Consultants: Behave Your Way to Better Work-Life Balance
For consultants, balancing home/personal life with your increased travel schedule for work is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Increased time spent on traveling and being away from home requires you to be more balanced than ever. The good news is that are some key habits and behaviors that you can form that will quickly ease some stress or discomfort you and your family are most likely feeling.
The first set of behaviors deal with boundary management and communication:
- Have a conversation each week with those who are responsible at home (e.g., your spouse, partner, and/or children, etc.) that quickly discusses your travel and work schedule, as well as how each person at home can be supported best during that time (e.g., plan rides home from after-school activities, prepare meals over the weekend that can be frozen and easily re-heated, or pick out the kids’ outfits for each day in advance, etc.). By spending 30-45 minutes communicating each week, you will save yourself hours of unproductive stress and be able to continue operating as a home team.
- Find appropriate ways to say “no” to requests for your time that would reduce the quality of your professional work or time at home. As you continue to rise in your career, it becomes more important than ever to set boundaries for yourself. This doesn’t make you a bad employee or friend or parent or spouse, nor does it make you someone who isn’t willing to take on more for success; rather, it makes you someone who knows their limits and can put quality in front of quantity.
- Designate each responsibility, task, email, or commitment as: high priority, high urgency, mid/low priority, or low urgency. I typically do this a bit differently, as my categories are: “High Priority,” “Urgent,” and “Everything Else.” Most professionals react to each email or task as high priority, when that is not the case. By assigning the priority or urgency appropriately, you will be able to better balance your time (and stress).
- Spend 15 minutes each day planning for the next day. It’s important that you know your direction for the immediate future, and this will help you end your day on a positive and productive note. A performance management expert, Pam Heffernan, once told me: “You are too busy to not have a plan in place!” and she was quite right.
The second set of behaviors deal with time management:
- Have several weeks of travel outfits and accessories already paired together in your closet. This will allow you to come home from a work trip, quickly unpack, and repack in just a few minutes’ time. It will give you more time to spend time at home with your family and friends.
- Keep two sets of your makeup or other morning routine items (e.g., shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush), so that you have one that remains in your suitcase and another at your home. Again, this will allow you to spend less time packing and repacking and more time at home with your family and friends.
- Find two to three tasks that you would typically do at night or on weekends at home and find a way to bring them with you (e.g., bills, budget, catching up on personal email, dry-cleaning, etc.) and make it a priority to find 30 minutes per day that you travel to cross these things off your list. Your work travel should not paralyze your personal responsibilities from being accomplished.
It’s extremely important that you not only mentally commit to these recommendations but that you take action with your behaviors. Make the choice to be balanced and sane. Commit to quality in both your professional and personal life through these behaviors.