Is work-life balance a real thing once you become truly successful? While it’s certainly the case that there are times and seasons for working ridiculously long hours, studies show that after a certain point, productivity drops off significantly. Employee output falls off a cliff after 55 hours a week – in fact, someone working 70 hours a week has the same production as someone working 55 over the long term.
Additionally, studies show that as we grow more tired, our emotional intelligence and decision-making abilities plummet. For this reason, truly successful people know how to balance their work and their daily life. Here are four ways that successful people find that elusive work-life balance - and you can too:
1. They know what they want out of work and life.
One thing all successful people are good at is setting goals. Those who balance work and life well realize that they need to set goals in both their career and their personal lives. This helps them to be very clear on what they want, so they can say “yes” and “no” to the appropriate projects and tasks.
Of course, it isn’t enough to just have goals. You need the activities you’re undertaking daily in both your work and home lives to move you towards those general goals. Ask yourself the following questions to see if your own goal-setting initiatives measure up:
Have I identified the work and home projects critical to my success, both in the short-term and the long-term?
Have I developed a way to capture my work and home goals so that I can keep them at the front of my mind?
Have I set smaller “milestone” goals for both work and home initiatives that’ll help me advance towards the larger goals I’ve set for myself?
Have I shared my goals with the people around me who can support me?
Successful people don’t achieve their goals alone. A key component of balance is being on the same page as those around you so they know what to expect from you and vice versa. Talk with your partner and other important people in your home life to set goals and expectations about your day-to-day relationships. Work with your boss or your employees to set clear parameters around your career goals and success metrics. When you know what you want in both areas, you’ll be able to avoid distractions.
2. They take care of issues at home.
In a study shared by NPR of 122 men and women, researchers found that subjects were more stressed when they were at home than when they were at work. People who are successful don’t let their work become a haven from a difficult home life. Instead, they balance work and life by finding effective strategies to deal with the stressors that come from each one.
Stress at work is different than home-related stress. In some ways, the pressure to perform is higher, and the risks if you fail more dire. In other ways, however, you have an emotional attachment to outcomes at home that you simply don’t have at work. Further, you can’t simply quit your daily life like you can a job. Learning to manage your emotional reactions at home, and working through ongoing conflicts, are keys to success.
3. They take their vacation time.
At the end of 2014, unused vacation days were at a 40-year high. This isn’t good news for employees or companies. Some people are afraid of the workload they’ll come back to, viewing vacation time as a luxury they simply can’t afford. And it’s certainly true that, in some cases, taking vacation creates far more work than simply plugging along (at least in the short term).
However, there are very important benefits that come with taking vacation time. Studies show that vacation time is important for productivity and also helps the economy to grow. Successful people know that chronic stress without a break makes them more irritable, less able to sleep soundly and more likely to be depressed and anxious. They take their vacation time as an essential part of their work-life balance.
Take a second now to plan your next vacation day. It could be a week spent somewhere exotic, or it could be a simple day trip to a nearby town. Whatever the case may be, and whatever you can afford to get away with, put it on the calendar now and commit to taking this time for yourself.
4. They outsource and delegate.
Fortunately, we all have tasks that we can outsource and delegate, both at work and at home. Successful people take full advantage of this, from sending out laundry to having an assistant sort their email. Consider the tasks that take a significant amount of your time. Can someone else do it more effectively? If so, hire or delegate that task right away.
The following are just a few of the things you could delegate at work and at home to help manage your stress and make your work-life balance more successful:
Customer service responses
Bookkeeping and accounting
Accounts payable and receivable
Projects that don’t require your specific expertise
Laundry and dry cleaning
Yard work (including lawn mowing and gardening)
Your daily commute
If you get creative, you’ll find that there are hundreds of ways to free up more time to commit to your work and home life goals. Of course, there is a cost associated with many of these ideas. Calling an Uber to drive you to and from work each day might not be financially feasible; that is, unless you’re using the time you’ve freed up from driving to take on work tasks that’ll earn you more money than what you’re spending.
Regardless of whether you outsource and delegate here and there or aim for a fully-optimized life, when you focus on the things you do best, you’ll not only be better able to balance your work and your life – you’ll enjoy both of them much more. In addition, outsourcing and delegating allow others to step into their own strengths and grow and develop on their own.
Creating a work-life balance can be difficult. It’s important to remember that a balance is never a 50/50 proposition. Sometimes your work will require more from you, and other times your personal life take center stage. The idea of balance comes from not becoming so focused on one or the other that you completely fall down. Successful people have discovered how to do this by setting clear goals and expectations, taking care of issues at home, taking the appropriate time off, and delegating or outsourcing where they can. As a result, they’re better prepared to avoid burnout and maintain their overall productivity.