Modeling the Way in Work/Life Balance

I was recently asked if I could give someone advice for having a good work/life balance. While I do little things each day to strive for this goal, the question was interesting to me because, overall, I still feel like I could improve my work/life balance. Sure, I try to leave on time (when I am able to), and I spend as much time as I can with my friends and family. Don’t we all?

Still, having been in the field for more than 10 years, I’ve found there are little tricks here and there that have really helped my overall physical, mental, and emotional health—both at work and at home.

Ever since I was fortunate enough to add a staff member to my office, I have modeled the way for them, and sharing this advice will help me do this. It’s not something that was done for me when I first started working in this field, so I wanted to be the example they looked to and followed, hoping that they will someday pay it forward when they supervise other staff members.

Here are some things I do to strive for a good work/life balance:

  • My co-workers and I leave our offices for lunch every day. This doesn’t mean that we leave campus or even the Campus Center, but we aren’t in our office, which gives us some time to eat, relax, and talk with each other outside of the office. Most of the time we eat in the dining hall, which is on the second floor of our building, or in one of the lounges. It’s amazing how much more energized we are to return to work after being out of the office, even if it’s only for 30 minutes.
  • We strive to leave the office on time each day. There are, of course, exceptions—for instance, if we have a meeting in the evening that we need to attend or if we need to stay for a few extra minutes to wrap up things for the day—but overall, we know it will be there tomorrow, which is sometimes hard to admit. Leaving on time also sets the tone with your students that you aren’t in the office 24/7. Work will be there tomorrow, so when you can, leave the office on time, go home, run errands, catch up on your favorite TV show, or just relax!
  • Keeping a to-do list. If you don’t already do this, give it a try. It’s something that keeps me organized and on task, and it reminds me that timely things are what need to get done first most of the time—but when I have time in between meetings or on days when not much is happening, I can concentrate on the ongoing projects that I have on my list. Plus, who doesn’t love the satisfaction of crossing things off the list?
  • Get some sleep. No, seriously. I make sure to be in bed around the same time each night in order to get the amount of sleep that my body requires. Now, we know that everyone is different in that respect; some of us are night owls, while others are early birds. Do what is best for you and establish a routine.
  • Maintain relationships outside of work. There are so many times when our relationships and friendships go on the back burner because we get so busy and caught up with work. I’ve really tried to maintain my friendships outside of work. Occasionally, I will make plans with friends who live farther away, but I also keep in contact through phone calls and text messages regularly.
  • Get to work on time, or even early. I know it sounds crazy, but I get the most work done in the first few hours of the workday than I usually do for the rest of the day. My students are usually in class or still sleeping, which allows me to get through my voicemails, emails, and necessary paperwork before students need to meet with me or come in with questions throughout the rest of the day. Getting to work on time or early is what ensures that I can leave on time that day.

While all of these suggestions are not possible all of the time, the goal is to do these things regularly. There are definitely times of the year when I’m working 12-16 hour days because of events or programs, but I know those are only every so often.

How do you strive for a work/life balance? Do you model the way for your students and other staff members? Do you have any tips to help others create a better work/life balance?

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