If you are wondering if work-life balance exists know that you are not likely to get it if your work week is on par with what the research shows. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average full-time American worker is spending approximately 44 hours per week on the job. A 2014 Gallup Poll found that 39% of Americans work over 50 hours per week. A survey by The Alternative Board found that almost 50% of business owners work over 50 hours per week.
As a work-life balance expert, business strategist and consultant, I would like to propose that although we are working longer, we are not working smarter. The reality is that we can all shave crucial hours off of our work week by upping our productivity. You may be conscious of the benefits of becoming more organized however if you are still exhausted and becoming resentful about the long hours you are slogging away on your work then chances are that you haven’t been implementing strategies that can help you reach your goal and for the readers of this blog, the goal is simple – become more productive so that you can lead a ridiculously fulfilling life.
The reality is that the average person is expected to be at their job 40-hours per week however that doesn’t mean that they need to be there 44 hours or even 60 as some people are. The truth is that employees, and entrepreneurs, generally waste time. A survey by Salary.Com found that 89% of workers reported that they waste time at the office with approximately one third confessing that they waste one hour per day. My question is this – would you rather squander time at work and then resent your lack of work-life balance or re-claim some sanity in your life, become more productive, and have valuable time doing the things you want to do like workout, be with your family, get a massage, or catch-up on Netflix?
With some critical planning and implementation of the correct strategies, anyone can reduce their work week. Whether you work from home, have an office job, or a combination of both, by implementing these strategies, you can shave at least 5 hours off of your work week. Based on over a decade teaching time management, productivity, and organization, I have estimated the amount of time you will save every week.
1. Set a Standard
We do not get our goals, we get our standards. By choosing to extend our workday we teach the world how to treat us. I had a client who was burned out. She had started a home based business, had two young children, and was the sole income provider for her household. She set a standard that she would answer the phone no matter what else was going on. People called her at 6:00 a.m. They called her at 11:00 p.m. They called her during mealtimes and she answered the phone while receiving her husband’s glare of anger and disappointment.
In our first session, I asked her to set office hours and put them on her voicemail. She replied that she was nervous to do it because people would be disappointed that she wasn’t available. I said, ‘would you rather have them disappointed or end up fat, exhausted, divorced, and living with your children’s resentment?’ Being available at all hours was affecting her health, her marriage, and her family. I also let her know that ultimately people would respect her decisions.
When she changed her standards that she would not take calls at mealtimes, take one night off per week, and not answer her phone before 9:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., her income doubled in one year and she gained valuable work-life balance.
Set a standard for yourself and live into that standard. This is going to force you to become more productive because if you know you have to get things done by a certain time, you will ultimately live into that objective and in doing so, teach the people around you to respect your standards.
Time Saved Per Week – 4-20 Hours+
2. Handle ‘It’ Once
How often do we re-read emails, documents, and other communication not because we are trying to be diligent but because we are multi-tasking? Instead of handling communication multiple times, save valuable minutes, or even hours, handling it once and doing so while being present instead of emailing on your laptop and scrolling your Facebook feed on your mobile at the same time.
When an email comes in, deal with it and either file or delete it. When you have an important document to review, read it, and close all other communication until it has been fully dealt with. This one tip alone will save you about one hour per day.
Time Saved Per Week – 5 Hours+
3. Compartmentalize Your Time
If you can do this, you will save anywhere from 5-10 hours per week. Compartmentalizing means that we focus on one key thing for a period of time. In sales, as an example, we would set aside several hours to prospect for new clients and customers. If we have a presentation to prepare, we would block off time to focus on creating a stellar PowerPoint to wow people. Whatever the key tasks are, we focus solely on those tasks.
If that sounds impossible imagine for a moment that you required open heart surgery. Would you want your surgeon to be scrolling their Instagram feed or responding to emails while your heart was literally in their hands? Of course not. A surgeon focuses on the surgery, deals with any complications, and does not stop until it is complete. Like the surgeon, you too, will become much more efficient by focusing on a task until it is done or for a pre-designated period of time.
Time Saved Per Week – 8 Hours+
4. Narrow Your Focus
Often, our to-do lists are so long that we accomplish very little. For my clients, and students, their to-do lists are also rife with items that are not critical to their business objectives. I suggest spending five minutes every morning to narrow your focus. What might have seemed critical yesterday may not be as imperative today. Start your day by asking this question, ‘what are the three actions I can take today to move me toward my goals?’ Get rid of whatever you can that does not align with your desired outcome.
Time Saved Per Week – 5 Hours+
5. Front-End Load Your Week and Your Month
Many years ago, I was the number one sales manager for Bally Total Fitness. I competed against 444 other sales managers throughout North America. Like many people in sales, I was given a quota and being a single mom with a burning desire to spend more time with my 3-year-old, I made the decision to meet my quota before the end of the month.
What many people do is leave things to the last minute. Instead of working to achieve targets and get projects done, they wait until the deadline is imminent and put in lengthy hours with little time to spare. If the deadline falls on a weekend, forget about any work-life balance; you are very likely to be kissing your family and your social life goodbye as you slog it out in your office.
My suggestion is to front-end load your week and your month. Look ahead and ask yourself what is most important and then work diligently to get it done so you can spend the weekend, or the end of the month relaxing when your colleagues are putting in the 16-hour workdays.
Time Saved Per Week – 3-4 Hours+
If you have some great time saving strategies, I would love to read them. At Step Into Your Power(tm) we read all of your comments. If this blog is helpful, please share it and lastly, every Thursday, I put out the Thursday 3 – 3 tips, movies, books, APP’s – anything to make your life more productive. Subscribe today on www.susansly.com