How to Make Work/Life Balance the Norm


Here at Bossed Up I try my best to not just preach personal sustainability, but to build it into our everyday business practices – and my everyday life.

Since we’re focusing on taking your management skills to the next level this month, I thought it best to share a boss tip on how to make work-life balance not just a nice-to-have perk, but a norm on your own team.

One of the strategies I talk a lot about whenever helping boss women beat burnout is called calendar normalizing. Calendar normalizing is how I curbed my bad habit of aspirational planning. We’ve all done it, right? We told three of our friends we’ll swing by their house parties on Saturday night, knowing that there’s no way that’s actually going to happen. Or maybe you committed yourself to a conference call in between two in-person meetings that required a 30-minute commute between the two of them. Sure, it’s technically possible, but you know you’re going to end up being late, distracted, or multitasking throughout them.

Aspirational planning gets everyone feeling like we’re behind, not doing enough, like we’re failing. When in reality, we’ve set ourselves up to feel like failures by unrealistically over-committing. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t work hard, or don’t sometimes have a LOT on our plate we’re juggling. But, I’m just done with setting unrealistic expectations that leave me and the rest of my team feeling like we’re always playing catch-up.

That’s the idea behind calendar normalizing: you’re choosing to take into account the realities of the space-time continuum whenever you plan. Instead of making your calendar look like some perfect, ideal fantasy of the most productive-possible day, it looks a lot more like your reality. I factor in workouts and lunch breaks, commute time and just downtime. I reserve writing time in my calendar and any other projects that require my undivided attention. I also aim to budget in buffer time whenever possible between meetings, to account for opportunities that will pop up that day that I could never predict.

And we replicate calendar normalizing team-wide. For instance,  we budget in time for personal life check-ins at the start of our weekly team meetings. Travel time and commute times are factored in to all of my work trips. Over time, I’ve learned that a 30-minute podcast interview in total ends up taking an hour to record, so we don’t try to jam it all in, back-to-back, all the time. And when you end up with a few extra minutes in between meetings, that’s just an added bonus for time to return emails, catch up on the team slack channels, or just do something nice for yourself. What a radical concept, right?

There are plenty of ways we’ve all been guilty of aspirational planning, and we’re never fully perfect at avoiding it. But I have found that modeling the behavior of calendar normalizing as a leader gives permission to all our team members to acknowledge that sometimes life stuff does come up that might impact our ability to be “on” 24/7. We talk about what’s going on in our personal lives in part because it’s just a nice thing to do, but also because if you know that your team member is in the midst of planning a wedding, or is moving apartments at the end of the month, or is dealing with a sick kid who’s home from school that day, we can all better plan workflow to work around life, instead of expecting the reverse.

Do you use your calendar to set realistic expectations for yourself and others? Or are you guilty of aspirational life planning, too? Do you and your team members talk about your personal obligations in order to plan around them? Or do you operate in a workplace that expects your full, undivided attention at all times?


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