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Don’t Wait for Your Company to Help With Work-Life Balance

Don’t Wait for Your Company to Help With Work-Life Balance

Almost everyone I know wants better work-life balance and help on the time management front. But often, we delay taking action to improve our time management methods to wait for our companies to take the lead by, for example, hiring more support or setting boundaries around meetings. In addition, we often don’t try out a new strategy because we’re too nervous about how it’ll go over with our teammates.

Let’s dig into why you shouldn’t wait for your company to improve your work-life balance and how (and whether) to discuss improvements you make with your team.

[Related: How to Get to the Core of Your Work Stress]

The benefits of working on time management individually.

When entire companies try to tackle time management, they often go too big. They try No Meeting Fridays or block three hours a day for meetings, trying to protect the rest for focused work. But those efforts often peter out over time. Why?

Two main reasons.

First, for time management strategies like protecting focused work time to work, they need to be aligned with an individual’s energy and preferences. For example, some people operate best in the morning and prefer to protect that time for focused work, saving meetings for their lower-energy afternoons. Others prefer to use their fresher energy for presentations. Still others hit their focused stride in the afternoon once they’ve triaged the morning’s work fires.

People have different energy patterns and preferences for how they want to leverage their energy. Blunt company-wide policies of “no meetings from X-Y AM” can’t possibly satisfy everyone and, therefore, tend to fail over time because they’re not producing results.

On the flip side, when you individually analyze your energy patterns and think through when you’d like to do focused work, you can create a schedule that fits you. And that’s more likely to help you work more easily in flow and last.

The second reason company-wide time management policies often peter out over time is that they’re not flexible. If, for example, a No Meeting Friday policy needs to shift due to a major client’s needs, it’s hard to shift that focused time to another day easily. If this happens too many times, people start ignoring the policy.

On the other hand, when you individually own your focus time, you’re able to accommodate important exceptions to your (e.g., 9-11 AM Friday) focus window and find a new time that works for you without too much hassle (e.g., 10 AM-12 PM on Thursday). Because you only have to account for your schedule, you can remain nimble.

In short, when we do this work individually, we can find solutions tailored to our personal preferences and remain nimble. All of this leads to more effective policies, the results we desire, and long-term success.

Managing team buy-in when you implement individual time management strategies.

Alright, you say, I’ll go at this alone, but what do I tell my boss when I block my focus time?

First, I’d ask you, do you need to tell them?

I understand the inclination to bring them in the loop. It can feel weirdly indulgent to block time for focused work. But let’s take a step back and really look at what you’re doing: You’re blocking time to bring your best creative, intelligent strategy to the table to benefit your clients/company/patients.

You’re not out there playing hooky. You’re legitimately working – and often in a higher-value way than you would be in meetings/responding to emails. You’re an adult trying to do her job well; there is no reason to feel guilt.

Given this, is raising focused time with your team over-complicating this? Have you been in one-hour meetings that caused you to be unavailable? In those scenarios, did you make a big announcement before you entered the meeting? Likely not. Why would this be any different?

Plus, you can experiment. Try out your new strategy without any announcement to your team for two weeks. If it’s too hard without looping them in, then you can reevaluate and have a discussion with them.

[Related: The Hazards of Overworking During the Pandemic]

How to have a discussion with your boss/teammates if you decide you must.

If you decide you need to clue your boss or team into what you’re doing, start by clarifying why you’re trying out this strategy, explain it, and then reiterate why this is in the company’s best interest.

For example, regarding focused time, you could say:

I want to make sure I’m bringing my best work to my clients/projects, and I’m struggling to do that in nooks and crannies between meetings. I’d like to protect four hours a week where I don’t attend meetings or respond to emails so that I can focus, which I’ll use to [give some examples]. I propose XYZ times, and I’ll remain flexible with them as our team’s schedule shakes out so long as I can find other windows of work hours for this focused work. This will allow me to better stay on top of deadlines and bring my smart and creative A-game to the table. Do you see any issues?

While it can feel scary to do this, I’ve found that my clients’ companies are more receptive than we might expect in accommodating requests that help you better show up in your role.

A final word of encouragement.

Taking control of your time can be life-changing. Finding strategies that fit your energy, preferences, and industry can be huge in helping work feel easier, more enjoyable, and less time-consuming so that you can be more present at home with family and friends.

This is not to say companies shouldn’t strive to improve employee work-life balance. It’s just a nudge to encourage you not to wait for them to take the lead. Your time is too valuable to wait for someone else to give you control. Moreover, you’ll likely find more success by going at this on your own so that you can tailor these strategies to you and remain nimble. The results are worth it.

[Related: The Pandemic Helped Us See Employees in Real Life. Let’s Take What We Learned and Build on It.]

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Kelly Nolan is an attorney-turned-time management strategist. Using her realistic time management method, she helps professional working women manage their career, personal, and family to-dos with less stress and more calm clarity. Connect with her at www.kellynolan.com.


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