10 Principles for Successful Work-Life Balance

By Mike Hawkins  |  Posted 01-26-2010

10 Principles for Successful Work-Life Balance

It seems the only way to get ahead in your profession these days is to get behind at home. Much is written on finding a healthy work/life balance. It is a widespread problem that continues to elude people, especially those of us driven to achieve.

I've been guilty of it myself in the past, but now refuse to live my life in the hamster wheel of "busyness as usual."

Of course, there are days when we all get backed up and over scheduled. The issue is when these days are the rule, not the exception. You have no healthy work/life balance when you are chronically late to your children's sporting events, your meetings, doctor's appointments, or if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning because you worked late the night before.

It doesn't have to be like this. You can escape this pattern.

Here are 10 principles you can use to get more done in less time--and get back to a healthy balance between time spent at work and home:

1. Set Goals. Set specific goals with actions and incremental milestones that you can track. Define your goals in terms that create a vivid mental picture of your desired end-state. Written goals help you establish clarity of purpose and provide accountability. Regularly review them and your progress against them. Like going on a road trip, you will get to your destination much easier if you map the best route.

2. Focus on the Important. With the many communications channels and other distractions vying for your attention, staying focused is a constant challenge. Don't let the urgent, the convenient and the immediate distract you from the important. Stay focused on reaching the milestones that support your goals. Be proactive. Create the habit of working intentionally. Minimize your distractions. Make a "not to-do" list and adhere to it.

3. Set Your Own Standards. Don't mindlessly follow social and cultural norms. Instead, follow your own values. Establish your own principles of operations. Define the few principles by which you will operate your business and your life. Let them guide you instead of following the latest fads and over-hyped products.

4. Learn to Say "No." You cant do everything. You can't attend every seminar or go to every social function. You can't even go to every family gathering. Of course you might like to, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. Learn to say no. Or if it is truly worthy, learn to use "yes, if ..." instead of just "yes." In other words, put conditions on activities you can influence like adding "if you can make the food this time" or "if there is a way to shorten the event to a half-hour."

5. Delegate. Just because there are activities that you can't say no to doesn't mean you have to be the one that does them. No one is successful on their own. Solicit the help of others. Outsource activities that others can do as well as or better than you. Delegate responsibilities to people that have more bandwidth than you. If you have a house to clean and a teenager at home who needs some spending money, outsource the cleaning to them. It's a win-win solution for you both. If you were hit by a bus tomorrow and had to spend the next month in a hospital, consider who would do your work and start delegating it to them now.

Principles 5-10

6. Be More Productive at What You Do. For those activities you must do yourself, find ways to be as efficient as you can. Your time is your most valuable resource--don't squander it. Create reusable templates for anything that you do repeatedly. Employ tools and computer applications to automate your tasks as much as possible. Streamline your processes so that there is little wasted time and effort, particularly where there are hand-offs between people.

7. Get Organized. You can't be your most productive if you're not organized. Stacks of inbound correspondence mixed with reference material and time sensitive documents aren't conducive to quick reference and follow-up. Establish a filing system that gives you ready access. Set up a "one-touch" approach to dealing with e-mails, letters, text-messages, bills, reference materials, voice messages and other requests. Utilize the "Do, Delegate, Delete or File" principle.

8. Maintain Your Energy. Being tired robs you of the energy you need to stay productive and focused. Get a good night's rest of uninterrupted sleep--seven hours, if possible. Eat a balanced diet and follow good nutritional guidelines. Take vitamin and mineral supplements. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week at your doctor-recommended cardio levels--it will recharge your body's battery just like a cell-phone charger.

9. Don't Worry. Leave your worries behind. Do what you can to resolve your problems and that is good enough. Worrying and chronic stress are bad for your health and energy level and provide no substantive benefit to you or others. Studies show that 92 percent of what people worry about has already happened, won't change a thing or is completely unfounded. Channel your energy into more productive uses. Go exercise instead.

10. Maintain Some White Space on Your Calendar. Pretend there isn't as much availability on your calendar as it affords. Take a break. Carve out some time for reflection. The cliché that your best ideas come to you in the shower is more fact than fiction. When relaxed, your brain is free to unleash its power. Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Archimedes of Syracuse and countless others were relaxing when they came up with their world-changing ideas.
 
Mike Hawkins is author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others, and president of Alpine Link Corporation, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development and sales performance improvement.