The pandemic put many of our professional lives on hold, and some have been without employment for months. For others working at home around the clock, the goal of a healthy work-life balance seems further away than before.
Is it possible to achieve a balance between work, family, friends, and personal priorities? Can it be done in a work-from-home world?
We might not have all the answers, but these quotes from current business leaders will help us make more sense of the situation we face now.
Learn to Love Work
As a high achiever, you’re always looking for ways to get more done each day and improve upon your performance yesterday. That’s hard to do if you aren’t 100% in love with your job.
If you need to take a break or make a change, that should be the priority instead of burning out for a cause you don’t feel passionate about.
“Make sure it’s something you like to do so that it never feels like its work,” said Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper and Scott. “Being passionate about what you like to do can make it easier to integrate daily life activities together and help create a balance. It’s also important to remember, there can never be a perfect balance. Keeping an open mind and willing to make adjustments is also pivotal when trying to balance both your business and personal life at the same time. And although at times there might be a world of chaos, these are all obstacles that will help you learn how to manage a work-life integration.”
Work/life balance will take care of itself when you find your mission.
Set Up a Spot
Ever been in an office where nothing ever seems to get done? Distractions, annoyances, side-tracked conversations – those things all detract from your productivity.
If you’re working from home, there are other things that can throw you off the task at any moment. Minimize those variables and practice extreme focus. Environment definitely plays a role.
“Finding a balance between work and your leisure time is difficult, especially while working from home,” said Andrew Pires, Owner of The Maskie. “To better your flow, find a space in your home that separates itself for work. If you work in your kitchen or in your room, then you will find that once you are off work and are in those spots you will feel stressed as if you were doing work. Find a space in your home, even if it’s a small corner, to keep as your workspace. This designated area will do wonders to your mental health at the end of the day.”
It might take time to find the perfect spot, so keep changing the scenery if needed.
Unwind in the Evening
At the end of a long day, are you able to walk away from your desk, or do you just sort of meander between different charts and tasks as a bad habit?
That’s how a lot of people end their daily routine, and it’s not doing them any good!
“To better separate yourself from work at the end of the day, you should always have some sort of night plan to relax,” said Melissa South, SVP of SwingTie. “This can be small things such as watching a TV show, reading a book, or going for a walk. As long as it is something that you can look forward to and help push you through the workday. This will make it so that once you are off work you know what you are going to do with your time and have a day’s worth of excitement to go along with it.”
Chill out and rest deeply, then tackle those tasks with full force in the morning.
Leave the Phone Alone
Be honest – how many times do you check your phone during the workday, and are you able to turn off notifications when all your work is done?
Some people need to be always on call for their jobs, but if that’s not you, learn to leave your phone in the drawer and don’t think about using it for work-related stuff.
“This is a big struggle and is something I am always working on,” said Adam Reed, CEO of Crown & Paw. “Having a dedicated workstation that is totally separate from your ‘relaxing’ areas is important – even more so when working from home during a pandemic. Deleting work-related apps from your phone such as Slack is always helpful. You might think you’re doing a good job by answering Slack messages at 11 p.m. at night but it’s a long-term disservice to your mental health. Your team will start to expect answers from you at all hours, and that is not a habit you really want to foster.”
The first day is the hardest, but you’ll soon realize it’s easy to let go.
Shut it Down
Are you the type of person who will work non-stop unless somebody physically rips you away from your desk or throws your laptop out the window?
There are plenty of people like that, and they need to remind themselves to step away at a certain hour each day. When you make that rule for yourself, balance becomes easier
“Owning your own business means that your work/life kind of mesh together,” said Ben Cook, Jr., Vice President & General Counsel of Printed Kicks. “The important thing to try to do (note, I said ‘try,’ because it is difficult) is to leave work problems with work. Find yourself a refuge and realize it’s normal, good, and OK to say ‘no, I’ll handle that in the morning.’ Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will whatever’s keeping you working till 8.”
If you find yourself working late every single night, that may be a signal that some other aspect of your lifestyle needs attention first.
Ever notice how all those self-proclaimed multi-taskers always seem to fall behind on work? It’s not that they’re less smart or capable, they simply need to focus.
This can be a bad habit to break if you’ve been doing it forever, but once you do, it does wonders for your work/life balance.
“Be careful not to fall into the trap of multi-tasking and try to focus on doing one thing at a time,” said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. “People who juggle a dozen things at once usually end up distracted and getting nothing done, so really lock in and go step by step. That’s the only way.”
