Entrepreneur posted an article yesterday “In defense of work-life balance”. The article recites the numerous health and productivity reasons why firms should engender a culture of work-life balance. The term has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent times, in the UK at least, by some firms as a recruitment tool.
However, this is contradicted by the reality that many people leaving university for corporate jobs are not just expecting a long hour culture for at least a big part of their career, but are fearful of doing anything otherwise. Jack Welch in his book Winning openly says that most bosses are well aware that promises of work-life balance are for “recruiting purposes”, and that real life arrangements are “negotiated one-on-one”. To his credit, Welch gives some great advice on how to pursue work-life balance and manage priorities. However, Welch is imagining you work in a company that, to a certain extent at least, understands the need for balance and is happy to accommodate it, so long as you are giving 100% when you’re with them.
That may not be an option for many. However, Welch’s general point is that you need to take responsibility for finding a level of work-life balance you’re comfortable with. This can be helped by ensuring that you’re giving all you possibly can when you are at work, by being more productive. We’ve all known people who “put in the hours”, but actually spend quite a lot of it procrastinating or doing tasks they could easily delegate or scrap entirely. Work better, rather than work longer.
Business blogs – not least this one – are full of ideas on how to boost productivity. This one from Stacey Macnaught is a bit different. We noticed because it contradicted the mainstream by arguing AGAINST to-do lists. Stacey argues, rightly, that a growing list just creates more pressure, and is not a good prioritisation tool. Stacey recommends apps, but you’ll have a tough job to beat Covey’s tried and tested time management matrix.
Working during your most productive hours is another one that isn’t just scientific, it’s just common sense. We all know that we have parts of the day where we can conquer the world, and parts of the day where we struggle to keep focussed. If you can, only work during your most productive hours. Or, manage your work so that you do the most important – or perhaps the most difficult or complex – tasks during the periods you have the most energy.
By improving how and when we work, we might just all be able to spend some quality time enjoying life whilst still being a success at work.