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3 Ways to Steal Back Your Work-Life Balance

In many ways, the modern workplace resembles nothing so much as a hamster cage. We work in increasingly small spaces, at a frantic pace, and there's seemingly no escape. (Sometimes, there are actual hamster wheels, but that's another story.) How can a person hope to achieve work-life balance in a corporate culture that values work, not balance? Like all change, it starts with us.

In many ways, the modern workplace resembles nothing so much as a hamster cage. We work in increasingly small spaces, at a frantic pace, and there’s seemingly no escape. (Sometimes, there are actual hamster wheels, but that’s another story.) How can a person hope to achieve work-life balance in a corporate culture that values work, not balance? Like all change, it starts with us.

hamster wheel 

(Photo Credit: captainmcdan/Flickr)

1. Designate non-work time.

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It’s easy to say “don’t check email on the weekends,” but if everyone else does it, you’ll have a hard time bucking the trend. Instead, look for time that you can safely reclaim – and take it.

At LinkedIn, TalentSmart co-founder Dr. Travis Bradberry spoke with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff about how he balances his career and his young family. The answer? Although like most 21st century executives, he checks email after hours, he takes weekends off.

“I never go into the office on weekends, but I do check e-mail at night,” Rascoff says. “My weekends are an important time to unplug from the day-to-day and get a chance to think more deeply about my company and my industry. Weekends are a great chance to reflect and be more introspective about bigger issues.”

2. Communicate.

Ask any project manager how to keep a deadline, and he or she will tell you: plan for things to go wrong. That’s why most try to build in extra time for deliverables along the way to the big drop-dead date.

Good planning and built-in wiggle room will only take you so far, however. The key is to communicate with everyone along the way, so that there are no additional, unavoidable surprises.

“Assumptions can kill your team, work. and deadlines,” says Jim Shulkin, vice president of marketing at Daptiv, in an interview with CIO. “Developing a communication plan that errs on the side of over-communication [is] critical to the success of projects and work objectives.”

Shulkin recommends developing a plan that “outlines scope of work, owners of each task, deadline against each task and status updates,” as well as whom to notify when things go wrong.

3. Help others – but not at the expense of your own goals.

The best teams depend on and support each other, which means that helping your co-workers isn’t just good karma – it’s the only way to get things done. That said, sometimes you have to say no.

Before you agree to do any work outside the scope of your own project and goals, ask yourself what you’re giving up. If helping out will put you off-track or compromise your ability to meet expectations, think twice.

Even if you do decide to lend a hand at your own expense, be sure not to make it a habit. While everyone remembers the person who never helps out, memories get very short when it comes to defending team members who’ve dropped their part of the project. Don’t count on good will to save you, if you can’t fulfill your end of the bargain – even if it’s because you were helping someone else.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your best work-life balance tips? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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