First Things First
We all have one or two work responsibilities that always seem to take more effort, time, and energy than all the rest. To top it off, these tasks are also boring and might not play to our natural talents.
Instead of waiting and waiting, knock off those tough tasks early so that the rest of your workday is a smooth ride to the finish.
“If you can’t set priorities for yourself at the beginning of every day, it’s going to be a struggle every time,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of Craftd. “Make a list of the most important things you need to get done, and do them first – no exceptions. This will lighten your burden early on and make everything else easier.”
This principle applies whether you’re an exec or an entry-level worker, so don’t put it off.
Master Time Management
At the beginning of the day, you might feel like you have all the time in the world. Before long, the hours start to tick away, and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get stuff done.
This happens to the best of us, so put systems in place that improve your time management as soon as possible.
“Time is the No. 1 asset we have, so treat it with respect and make the most out of every hour,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “Use an app to track your productivity and make sure you stay on task. That mental muscles will gradually become stronger over time.”
We all waste a little time now and then, but never let procrastination get the best of you.
The strange thing about stress is that it can actually help us perform more efficiently and even spark creativity in certain situations.
However, too much stress can have the opposite effect and cause us to shut down completely. Find a way to use stress to your advantage by playing with incentives and pressures you put on yourself throughout the day and week.
“Whenever you set a deadline, that’s going to determine how long it takes to finish a task,” said Jamie Bainbridge, VP of Product Development of Mylo Unleather. “It’s called Parkinson’s Law, and it’s especially true in the work-from-home era. Be serious about your deadlines and move them up if you really value efficiency.”
It’s you versus you, as they say, and you’re in control of the outcome.
Distance from Tech
When you finish up your workday, do you immediately flip on the TV or start browsing your phone? You might think you’re replenishing your energy by doing this, but the human mind is not meant to handle all that technology 24/7.
“Screens, screens – way too many screens!” said Abraham Rahmanizadeh, COO of Leafwell Botanicals. “Your brain needs time away from technology to fully recharge, especially after a long week of work. Get outside, get into nature, interface with people you love. The work will be there when you return, trust me.”
Set aside some certified screen-free time each week and you’ll soon feel phenomenal.
When work is piling up, we sometimes find it hard to stop the avalanche of responsibility. We feel like we have an obligation to ourselves and our employers to take on more, even if it means compromising our wellbeing.
Stand up for yourself if you feel overburdened and find a way to lighten the workload.
“Many employees are overloaded with work nowadays, through no fault of their own,” said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent A Wheel. “If you are constantly swamped, that just means you need to have a conversation with your team members or managers to address the issue. They will more than likely help your figure something out.”
If you absolutely cannot ever seem to get ahead, you may not be in the right place workwise.
Make it Fun
If you’re new to a workplace or have your first professional office job, it’s important to show up and do your very best every single day.
On the other hand, you can’t take things so seriously, and you should try to enjoy your daily experience no matter what you’re doing. That’s key to life!
“Even the most exciting jobs on paper have some sort of boring aspect to them, and we need to make life a little more fun to do great work,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of PocketBook Agency. “Put on some high-energy music, make a delicious tea or coffee, let the sunshine in, and create an enjoyable vibe for yourself in the home office.”
The world’s most productive people are the ones who find joy in their work and make it fun for others as well.
Momentum is an unspoken secret to achieving a good work/life balance. Simply jumping right into your daily grind is going to leave you burnt out before you can say “slack”.
Take some time to move around in the morning, build up your mental energy, and dive into your to-do list when you’re fully up to speed.
“If your commute is a short walk across your apartment or up the stairs to your office, that’s not sufficient to get the body and mind into a flow state,” said Scott Rosenberg, CRO of MaryRuth Organics. “Take a walk or do some light exercise throughout the day and you will generate so much more momentum and productivity.”
This principle is how some people can juggle everything in life with little visible effort.
Just ask Tim Ferris – the 40 hour work week is a thing of the past. Okay, maybe you still need to work 40+ hours a week, but it might not necessarily need to be for 8 consecutive hours for 5 straight weekdays.
Working remotely allows us to test different flexible work schedules and find a work style that’s more conducive to healthy and happy living.
