While I avoid advising my clients to set specific New Year’s resolutions, I think goal settings is invaluable. When it comes to getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with good habits, longevity is the key. Most experts agree that you need to give something a good three months of consistent effort in order to make a good habit stick. Because we live in a “quick fix” culture, this can be very difficult for many folks. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, keep up a new exercise routine or quit smoking, you probably know what I mean.
Attaining a healthy work/life balance is tricky for professional women but here are five habits I recommend trying to make stick in 2021.
In order to create a work/life balance, you need to get clear about how you want the “life” part to look. What is important to you? What areas are being neglected? Here are some key areas that people identify to help you get started: career, family, friends, leisure activities, household chores/maintenance, finances, spiritual/religious pursuits, and personal wellness. List each of the categories that speak to you and then assign each a percentage – for how much time you allot for it now, and how much you’d like to give it. This should give you an idea about how much your life is currently out of balance. Now it’s time to brainstorm how to make your time more aligned with your values.
We often don’t stop and think about the value of our time. We end up doing work we hate (like housecleaning) for hours on our weekends and forget that we can hire someone to do this for us (and let’s face it, will probably do a better job). We also struggle through tasks because we refuse to ask for help. Recently a girlfriend sheepishly asked me for a drilling lesson. She had spent countless hours trying to fix something because she just didn’t know how to make the drill work for her despite her attempts with YouTube tutorials. Her billable rate at work was over $200/hr and she was spending hours of her time messing with a project that kept her from spending quality time with her kids. A question I like to ask my clients is, “what is this problem costing you?” It’s time to get clear about what you are good at, what you enjoy, and when you should ask for help or hire help.
While there are obvious ways this does not work (your eight-year-old may not appreciate you dragging them on a five-mile run, for example) there are plenty of ways it does. Let’s say your goal is to do more yoga and spend more time with friends. An easy option is to find a yoga studio and a time that works for you and your pals. If money is an issue, host a yoga hour at your house with a free yoga You-Tube video. You can do the same thing by encouraging yoga at home for your family if family time is your priority. Want to make more friends and have more mommy time? Join a group for working moms that encourages playtime. Even if you can’t make time for the group, you may meet some new moms you can set up playdates with on your own time.
We all have habits that we’d rather not admit to others. Maybe we even label them “stress-relievers” to justify the amount of time spent doing them. Or perhaps there are people that we give our time to out of guilt or avoidance of conflict. Getting real with yourself about these activities and/or people can help you regain valuable time. For me, playing a game on my phone is a guilty pleasure that can keep me from going to sleep at a decent hour and definitely helps me avoid doing the dishes. What is your time-waster? Social media? Attending non-mandatory meetings? Hours lost in Netflix binges? Whatever it is, try to limit the amount of time doing it. Find a timer app on your phone that goes off after a certain amount of time. Take stock at the end of the week of all the things you got accomplished instead.
Leaving work when you still have a million things to do is difficult for many of us. The best thing you can do is to decide what time you will leave the office before you even start working. Understanding exactly how much time you have at the office will also help you prioritize what needs to be done and will make you feel better when you do leave. Take stock during the day to determine where you are at and make adjustments as necessary. Fifteen minutes before your set exit time, stop working so you can wrap things up. No matter what, do not start another task! Tell co-workers of your exit time early on in the day. That kind of accountability will help you get out the door and will let others know that they can’t give you something too close to your exit time.