10 Ways to Keep Your Boss and Your Family Happy
Keeping a good balance between your job and your personal life can seem like a never-ending tug-of-war — with you as the rope. You might want to impress your boss to earn a promotion, and if you’re lucky you actually enjoy the work you do. But your family and friends are also important, and there never seems to be enough time in the day for both, let alone any time for yourself.
Keeping a work-life balance is more popular than it once was, when 80-hour work weeks were a badge of honor. We know a balance tends to help us be more successful, while also making us healthier and more productive. But what does that actually look like? Your boss still needs to see results, and your kids still want you at every soccer game and recital.
First, a few things to keep in mind: Achieving work-life balance is going to look different depending on your job and personal situation. The important thing is to recognize where there are areas of flexibility on both sides and spend your time wisely. Several experts from Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Fast Company all point out that time is your most valuable commodity, so you need to make personal decisions about how it gets spent. Those 24 hours in a day are going to speed by no matter what, so you might as well be the one in charge of choosing what you’re doing. Here’s what some career experts suggest if you’re looking to be more intentional about keeping your boss and your family happy.
1. Know what really matters — at work and at home
If you want to have more balance between work and home, you’re going to need to scrutinize how you spend your time in both settings. Then, you’ll need to prioritize the tasks and activities that are the most rewarding. “What really moves the needle for the business? Are you working on priorities that drive the overall goals of the business, or are you just making noise?” asks Craig Cincotta, a contributor for Entrepreneur. Sujan Patel, another Entrepreneur contributor, suggests blocking out uninterrupted time at work to make sure you’re being the most productive with the most vital business projects.
The same is true for activities at home. You might not make it to every family picnic, art show, or soccer game, but you can certainly mark down the most important ones and plan accordingly. No matter what, it’s time to realize you have to be the one to make deliberate choices about how you spend your day — or someone else is going to make it for you. “Instead of just letting life happen, people who achieve work-life balance make deliberate choices about what they want from life and how they want to spend their time,” Harvey Deutschendorf writes for Fast Company.
2. Set clear boundaries
After you figure out which activities are priorities for your work and your personal life, set clear boundaries for both. Because you’re at work more often, this will typically mean finding a good stopping point in the office. “If customers or colleagues think it’s OK to call you at 11 p.m. if they need something, they will,” Patel writes. If you’ve decided you can still achieve your personal goals with that setup, go for it. But in most cases, there will be blocks of time where you truly need to be off work.
And no, setting those boundaries doesn’t mean you’re setting yourself up for failure in the business world. Patel points out that Sheryl Sandberg left work at 5:30 p.m. for years in order to have dinner with her family. No one doubts Sandberg’s success, so you don’t have to worry about boundaries if you set them up in the right way.
3. Talk with your boss about your goal
Your boss holds the purse strings to your paycheck, so he or she will need to be on board if you’re making any changes to your current work situation. Whether it’s taking a longer lunch break to exercise or leaving on time to be home for dinner, it’s time to have an open conversation, so you can decide together how to best reach your goals.
“Employees need to have an open dialogue with their managers and managers need to understand what works and what is possible,” Cincotta writes. You might want to begin by asking where there is room for flexibility in your schedule, Mental Health America advises. From there, you can work together to figure out when it’s appropriate for you to be in the office, on call, or unplugged for the day.
4. Respect your own boundaries
Chances are your boundaries are going to be tested a few times at the beginning — especially if you’re transitioning from an always-work sort of mentality. You’re the one who will care about your boundaries the most, so it’s time to respect them. And yes, this might mean trying that “unplugging” thing everyone keeps talking about. Both Entrepreneur and Fast Company suggest actually turning the power button off on your devices, not just setting them to vibrate or silent.
If being separated from your work texts and emails for more than 5 minutes gives you heart palpitations, Forbes suggests starting in smaller increments and building up. If you want to eventually make it home for dinner five nights a week, shoot for one night a week to start and build on that success, suggests Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life.
5. Have a personal definition of success
Your version of balance might look different than your co-worker’s, and that’s completely acceptable. You’re the one who has to be happy with your life, not Bob from accounting.
“People who manage work-life balance have developed a strong sense of who they are, their values, and what is important to them. Using this as a guideline for everything they do helps them determine what success means to them,” Fast Company advises. Others might think your version of balance is skewed more toward work or your personal life, but you need to do whatever works for you.
6. Find a good pace
The value and time you spend at work and in your personal life will likely always be on a see-saw. Sometimes you’ll spend more time at work, and in others your personal life might take precedence. You might want to spend more time at home during the years your children are younger, for example, and more time at work later in your career when you’re higher up the food chain. That see-saw might shift in shorter increments, too, such as during a family illness or at the end of your company’s fiscal year.
Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to identify a good pace for yourself and adjust accordingly, Cincotta says. “There are times when you need to throttle up, and there are times when you can throttle down. Self-awareness is crucial,” he writes.
7. Schedule personal events
No matter what pace you’re in, get into the habit of scheduling personal events just like you would a business meeting. Put your third-grader’s oboe recital on the calendar, as well as the long-forgotten date night with your partner. Being proactive about scheduling your personal life might seem weird at first but is ultimately helpful, Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best, told WebMD.
Stack said she plans an activity with her family every Sunday afternoon, whether it’s watching a movie or going to the park. “We do this because if there’s nothing on the schedule, time tends to get frittered away and the weekend may end without us spending quality time together,” she said. Oh, and while we’re on this topic: It’s time to schedule your vacation time, too.
8. Think about where you live
Think your location doesn’t affect your well-being? Think again. The place you call home can have a drastic effect on your living expenses, how susceptible you are to illnesses, such as cancer, and even how much exercise you get. Believe it or not, it can also have an effect on how easy it is to have a work-life balance.
According to Entrepreneur, one of the reasons Warren Buffett chose to live in Omaha, Nebraska, instead of New York or another financial hub was because it was easier to maintain the balance he was looking for. “Even if you can’t choose your city, you can choose your neighborhood. Do so with your ideal work-life balance in mind,” Patel advises.
9. Cultivate a strong support network
“People who have achieved good balance have a strong support network they can depend upon to help them get through difficult times,” Fast Company explains. “They are givers who typically extend themselves to help out in their family circles and communities.” It will take time to build up such a network, which ideally will help you pick up the slack when work gets crazy or you need an extra pair of hands. Being on the same page with your partner is a first step, and next comes building relationships with peers from your neighborhood, gym, religious group, or other place of importance to you.
In addition, your network can include the people to whom you delegate tasks, such as housework, so when you’re home, you can spend time with your family instead of vacuuming the family room. Figure out whether it’s worth it for you to pay someone to mow your lawn or clean your home, so you don’t have to, Entrepreneur suggests.
10. Know the actual meaning of balance
To visualize what balance really means, Patel from Entrepreneur suggests standing with your feet spread apart. Then, lean significantly to your right side. If your physical balance is working properly you’ll still be standing, even though your right side is supporting much more weight.
“This just goes to show that ‘balance’ doesn’t mean ‘equal.’ Sometimes, either work or your personal life takes more weight, depending on what’s going on at the moment — and that’s OK,” Patel explains. Be comfortable with the balance you strike, guard it carefully, but be willing to expect changes to happen every now and then.