Small and medium-sized practices are perhaps the most vulnerable to the ‘always on’ culture of overworking. Increasingly dependent on mobiles, Blackberrys, email and internet, it’s easy to get caught up on a treadmill of endless work tasks that diminish your time for leisure, friends and family. In the worst cases this leads to stress.
Small businesses lose an average of 7 days a year to absenteeism, according to a survey by the Small Firms’ Association, and the biggest contributing factor to this is stress. Managers can tackle this problem by helping employees achieve a better work-life balance.
Not only is this key to tackling absenteeism, good work-life balance policies are also key to attracting and retaining staff, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters. The shortage of qualified professionals means employers need to offer imaginative reward packages that allow for flexi-time and working from home.
Personally, I don’t agree with the terminology ‘work life balance,’ because it implies that as one area of your life improves, something else suffers. In my experience of working with business professionals, the first thing that needs to be done is to analyse and find the root cause of the problem. We can then solve the correct problem, which in turn frees up your time and improves your quality of life.
To improve your quality of life, you need to organise your time and your team’s time properly, build an effective team that works together and earn more fees while working less hours. This is all possible.
If you recognise that you don’t have as much ‘me time’ or family time as you would like, you also need to be accountable to someone. My clients find that being accountable to me for making the necessary changes, helps in this regard in achieving success. You can then step off the treadmill and get back in control, not just of your time; but more importantly, your life.
Below are some initial steps to help you find more time.
- How can your employees or colleagues help you more effectively? Would better team-building and management strategies help you free up more of your time?
- Identify your own needs and those of your employees and provide arrangements accordingly. Teleworking and flexi-working, for example allows earlier or later starts and finishes to avoid rush hours. Commuting time can be used to give you a head start on the day.
- What tasks are urgent and most important? If you’re spending too much time on less important work, set limits and come back to them later.
- Are you spending too much time with less important clients? Keeping a log or diary of work for each client will help you see where you should set limits that will free up some time for more important clients.
- Put some boundaries to your day. For example, give yourself permission to start as early as you wish, but decide on a no-work zone after say, 6pm. This means no voicemail, emails or checking the diary.
- When you’re working on an important task, be proactive, not reactive. Don’t answer emails and calls right away if the current task is a priority. Using voicemail, email rules, autoreplies and spam filters effectively can help with this.
- Are you often interrupted when working on important tasks? Would it help to minimise interruptions through team-building and better management.
- Lunchtime exercise will re-energise you; even a fifteen-minute walk sharpens our attention for the afternoon and restores our perspective. A short swim or workout is even better. If this helps you work better in the afternoon, make it a priority.
- Working for shorter periods with regular breaks is often more effective than completing longer tasks in one go. It should also improve your concentration.
- Prepare for meetings and plan them so that important issues are dealt with first. Stick to the designated time for them and avoid lengthy follow-ups.
By working smarter, not harder, you can achieve a better quality of life that takes your whole life into account, rather than compromising either area at the expense of the other. We will cover ways of improving the team that works with you, how to manage your time better and how to earn higher fees in more detail in future articles. In the meantime if you like to receive a copy of our eBook – Top 100 Tips to Find More Time simply send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.