Striking a good work-life balance can sometimes feel like an impossible crusade—like finding the Holy Grail or reaching inbox zero—but it usually comes down to maximizing efficiency in your business management.
Work-life balance habits aren’t taught in school. And if they were, you probably would’ve skipped that class. So it’s up to you to figure out how to manage your time—and your employees’ time—in a way that fulfills all daily responsibilities and goals while still allowing you and everyone else on the IT team to leave work at a decent hour.
Here’s a look at how to maneuver through your day, while creating a balance that keeps everyone on task and streamlines workflows across the board, so you can get out the door on time and feel accomplished at the same time.
What do you really do all day?
If you think you know how you spend your time, think again. According to a recent study, you probably underestimate the amount of time you spend on your smartphone each day by half. The same is likely true for other areas of your life, especially in the world of technology, which is often compared to falling down a rabbit hole. If you can’t accurately predict how you spend your own time, how can you hope to pinpoint when and where your employees spend—and, more importantly, waste—time in their workdays?
To figure out where you and your employees spend time, you can try a time-tracking software, like Toggl or RescueTime. Gather three or four weeks worth of data to identify trends and patterns, and then, with these insights in hand, you can see in black-and-white how time is really spent. This will allow you to identify what kinds of business management tasks you and your team handle on a daily basis, as well as bad habits or bottlenecks that need to be addressed and remedied.
Maximize efficiency through better prioritization
Identify which activities take up the most time. Should they? It’s a good idea to analyze the type of work your team does in relation to their importance to your organization. For example, firming up data security and smoothing out user experience are two high-value tasks to the success of your company. Are you spending enough time on these activities? In addition, improving tech efficiency and troubleshooting IT issues are also important—but maybe you can delegate them to specified team members to lessen the load of the entire team.
Also, you should pay attention to how many times you’re interrupted each day. A study from the University of California, Irvine found that it takes 25 minutes to recover from an interruption at work, The New York Times reports. You can minimize these distractions by going to the office early for strategy and planning sessions, turning off notifications on your phone for a set amount of time each day, or utilizing an old-fashioned “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Create a proactive schedule
Once you identify high-value tasks, create a schedule for maximizing efficiency. Prioritize important activities by time-blocking them early in your day, when you’re less likely to succumb to distractions or be interrupted—and help your team members do the same, especially the ones who struggle with time management as it is.
You should also approach your workload by combining like tasks. This can help you stay in the same frame of mind to knock out certain activities, such as printing and assembling reports, responding to emails, and updating systems. Sometimes, it can even help to encourage your team to collaborate on identified tasks to get them done faster and in a more efficient manner. Teamwork makes the dream work!
While it sounds counterproductive, you need to seriously schedule breaks into your day. The Muse reports that working for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break can maximize your productivity. Each person will have their own work-break preference, so try various amounts of time to find your sweet spot.
Breaks should take place away from your computer—too much screen time is linked to eye strain and chronic health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes. This presents a special challenge for IT workers, who typically work on a screen all day, making it imperative to take breaks away from your computers.
As a manager, you need to lead by example. When you prioritize work-life balance, you encourage your staff to do the same. If your employees see you working long hours and not taking time off, they will feel obligated to do the same. Also, make sure you do not routinely send after-hours emails. This is such a bad practice that France recently passed a law that makes after-hours work emails illegal.
Being proactive about your duties will help you finish your work in less time, giving you more time to enjoy what makes you happy—and the same goes for the rest of your team.