Life gets busy, and one thing we can all agree on is that there never seems to have enough time in the day to get to the bottom of our ToDo list. Finding a balance between work and life is a challenge for the best of us.
As a father of three, and CEO of two companies with team members based in 15 countries spanning 9 time zones, it certainly is for me. I have found that with a few tweaks to my habits, things can transition from stress-filled to at least stress-less. Start 2018 with a few new practices and make it one of your best years yet.
- Wake up 10 minutes earlier
Do yourself a favor and set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Make this time to do something just for you. Work out. Meditate. Prepare a healthier or tastier breakfast. Look at the sky through your window. Listen to great music. Listen to the birds sing. Whatever it is, take some time every morning to do something just for you. No matter what bad news the day might hold for you, you’ll have at least achieved one good thing today, and taken some “me” time.
- Stop commuting
The average daily commute time in the United States is 51 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Commuting is like having life stolen from you by traffic jams or public transportation. You can fight back! Find a job closer to home, move to live closer to work, or increase your number of home office days are options that are not always available. However, you can make that time an opportunity to do something else, like deciding to switch to use a bike to get your exercise done along the way. I like to take it a step further and have my morning calls while biking. Or use the time and listen to smart podcasts (I like the NYTimes daily, TedDaily, Masters of Scale – if you are interested in startups), to audiobooks, or learn a language. Transform your commute into a time where you learn and grow while you just happen to be on your way to work.
- Buy a chair (or a ball)
Most people spend 8 hours per day on the same chair, which amounts to 1,920 hours a year. A poor chair ruins your back. Why not spend some time and a little money to have a good chair? Personally, I like to use a $15 Pilates ball, which helps me strengthen my lower back and abs, so that even on challenging work days I was at least able to improve my posture!
- Take control of your inbox
The ideal inbox is almost always empty. Archive all your emails, except the ones pertaining to tasks you are currently working on. My personal goal is to have fewer than ten emails in my inbox when I leave my office in the evening. One of the efficient ways to accomplish this is to unsubscribe from newsletters or promotional emails. By reading, deleting and archiving newsletters that are not highly pertinent, you end up spending your time on someone else’s agenda. For the next few weeks take a few minutes and unsubscribe daily to ten newsletters you no longer have a use for and see what a difference it makes in your time and focus.
Studies show that laughing is great for you. As stated in NBC News, people who laugh more, are less prone to heart diseases, live longer, and have more fun. Laughing at work can do wonders to lighten your day. Whether it’s just investing in small talk or organizing a theme like “Ugly Holiday Sweater Day”, the more opportunities you create to laugh, the better you and your team will feel.
- Walk & talk
One-on-ones are an essential part of work-life, because they offer great opportunities to build relationships more effectively. Indeed, as a general rule of thumb, the efficiency of a meeting decreases as the number of participants increases. Who said one-on-ones needed to happen in a meeting room? Why not go for a walk around the block? It will help you get some physical activity, and feel like you did not spend your whole day trapped inside the building.
Take 5 minutes to breathe in and out. It will help you clear your mind, get rid of unwanted stress and in general be more present at what you are doing. I typically try to practice a few breathing exercises when I’m at home with my kids and still have my mind grinding some work issues. I focus on my breathing to get rid of these thoughts, and be 100% present at what is the most important for me in that moment: playing with my three sons.
- Enforce a no screen / no phone policy
If you have kids, you most likely have a rule around how often they can watch TV, use the iPad, play their Xbox or be on Snapchat. You probably need to have the same policy in place for yourself. Business Insider reports that 34% of American consumers say they check their email “throughout the day” and look at their phone more than 150 times a day. Personally, I do not check emails from the moment I get home to the moment my kids are dropped off at school. We’ve take it a step further and recently canceled our Netflix subscription to rediscover the pleasure of reading in bed.
- Feel grateful
A great habit is to take a few minutes each night, and focus on a few things for which you feel grateful. It’s not about making a mental list. It’s about taking the time to realize that no matter what happened during the day, there are still some things to appreciate. It’s about focusing on these few things, and try and feel the gratitude. For instance, last night, my 3 things to be grateful for were: (1) The luck I had in meeting new people at a networking event, (2) how beautiful Cambridge is covered in snow, and (3) that my older son is finally finding pleasure in reading. Three good reasons for me to fall asleep with a smile on my lips.
- Say “no”
Your boss wants you to do some extra work. Your kids want more of your attention. Your parents want you to call them more often. Your community needs your help. Your children’s school organizes a math night. So many people want to grab a piece of you that it cannot all fit into a 24-hour period. So, what we often do, is put our duties before pleasures and other people’s needs before our own. Making choices and saying “no” are the simplest way to reclaim some time, and the best possible habit you could form in 2018.
What about you, what are your ideas to improve your work-life balance in 2018?
Written by: Emmanuel Arnaud is CEO of HomeExchange and GuestToGuest.