“Work-life balance is a difficult goal, especially for entrepreneurs,” said Elias Janetis, CEO and Founder of Squeeze. “Our schedules don’t fit the typical 9-to-5, and attempting to fit self-care activities exclusively into a post-work time frame often means we forgo them entirely. Work-life integration is much more realistic for business owners, as it allows you to adapt your schedule to your needs. Work-life integration is all about finding a schedule that works for you and encouraging healthy habits.”
Ask around in your team to see how people are managing their time and try adopting some of their recommendations for yourself.
Body and Mind
Despite all the advancements in the modern world, we still don’t seem to understand the vital connection between the body and mind, especially when it comes to work and productivity.
The truth is that if your body is not operating at 100%, your mental energy and creativity will fall behind as well. Remember this and strive to achieve better health in all aspects of life.
“First: Exercise and meditate,” said Jay Shah, CEO of Auris. “Number two is to make time for family and have a social life outside of work. Number three is learning to say NO. Finally, be grateful for what you have.”
Maybe you aren’t a gym person or a runner, but find a way to move and boost your health on a physical level to perform better at work.
Time to Yourself
When you’re firing on all cylinders at work, it can feel like social overload. Even if you’re working from home, you’re still probably hopping on conference calls and emailing people all day long.
Sometimes you just need some time to truly separate yourself from other people to recharge the mental and emotional batteries.
“It is of the utmost importance to make the time to have a healthy work-life balance,” said David Jiang, Founder and CEO of Reason to Smile. “We’re always on the go, so doing simple things like taking an early hike in the morning before getting started on work or driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, or just taking a walk to grab lunch, I find there’s a lot of solace in those moments.”
Yoga, meditation, and other individual pursuits can all help you get perspective and stay sane.
Know that feeling when you lay down at the end of the day but your mind is still racing from all the stuff on your plate? That can impact your sleep, which only makes things worse the next day.
Be sure to unwind in a healthy way at the end of a workday and give yourself the full night of restorative sleep you need.
“As a nutritionist as well as an entrepreneur, I realize the importance of a healthy work-life balance,” said Sarah Morgan, CEO of Even Health. “One of the keys is getting enough sleep and making sure you get quality sleep. A lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on both your work and your personal life. Exercising regularly and eating nutrient-rich food are also ideal.”
If you need a total sleep reset, take a weekend to fully relax and leave the technology alone.
We all have unconscious mental associations with certain areas, objects, and environments. Your bedroom, for example, should be all about sleep and relaxation. Your dinner table should be the only place you sit down to enjoy a meal.
The same thing applies to work. Don’t let your desk become an all-in-one living area. It’s for being productive and getting things done – nothing else.
“One important facet of maintaining a healthy work/life balance is by setting aside an area for only work,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “Your work-from-home space should be your ultimate inspirational zone. This is where you will do your best work, drawing motivation from your environment. So, surround yourself with objects that instill innovation and creativity. This can include family pictures, artwork, your favorite candles and a good book to provide a temporary escape when needed.”
This tip will help you compartmentalize your life more effectively and draw boundaries where needed.
You might be messaging back and forth with coworkers and clients all day, but that’s not the real, nourishing social interaction we need.
Make some time to reach out to loved ones and enjoy some banter to keep the mood light throughout the workday. This helps you vent and make sense of everything on your plate.
“Connecting with other people when working from home is so key,” said Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer of Genexa. “Shoot a text message, make a phone call, have a conversation – these things remind us that we’re not just going it alone. The human component can’t be overlooked.”
A best friend is an unbeatable asset in this world, so don’t take them for granted!
Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress, and admittedly, some are healthier than others. Create a list of ways to reduce stress and use them when you’re feeling the pressure rise.
These healthy release valves are important to maintaining an even keel and staying on top of your game.
“The life of every working person can get pretty stressful and busy at times,” said Louis Leidenfrost, CEO of Paint Your Numbers. “The main key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance is no matter how busy you are, always make time for nutrition, getting enough sleep, and staying active. Staying active serves best to reduce stress from the workload. Staying active also helps because it stimulates the brain.”
It’s also important to reward yourself occasionally with some junk food, mindless TV, or whatever else. Nobody is perfect, and that’s totally fine.
One Full Day Off
Modern work culture will have us working seven days a week if we’re not careful. Set a strict boundary for yourself and block off one day where you completely chill out and recharge.
When you get back to work the next day, you’ll be shocked at how much easier it is to get going and be productive.
