Struggling to maintain your work-life balance due to work overload? Use these 5 secret tactics on your boss and peers and they’ll never overstep your boundaries again!
Achieving work-life balance is the goal of many professionals. However, due to various external factors, it may seem like a distant dream. That needn't be the case any more. By using these subtle tactics, you can ensure that your boss and colleagues respect your need for some personal time without rubbing them the wrong way.
At my first job, I worked under an individual who was a typical workaholic. She would stay many hours past the normal working hours and expected me to do the same. Sometimes, I would have prior commitments and would request her to let me an hour early off work. She would grudgingly agree to my request, only to comment, "Don't make this a habit - otherwise I would have to let others off work early too."
I would meekly listen to her while thinking to myself "Why don't you factor in all those late nights and extra hours I put in when I ask to be excused an hour earlier than my usual time?" At that time, the only way I knew of dealing with it was to complain about my toxic boss to my friend.
Now that I've switched jobs, gained more experience and been mentored by an understanding boss, I've learnt how I should have actually handled the situation. This is what I would have done if I had the opportunity to go back in time:
1. Have an open & honest talk with my boss
To me, the most important thing was to be able to reach home in time to have dinner as a family. I resented my job because I would often be required to work late and thus miss out on family dinners. If I had a chance to do over things at my first job, I would make sure I sat down and spoke with her about this non-negotiable requirement.
If you aren't open and clear about your needs, you can't blame your boss for not understanding them. Whether it is about coming in late twice a week so that you can drop your toddler off to playschool or not being able to attend calls on Sunday when you're at church, you need to convey that to your boss.
2. Say no more often
As I started out in my career, I was eager to make a good impression and would often take on tasks that I wasn't required to. I would volunteer to help out team mates and would agree to assist them in order to meet their deadlines. While this made me quite popular, my own work suffered. I found myself burning the midnight oil to meet my own deadlines.
Now that I'm older and wiser, I have learnt to say no without feeling guilty. If my co-worker or boss approaches me with a task when I'm already burdened with other pending items, I let them know that I'm swamped. Instead of flat-out refusing their request, I explain why I will not be able to take on the additional task and promise to lend a hand I can afford to.
3. Work smarter, not harder
The book Deep Work by Cal Newport talks about the need to block out larger chunks of time in order to do focused work and achieve greater productivity. Earlier, I would fall into the trap of checking my emails, or the organizational messaging service, constantly and replying to emails and messages as and when I received them.
I have realized the folly of my ways. Now I prefer to check emails and messages only during certain times. I schedule my work day extensively and ensure I've 2-3 blocks of time (ranging from 45 mins to 90 mins) to do my work without disruptions.
4. Respect my own boundaries
This means switching off your gadgets, avoiding checking email from home compulsively and leaving work when you need to. Don't agree to last minute meetings or brainstorming sessions unless there is a crisis. You cannot expect others to value your need for personal time unless you respect the boundaries you set.
5. Schedule time off from work
If you find yourself working long hours on a task or project, ensure you schedule some time off from work once you complete it. Your family deserves as much attention, if not more, as your career does. It's okay to prioritize your career over family during certain times, but it's not okay to make a habit out of it. Asking your boss about time off in advance will allow both of you to plan the work better.