Tips from Career Expert Jena Abernathy

1. Take Inventory of How You Are Spending Your Time

Just like when you start a diet, you are asked to keep a diary of what you are eating. So, to get a handle on your work/life balance goals, take one week with a pre-printed timetable/calendar and fill it in to see where the gaps are and what needs to be moved off and what can be replaced to give yourself more control over your time and satisfaction.

2. Plan Your Day in Advance

The night before, get your clothes, your children’s clothes, etc. together. Focus on your schedule. Get up early to get your exercise in for the day, or take that hour to figure out what relaxes you and just simply own that “ME TIME”. Starting your day on the right note sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Schedule a definitive lunch break. Your desk should not be your place setting. If you did not get to exercise in the am, perhaps this is the time to take a walk. It is important you commit to the items that bring you joy outside the office, so make sure to schedule your book club, and hobbies that are important to you.

3. Use One Calendar

Often we build out a work calendar and a personal calendar – this can get messy. Integrate into one calendar so that everything is scheduled in one platform. Use initials or code words if you are concerned about personal items on the calendar which may be viewed by others at work.

4. Set Boundaries

If you have to leave everyday by 5pm to pick-up the children, be clear on when you need to have work on your desk – perhaps by 3:30pm. If dinner and homework are your priority – shut down the electronics from 5-7:30pm – if you feel compelled to check e-mail after that time, that is your choice, remember – you are inviting others in when you open that email and start responding. If you feel you have to stay connected, this allows you to draw the line of when you are with your family – you are in the “present moment” with them and you know you can always reconnect after the kids are in bed and you have to finish up an important task or project.

5. Close the Door

Sometimes you just have to close your office door or put in the ear buds at your cubicle to focus on an important project. Mark your calendar as busy, forward your calls, turn off your email reminder and close the door. If you have to, leave the office and go work at a coffee shop for an hour or two. Do what you can to avoid distractions so you can focus on the work at hand without feeling like you’re being pulled in all directions.

6. Focus on What Matters

When stressful days turn into stressful weeks, it can be easy to lose focus. I keep pictures in my office to remind me of what’s really important. Photos of my “happy place,” inspirational quotes as screen savers, pictures that serve as symbols of my goals – all of those help remind me of my priorities and help me to reconnect with what matters.

7. Learn to Say “NO”

For those climbing the career ladder, this can be difficult. You may have to forgo some activities when taking on a new project at work. You want to be on point for high profile assignments just ask the right questions – what is the timetable, what resources are available? Learn to negotiate effectively and to delegate accordingly. This also works for volunteer activities, school activities, etc. Get over the guilt, this is your life and career and you need to be realistic on the return of your investment of time.

8. Manage Your Boss/Clients

Send your weekly update on Monday morning – not Friday afternoon. Do not open the door to having to work on their feedback over the weekend, unless that is your preference.

If you are the Boss, try to save all the internal emails you may generate over the weekend until Monday am. When you start sending out emails over the weekend, you are making your employees cringe and feel that they are not allowed to have “down time”.

9. Maximize Technology and Outsourcing to Your Advantage

Think of all the things that can be outsourced to make your life more manageable. Yes, it may cost a little extra but what is your time worth? Set-up Auto-Ships for consumable goods paper towels, diapers, etc.. Utilize grocery store apps and delivery services, have dry cleaning and perhaps laundry services for those weeks that are going to be extra hectic. Hire a yard crew, cleaning service, etc. if financially possible. Again, figure out the time/stress busters and then brainstorm on solutions that are easily available through technology.

10. Connect With Friends and Family

If you are working long hours on a major project or traveling for work, use Skype or Facetime to connect with family and friends. With your children, read a bedtime story from your phone, play a game together, solve a puzzle – the key is to have the face-to-face interaction, even when you cannot be physically present.

11. Take Your Vacation

First, get over yourself – you are not a martyr and the workplace is not going to fall apart without you. This may be an excellent time for your team to feel empowered. If you are a single contributor, it allows your boss to see how valuable you are in the office. Set your “out of office” reply and be specific on when you are returning and that you will have limited access to email.

What is most important is that you have time to connect, decompress and re-charge your batteries. You are not a machine – you have to take care of yourself for the long-run.

12. Make Time For You

When we are taking care of so many, we sometimes lose touch with ourselves, this is when we feel the most tired, stressed and miserable. Take time to reflect on what you are grateful for by journaling- try to set the last hour of the evening just for you. A relaxing bath, shower, reading a great book, no electronics, only work toward easing yourself into a solid routine of preparing for a great sleep that will allow you to feel ready for each new day.  Defining what work-life balance looks like to you goes hand in hand with respecting what work-life balance looks like to those around you. Chances are they won’t look the same. Respect the differences and find ways to work within those differences while honoring your own values and plotting your own path.