What tips do you have for managing work-life balance? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
My main tip is that anything life-related that is truly important to you needs to be added to your calendar as if it's a client deadline. If you are having a hard time incorporating exercise into your routine because you're always behind on work and there is always some errand to run, you have to pretend that hour of yoga is an important meeting that you don't have the ability to reschedule. If Client A asked for a meeting when you already had a meeting with Client B, you wouldn't contact Client B to reschedule because Client A was being pushy. You have to be firm but polite and say, "I have a prior commitment at that time, would X time work instead?"
It's important to be empathetic to everyone's unique work/life setup. We are not all perfectly healthy childless 25 year olds with endless energy and the ability to survive on 3 hours of sleep. Establish rules that work for you and stand by them when scheduling projects. I have a relatively strict rule of No Monday Deadlines because they imply weekend work. If I work on the weekend, I do so because I choose to, not because I have to. It's quite difficult for me to work on a weekend now that I have a child, so I only do so in emergency situations, not as a default state of being.
I can't work in the evening like I used to, and I'm not afraid to tell clients that. If we are honest about our particular set of parameters in a no-nonsense unapologetic way, people listen. If I tell a client that I'm only available between 11am and 4pm for phone calls it's not something that they can disagree with--they can only say if it does or does not work with their schedule. If they send me art direction at 5pm and expect revisions at 8am, I tell them it isn't possible and that the earliest I could turn them around is early afternoon. There are the rare times when the revisions are truly needed at 8am (to make a print deadline), but you're usually aware of that in advance and can at least warn clients about your availability ("Whatever we can do to get art direction to me by 1pm at the latest the day before this goes to press would be great--It's very difficult for me to work in the evenings so I'd want to get it handled before EOD that day"). Maintain professionalism but stand your ground.
Work/life balance for me used to mean that work and life were completely intertwined--I worked whenever I felt like it, at all hours, integrating social time when I could or creating social time that was also work time (like sharing a studio with others, or going to design events). Now, work and life feel quite separate. I don't really prefer the separation, but I have no choice. Part of it is being a parent, but part of it is living in a place where people keep regular office hours. I don't have dozens of friends working at all hours of the night anymore, and it's way less fun to work at midnight when you don't have a few friends on iChat to pass the time with.
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