Work-Life Balance – the different dimensions to think of

I’ve been reading recently Work-Life balance for Dummies by by Jeni Mumford and Katherine Lockett. It’s a great book which gives some useful tips to both your day to day life on how to make more time for out of work activities and how to make the best of the time at work, and also on how to pitch to your management on the benefits of having a flexible working place in case they don’t think so yet.

(NOTE – There is a good reason why it’s called work-life balance and not life-work balance. You have to start with adjusting to your daily work but still see how you can balance your life around it. There are other books, such as The 4 hour work week (Haven’t completed reading it yet) which are supposed to teach how to balance work around life. I can share more once I complete reading it.)

If you haven’t given it any thought and want to start focusing on work life balance, it’s a great book. The tips are quite easy to implement and useful.

If you’re someone who has been actively thinking on how to balance work and life, it’s a great book. You will feel much better with yourself if you’ll see that you already implemented some of the tips recommended by experts 🙂

Here are some of my tips based on my own experience, and I focused mainly on the changes which caused a dramatic change:

1. Remove the e-mail notification and sync when work is over for that day. If you’re still tempted, manually sync it, but it will be your choice. We always feel better when it’s our choice. It means now we just need to avoid this temptation. The 2nd tip in that sense is to remove the inbox icon from your home screen. If you will need to make several clicks just to get there, it will be harder to get tempted

2. There is nearly always an alternative in case things will not be done today. Not that I’m saying that you should postpone everything, but in case you ran out of time for good reasons, things in most cases can wait for tomorrow. Of course it’s important to make sure that you properly prioritize your time. If you did a bad job in prioritization, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

3. But still, let’s say you wake up in the morning on the day you were supposed to do something extremely important and you find yourself heavily sick or there is some other reason why you won’t show up in the office today. You’re probably familiar with such situations where you just need to leave everything aside and realize there are more important things in life. By the end of the situation, you realize that no catastrophe has happened at work. So tip #3 is take everything in the right proportions when you’re trying to think whether it’s worth putting more effort today at work rather than doing some off-work activities

4. Maintain a clean inbox. I read once an article about inbox zero (here is a good reference – http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/inbox-zero). The article suggested 4 simple stages to reach it:

a. Create a sub-folder under your inbox called ‘DMZ’ and move your existing inbox to that folder. Ta da! you just reached an inbox zero.

b. Create 3 additional sub-folders under your inbox: Handle – for things that you need to take care of, Follow- for things you need to track for status, Spare time – for things that you should read when you have spare time. For example, if I get an e-mail which is long and I need to respond to, I’ll put it under Handle. When I e-mail an important call for action and I want to verify it was handled by the target audience, I’ll put it under Follow (there is a nice option in Outlook when you right an e-mail to have it kept in a specific sub-folder before sending it). When I receive an e-mail with a nice article worth reading, I’ll put it under Spare time. When you have some time, go over the DMZ folder and start spreading it between these folders or your archive

c. Create a local archive. The idea is that even if a message is deleted, it can always be retrieved, so don’t worry about deleting messages in case you don’t have any action to do with it

d. Set up some time during the day to review your inbox and either handle things immediately or dispatch them between the 3 sub-folders. Once dispatched, you can then go over your Handle sub folder and start handling things. I also started tagging the e-mails in the Handle sub-folder so I could focus on e-mails related to the same domain at once.

So that’s one dimension of work-life balance – making a balance during your day to day to more things that matter. My daughter was born 1.5 years ago and ever since I’ve been focusing on spending enough time each week with her so (a) I could enjoy this time and (b) I won’t regret it afterwards.

The second dimension is the long term. The high tech domain has become more and more a young people domain, which makes it hard to maintain a steady career till you reach pension. I haven’t reached pension myself so I can’t claim for any experience (unfortunately…) , but, here is my take on it:

1. Plan ahead – don’t think about immediate gains. This is why I prefer to take things slowly and don’t rush too fast for promotions. This will make my career much more balanced over time and I’ll know that I will make the best out of these years in keep on learning new stuff while reaching a level of excellence in each role I do

2. I tend to prefer companies where I could stay for long. The best edge I have over new contenders in the job market is my experience. And the place that will know to value it the most is your existing employee. There is no replacement for lost knowledge, so as long as your company remain in the same domain, your an asset to the company

I still need to evolve around my first tip. I’m about to start a journey where I’ll focus on how to evolve it. I came across this nice blog talking about being ownterpreneur. At the time of writing this post, it was still new, but the overall idea is you should become the entrepreneur of your career.  How to do it? Let’s hope I’ll have some answers in a few month

2 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance – the different dimensions to think of

    1. Nice article! There is one important distinction I heard once about the pre-industrial era and the industrial era – in the pre-industrial era people usually worked directly at their farms and in most cases their kids were with them at work. So in a sense, the idea of merging work and life together already existed in the past and worked there 🙂 But these days, where most of us don’t work from home it becomes trickier. I do urge people to attempt the exercise of disconnecting. It will be just like taking a vacation and reaching a place with no internet. I had the best time when I reached my mobile data limit and decided to disconnect it. I could then concentrate on the things that truly matter

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