meals, well I definitely didn’t have time for anything but takeout.
I complained about having no balance in my life. I felt out of control and didn’t see anyway to stop the madness. I realized that the demands on me were not going to change. I had to change my perspective and my approach.
I decided that balance – a perfect state of equilibrium – was an impossibility in the world of agency life. It just wasn’t going to happen. I then recalled something a wise friend told me years earlier. It isn’t about finding balance, it’s about integrating what you need in your life alongside the demands of your career. So what does this mean and how did I apply it?
GYM TIME I started re-thinking when I worked out. Instead of going in the morning when I was generally most productive at work (no meetings or phone calls) or at night when I was beat, I joined gyms near where I worked and went during lunch for 30-45 minutes. Yes, it would have been easier to just stay in my office and work. It took discipline to get up and go, but the reality was that a lot of people took lunch when I never did. I could step out 1-3 times during the week with no real impact and feel so much more energized when I returned.
Could you head to the gym or take a walk or do something that energizes you during lunch a few days a week?
DATE NIGHT FOR ME I made a commitment to leave the office by 5pm on Fridays as this was Martini night at our house. I realized I would rather spend an hour or so on the weekend catching up on emails than miss this family event with my hubby, mom and daughter-in-law and her family. Yes, I traded Friday night for an hour on Sunday. It felt like a better option to me though than missing out cocktails with my family.
What night could you make a “date” with yourself or with friends and make it a real commitment to stick to it?
RECOGNIZING WHEN I WAS MOST EFFICIENT I knew I was most productive early in the mornings, before the phone started ringing or meetings were scheduled, so I chose to come in early (e.g., 7 or 7:30) when I had a presentation to write or a slew of emails to respond to. I almost never left the office after 6pm even during the week as I knew that any work I was doing was taking me twice as long and/or wasn’t near as good an effort.
When are you most productive and how can you rethink your schedule to get more done when you’re at your best?
NO PHONE OR EMAIL AT NIGHT. What truly is going to happen between 7pm and 7am? Not much. I realized that I could spend the night checking my phone, responding to emails from people who like writing them at night or I could just put the damn device to bed for those 12 hours. And that’s what I did. Over time, my teammates knew that I was a morning person not a night person and that I wasn’t going to be on call during the evening…unless it was a real emergency.
The key here was just not looking at my phone. Can you put your phone in another room at night to limit the temptation to stay connected?
RUNNING ERRANDS DURING THE DAY– When?? Well, often, I had client meetings out of the office. I would drive to these meetings so I started taking advantage of the drive time by doing a few errands on my way to or from the meeting. Yes, it did add 15-30 minutes, but I got my Walgreens run done or the trip to the Post office or even a quick trip into the grocery store to pick up things that could sit in my car for the day. I integrated these errands into my day instead of having to do them all on my way home when all I wanted to do was sip on a glass of wine.
If you are driving to a meeting, could you build in an extra 30 minutes to take care of some errands?
My strategies may not be the right ones for you, but the point is to think about how you can both integrate your life into your work schedule and also know when you’re most productive and leverage those hours in the day. I found this strategy much more effective than continuing my search for the ever-illusive perfect state of balance.
I would love to hear what works for you! Please send me a message with your tips on how you integrate work and life and sign up for the bloom newsletter for more input on agency life.