Work-Life Balance: Set Your Boundaries

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Work-life balance has long been a hot-button topic in business. And it probably will be for some time to come. That’s because technology increasingly blurs the boundaries between our work and personal lives.

I’ll take an in-depth look at work-life balance in my upcoming book, “Work Without Walls.” In the meantime, I shared some ideas about this topic with Real Simple magazine.

work-life balance

Work-life balance can get complicated. You can enhance yours by managing email, social media and vacation time effectively.

My advice in the Real Simple article deals with an area I’ve spoken out on before: after-hours emails. I commented on what to do if your boss regularly emails you at 2 a.m. Sunday.

If you’re in a situation like this, remember a couple of key things.

  1. If you’re checking your email on Sunday, work isn’t invading your personal life. You’re inviting it in.
  2. Your boss probably doesn’t expect real-time replies to her late-night emails. As I said in the article, “CEO clients say they often send out notes when a thought comes to them. They absolutely don’t expect a response in that moment.” Granted, that still doesn’t make late-night emails a good thing. But knowing this may help you ignore them during your downtime.

Social Media and Work-Life Balance

It’s interesting that three of the scenarios in the Real Simple article deal with the intermingling of our work and personal lives on social media. I do think you can use social media as a mental break. But if it starts to feel too much like work — as it might if, as the article mentions, you’re asked to post about company news — you’re not getting much of a break. If that’s the case, make sure you’re enjoying little doses of restoration in other ways, like taking a walk or just zoning out for a few minutes.

Vacation Is Serious Business

This article addresses a common work-life balance conundrum: employers who expect employees to stay connected to some degree while they’re on vacation. I take a harder line on this topic than the article’s tips do, though. Telling your boss “that you’re reachable for emergencies but that you’re hoping mostly to unplug” sets you up for a vacation that’s not very restorative at all. The benefit of vacation comes from being away and disconnected. That’s what gives your mind the space to relax and recharge — which makes you more creative and effective when you are at back at work. If you never really get away, you never fully get those benefits. If you find it difficult to really unplug from work, whether during evenings, weekends, or vacations, remember that sometimes the best thing you can do for your work is NOT WORK. Learn more about the evidence that supports this statement, and more specific ways you can implement this idea in your own life, in my article for the Harvard Business Review: Fixing Our Unhealthy Obsession with Work Email.

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