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The Secret to Achieving a Work/ Life Balance While Being Successful

Work/life balance, what is it and how do you achieve it? I would bet that this is one of the most asked questions in today’s society. So much has changed since the start of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, you may have struggled with work/life balance because of the additional time required traveling to and from the office. A positive outcome might have been that because you could physically leave the office, you could create a break from work, but that didn’t necessarily convert to more time in the life balance. Probably the biggest problem in finding a work/life balance is because we are so connected through technology, and because of that, it’s easy to keep looking at things like emails that come into your inbox at all hours of the day and night. Plus, who wants to return to hundreds of emails after a vacation. For years, whenever we would go on vacation, I would tell my wife to just let me have 15 minutes in the morning to look at emails and move things along. It allowed me to enjoy the rest of the day but it did nothing for my work/life balance.

Then came the pandemic and everyone had to stay home and work. Initially, that brought fear to owners and bosses. How did they know if their people were actually working? What hours are they working? They felt like they had no real control. Within a few months, that fear quickly vanished as many businesses realized that the people working from home were actually getting more done than when they came into the office. Statistics showed that most people were 60% efficient when working from an office, compared to 83% efficient when working from home. Why? There are a couple of reasons—first, fewer distractions. When you work in an office, people would just stop by your desk whenever they want or start a conversation and let’s not forget the talk around the water cooler or coffee pot. Another reason is that there is no travel time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average one-way trip for workers in the U.S. is 27.6 minutes. That means, on average, they saved an hour of driving time. If you live in a major metropolitan city, that time can go way up. If you live in LA, Chicago, NYC or Atlanta, now you’re talking multiple hours. This doesn’t include the time it took to get ready to go to work and then unwind when they came home from work. The ease of walking over to your computer to begin your workday has changed the way people actually work. It allows them to be more flexible, which you would think would help them create a work/life balance, and sometimes it does because you can easily take time to go to the doctor or run to the store in the middle of the day. But that doesn’t create work/life balance, it gives you flexibility, and in most cases, it has created the opposite effect because now people can’t get away from their work; it is always there. I thought this was an interesting stat; according to Pew Research Center, in an article published in Feb of 2022, before the pandemic, only 23% of workers who could do their jobs from home were teleworking. Today, 64% of workers who can do their jobs from home have chosen to continue to work from home. So how do you find that elusive work/life balance?

It's All About Time!

Time is funny; we all have the same amount of it, 24 hours every day. So why do some people seem to get so much more done in the same amount of time than others? I hear people say all the time, I just ran out of time, or I didn’t plan my time well. Have you ever been working on or doing something, and suddenly, you realize what time it is, and you say, “where did all the time go?” A lot of people need to get better at time management. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of books, classes and blogs on time management. But here’s the truth that no one has ever told you before. You don’t manage time; you manage yourself in time. What’s the difference, you might be asking? If you are able to manage yourself in time, time doesn’t become an issue.

Tips to Manage Yourself in Time

Time management is laying out your day into time blocks to get things done. Saying things like, from 8 am - 10 am, I am going to write my blog, then from 10 am-12 pm, I’m gonna clean out my inbox, and so on. The problem with doing things that way is that you just added a distraction to your tasks because you defined a certain amount of time you thought you could get a particular task done but now, it’s in the back of your mind and it keeps nagging at you. You only have an hour and a half left; then you only have an hour left. Pretty soon, you’re at the 2-hour mark and you still have at least another hour to go. By trying to manage time, you have created a distraction. I want to share a couple of tips to help you manage yourself in time, thus resulting in more work getting done in less time.

  • First, find a place with minimal distractions. A bedroom, an office in your house; someplace where things around you won’t be a distraction to you. This will help keep you focused.

  • Group ‘like’ tasks together, like writing or emails or phone calls etc. This will keep your brain focused and not burn as much energy. You may think that you are multi-tasking and being more efficient. But, whether you realize it or not, every time you bounce from one task to another and back, your brain has to reset a bit and this slows you down and that takes energy. Of which your brain/body only has a limited amount. Have you ever finished your workday and are absolutely exhausted? That’s because your brain needs energy to process and the more energy you use during the day, the less you will have after work to do life things.

  • Create habits; these will result in potential shortcuts, which use less energy and make you more efficient. For example, I have decided that I will be writing content for my company every Monday. I have actually blocked out the mornings to do this. No calls or meetings. In the past, I’ve always tried to fit it in when I had time; the result was that when I finally got around to it, it took me twice as long to complete because I wasn’t completely focused. I allowed other things to distract me. Instead, I have created a habit that has resulted in my brain being ready to write every Monday. The content creation is now easier because I am not distracted by other things around me; I am able to focus on the task at hand and get it done much quicker.

So, I am sure you are asking yourself, what does managing myself in time have to do with work/life balance? The answer is simple; if you start to manage yourself in time vs. managing time, you will find that you get things done quicker and use less energy. So at the end of the day, you can shut work off and have enough energy to enjoy life. A lot of people I coach always say to me that I am working too many hours to have a work/life balance. I am here to tell you, that if you start to manage yourself in time, you will get tasks done faster and more efficiently. It will lead to more time and energy, which allows you to find that elusive work/life balance.

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Also, check out our latest podcast if you have time.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Until the next time, stay safe and be healthy.

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