Those who have been following my research are hungry for some specific recommendations. Here are a few. I find the biggest problem to be a lack of division (whether real or symbolic) between working and not working. These recommendations aren’t just “get more organized” but deal with cultivating a division between working time and private time.
This post is about what workers can do to improve their work/life balance (though I’m not letting organizations off the hook; they’re next). Individual workers can employ some simple strategies to blunt the effects of long hours and mobile technologies.
- Track your hours, for yourself: have your own time sheet. Be absolutely compellingly honest. If you’re filling out a time sheet at work, keep another, private time sheet for yourself. It can be as detailed as you want it to be, but the key is that it is private and accurate. When you see how much time you are actually working, you may discover that you are working more than you’d like.
- Decide on a clear end-of-work time for yourself: This could mean that you do not work after 6:30, whether that’s at work or at home. Having your mobile technology with you all the time makes it much easier to continue to work. But if you know your end-of-work time, you will know if you’re working overtime.
- Cultivate work rituals: start work and end work each day with comfortable rituals. This could be something as simple as making a cup of tea, or checking your voice mail. But every time you sit down to work, perform your ritual (even if you’re at home and you’re just checking your email). Every time you finish work, perform your ritual. This will also show you how much you are working, but it will also make a clear division between work and non-work.
- Schedule out-of-work events: Put non-work events in your calendar. These can be dinner with your partner, working out at the gym, or even shopping. Put them in your calendar not “to be organized” but to create some firmness to these events. All too often, personal events get pushed out because they are not firm. This is especially helpful if you involve someone else in these events. You will have to leave work because that other person is depending on you.
- Resist the urge to be indispensable: Ask yourself why you are checking your email at
11 p.m.? What is the deep psychological dynamic at play? Are you enjoying the attention? Are you scared for your job? Then you have much more important things to fix, namely, working on your need for attention or your anxiety about money. Consider working with a therapist or starting a spiritual study to reconcile this issue, ’cause checking yer email sure ain’t gonna fix it.