“My idea of work/life balance is taking Saturdays fully off,” said Sean O’Brien, CMO of Modloft. “I typically work half-days on Sunday to prepare for the week and catch up from the previous week. Employee happiness is often rooted in giving folks ownership over what they’re working on, and giving them the right tools to do their job. Culture is a hard one, some companies lack culture and are still wildly successful.”
Remember that the best burnout cure is to simply step away from the action and be free from it all, even just for a day.
Team leaders and supervisors are constantly called on to put out fires and solve problems on their feet. This can be exhausting if you feel like there’s no way to avoid the work.
It’s unlikely that the entire company will fall apart if you take a break for 20 minutes, so allow yourself some time to breathe when you need it.
“Technology has created expectations of constant accessibility,” said Sunny Mills, Design and Production Director at Yoga Club. “While it’s imperative to complete work assignments, it’s also important to unplug after work and live the moment. Eat dinner away from your phone. Take a walk. Read a book. If you need to check work emails, schedule time to do so rather than constantly looking at your email or phone. It’s important to make time for your life outside of work so you can be happier and more focused at work.”
We can only handle so much as human beings, so don’t try to be superhuman 24/7.
Log onto social media and you’ll see people working on laptops on the beach or by the pool. That makes for an entertaining post, but it’s not how things get done in the real world.
Alternatively, you can’t expect to get much done on the couch or in an uncomfortable chair at the kitchen table. The environment is so key to sustainable productivity.
“Create a dedicated workspace that allows you to be in a work environment,” said Eric Gist, CEO of Awesome OS. “If you’re working from home, cozying up in bed is not ideal for a work-life balance. Create a dedicated workspace at home with as few distractions as possible, and good lighting. Keep all your work in this place, and make sure your desk is decluttered as well. This will help you focus better as well as enhance your productivity.”
Moments of Peace
The power of peace and quiet cannot be understated. It allows us to fully focus on the task at hand and gives us the mental space to be creative.
Sometimes our best ideas come to us when we are away from the desk, so give yourself those opportunities and big breakthroughs will be more frequent.
“Take some break from your work and spare this time on self-care and nourish your mind and body,” said Lezlie Karls, CEO of Mid-Day Squares. “For example, you can do yoga that will help you rejuvenate your mind and body. You can sketch something or read a book. You can also pursue your hobby in your leisure time and light up the creative spark in you.”
When did you last experience a eureka moment? They always happen when you least expect.
Do you sometimes forget to take your vitamins or skip lunch because you’re so locked into work? These things might seem like no big deal at the moment, but over time the effects can compound and leave you with a deficit of energy.
“It is vital to maintain a healthy work-life balance especially these days when so many people are stressed out,” said Grant Hosking, CEO of Total Hydration. “Working out should be at the top of the list as well as definitely staying hydrated.”
Always put health at the top of your priority list, even if it seems inconvenient now and then.
When you start looking at work and life as two sides of the same coin, it all becomes more clear. Your morning workout will give you the energy to get work done, which will in turn spark your inspiration to create more and enjoy time with family.
“Maintaining a healthy work-life balance takes a concerted effort,” said Brandon Werber, CEO of Airvet. “While I’d love it to just happen, it takes real work. To start, try not to think of it as a work-life balance, but rather (like Jeff Bezos puts it) a work-life harmony. Balance implies that when one side gives the other takes, seemingly always working against each other. Alternatively, harmony suggests that these two sides are intertwined and working towards the same goal. One side won’t need to suffer in order for the other to thrive.”
It’s all one big circle of life, and that’s not just a cliché.
Family and Friends
When you pour your heart and soul into work, it makes everything else in life so much more enjoyable. You have a sense of pride in what you do, and something to celebrate with friends and family when you finally get together for dinner.
If you’re lucky enough to have supportive people in your workplace and in your personal life, it can be much more gratifying and help you achieve great things in the long run.
“Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is about doing just enough in your work life and just enough in your personal life, without pushing yourself too hard either way,” said Ming Zhao, CEO of Proven Skincare. “Even if you are not able to spend every part of the day with your friends or loved ones, you can still create a life where you are able to see them a healthy amount. At the same time, the people in your life can watch you work hard and reach for your goals, and in this way you will leave them with a positive impression of someone driven and empowered. Especially if you have children, learning the art of this balance will be a great example for them to look up to.”
It might not be possible to achieve the perfect work/life balance every single day, but these tips will help point you in the right direction and make the most of both.