10 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
When your passion is your company, the line between work and, well, the rest of your life can become unclear. In other words, work can overwhelm everything else. Yes, you love your business, but if you also value your sanity, building a healthy balance between time spent on your company and with your family and friends should be an imperative. How can you do it before your relationships are further strained and your healthy routines are disrupted? Try some advice we've gleaned from CEOs whose corporate successes are enriched by vibrant private lives.
1. Live Where You Want to Live
How many people can say they took a walk in a state park to watch schools of salmon swim upstream on their lunch break? Jim Anderson, who founded worldwide mapping provider LeadDog Consulting in 2000, can. That's because he decided to work from home – and move to pristine Alaska, to do it – early on in his company's existence. He not only works from home, but also keeps a flexible work schedule in order to deal with clients all over the world. So what if the line between his home and office blurry when your work is surrounded by instant escapes? Read more.
2. Harness the Motivating Power of Your Other Passions
No matter how passionate you are about your company, don't pretend you're not multi-dimensional. Matt Mullenweg, founder of Word Press and Automattic, integrates the music he loves into his day – that includes a lot of jazz, from Dexter Gordon to Sonny Rollins – and a smattering of Hip Hop, such as Jay-Z. "Music helps me when I'm coding, which is still my priority," he says. And when he's in that flow, music is the only other media input he'll allow: he turns off email and instant messaging for optimal concentration. Read more.
3. Get Organized
Save time at work, get more done quickly, and have more of a life. It's that simple. But Douglas C. Merrill, author of Getting Organized in the Google Era, says both workers and CEOs regularly get sucked into the chaos of work clutter and waste precious time. For CEOs and entrepreneurs, he suggests organizing days to minimize context shifts – for example, cluster similar meetings and tasks to focus on one thing at a time. While pushing employees toward organizing can be difficult, he says, some general principles of organization can help everyone who's computer-based, such as using search instead of filing and grouping relevant tasks together. Read more.
4. Bring Your Kids to Work — and Vice Versa
Kids, spouse, dirty dishes. The distractions of working from home can add up to a lot of frustration – and not much productivity. Instead of letting home take over her work goals, Rocio Romero created a situation in which her namesake prefab home-design and manufacturing firm can operate out of her St. Louis home. Since giving birth to twins, she divided her home into a first-floor personal workspace, where she does conference calls and works on the computer, a top-floor office where her three employees work and have a meeting room, and a second-floor family quarters, where her family lives and during the daytimes a nanny takes care of her babies. Read more.
5. Plan Now for Long Vacations Later
Several years ago, entrepreneur Norm Brodsky set a goal of spending 16 weeks per year on vacation. Yup, that's more than one-quarter every year. He writes for Inc. that he didn't actually have a clear sense of how much better off he would be until he succeeded in regularly tearing himself away from business. "The more time I took, the better I felt…" he says. The best part? His business thrived, and so did his productivity. He returned from stints away with a fresh clarity, allowing him to see the big issues and tackle significant problems without frustration. Read more.
6. Designate Mornings for Yourself
Jason Fried, who founded 37Signals in 1999 with Ernest Kim and Carlos Segura, is unabashedly against corporate culture. He dislikes the 40-hour-a-week workflow and constant meetings. So, he's designed a work schedule free of alarm clocks or office-time obligations. He works from his Chicago home when he feels like it – and even on days when he rolls into the office, he makes an effort to not grab his phone or computer upon waking up. Instead, he brews some tea, makes breakfast and takes time to go to the gym before starting work at 10 or 11 a.m. Read more.
7. Buffer Work with Play
"My brother always says: we're not here for a long time; we're here for a good time. I live my life that way," says Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of GoDaddy Group. One of his mantras is to buffer work with play. He tells staffers to lighten up and ditch their BlackBerrys – even just for a few minutes. And abiding by that philosophy seems to allow Parsons wiggle room to transition to his other hobbies, such as hamming it up on a Wednesday afternoon radio show or motorcycling with friends. Read more.
8. Be Dedicated, but Only Do What You Like
Sure, Kelly Cutrone has an intensely dedicated work ethic. But the founder of Manhattan PR firm People's Revolution and star of Bravo TV series Kell on Earth keeps a consistent business model: "we only do what we like." Despite the economic downturn, Cutrone pledges to not sell her company or say yes to business she doesn't want (she turns down about 90 percent of business she's offered). That's because she only wants to represent people and things she believes in. Read more.
9. Cut Down on Unnecessary Communications
While other companies work hard to bolster communications, sending out countless corporate memos and holding meetings stacked on top of meetings, Joel Spolsky, founder and CEO of Fog Creek Software in New York, suggests thinking about all the time that unnecessary communication wastes. He calls too much communication a "common illness," the costs of which add up quickly – especially when work is done in larger teams. "Everyone who doesn't need to be in that meeting is killing productivity," he writes. "Everybody who doesn't need to read that e-mail is distracted by it." Read more.
10. Have Lunch in Bangkok Every So Often
When Graham Hill founded TreeHugger in 2003 as a blog about green living, he barely even considered geography. He felt instant pressure to have an office, but a relationship uprooted him from New York to Barcelona. So he grew his company out of an apartment in Spain, with the help of a few contractors around the world. Even as the company expanded to 10 employees and 30 freelance writers, Hill continued to travel. "While I ran the company, I lived in India, Argentina, and Thailand. I'd get my laptop set up with an Internet connection and sublet a furnished apartment," he says. "I was a total workaholic, but then I'd get to go out for lunch in Bangkok." Read more.