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How to Have a Work/Life Balance

Balance

Work/life balance has become a huge topic of discussion in recent years with Gen X and Gen Y moving in with the hardworking Boomers.

Instead of working hard, we talk about working smart… but are we really? Computers, smart phones and wireless Internet allow us to work all the time; but is this really smart?

As an entrepreneur working with non-profits, I see how non-profit professionals work just as hard as small business folks do.

They have a cause, are dedicated and will do anything to help their clients. But they also work so hard that the infamous “wall” rears up before them more often than not. They don’t complain as much as those working “for the man,” but when they hit “the wall,” they crash hard and those around them can suffer because of it.

Instead of making this list myself, I asked those non-profit professionals who know this wall best.

My question: How do you keep a work/life balance & not burn out?

I got a lot of “you don’t” answers, but here are the positive responses I received from those who live it.

1. Set your schedule.

Would you get more done & keep from burning out by working a different schedule than 8am-9pm? Is working from home or a coffee shop a possibility from time to time, to allow you to refocus?

Talk to your boss and find out how you can keep your drive by varying your schedule. Don’t forget to take vacation and personal days to give you a breather; a rested employee is a focused employee.

I set limits on the length of my days at work & try to be very productive. Sometimes it’s hard, but I strive for that.” – Sabrina Kidwai (@packersgirl)

“Work smarter, not harder. Results count, not the amount of time put in. Think of all your life passions – work & personal – and make sure the priorities win.”
– Michael Dove (@michaeldove)

2. Attend events for those you serve.

Make sure to keep your clients close by attending events where they will be so you can remind yourself of why you do what you do.

“I make a point to attend events/visit programs we run to see who we serve, helps w/ burn out. Connecting with others is key for me. Helps me to know I’m not “in the trenches” alone, so to speak.” – Ashley Parker (@fleuredeflorida)

3. Believe in the cause.

Ever find yourself not believing in what you’re doing or not happy with how management is running things? Time to get a new job or talk to the uppers to find out how to make it work for you.

Working for something you believe in takes you pretty far.” – Kat Zambon (@KZambon)

Is it work if you love it? Is it balance if you don’t want it to go away? Some for-profits don’t make money, some non-profits do.” – Amy Throndsen (@amyserves)

“Resign from committees that aren’t feeding your passion – I did this just this morning!” – Kelly Reid (@kellyreid0)

4. Be intentional.

Listen to yourself & take time out when you need it. Have hobbies, go for a walk, join a social sports group, or just spend time with friends.

“Find the movements of your heart and make sure that you include them into your life. Daily. It can be as simple as feeding yourself well, without distractions, alone time. For me it is weekly time in nature or in a book. Intentionally finding something positive in everything allows for your soul to grow even if you work daily with insurmountable and sad challenges, in both the non-profit world and in the for-profit world.” – Heather Newman (@right2food)

“I am trying to force myself to do the things that are relaxing. Cooking is one. #SNAPchallenge requires me to do that or starve.” - Jan-Michael Sacharko (@janmichaeldc)

“Rocks, stones, sand. Establish what pieces of your life fall into which category. Prioritize appropriately. – Molly Mattessich (@mollymali)

5. Learn the NO word.

The first step to saying “no” is learning to be honest with yourself. Knowing your boundaries and allowing yourself the availability for as much as you can handle will allow you to say “no” and mean it.

You won’t be able to do this as often as you hope but learning this word will give you the flexibility to look back and understand why you didn’t end up burning out.

6. Know what you’re in for.

Once you step into the non-profit world, much the same as the entrepreneurial world, you have to know what is expected of you. Walking in blind will only end up breaking you so make sure you talk to your potential coworkers to get a real view of what’s coming.

“I accept that this IS my life. And I also realize that with my position, there isn’t an off switch. While that can seem overwhelming or unbalanced, I find it empowers me to not necessarily feel like like I’m caged into certain hours either.

“I’m lucky enough to have worked at an organization that respected and encouraged a healthy balance. They also would acknowledge and respect that my job didn’t end at 6. I was on-call at all hours on any day. That’s the nature of the game, and THAT becomes how you balance your life; not on a 9-6 scale. It all weaves together.” – Alison McQuade (@akmcquade)

My office is going Rowe (www.gorowe.com)” - Lauren McKenzie (@LaurenNMcKenzie)

CHALLENGE: Keep track of your time for one week (Sunday to Saturday) and write down everything you do.

This will help you pinpoint things that are taking up your time or adding to your stress level. Find a way to reorganize your week and make it work for you. Talk to your boss about removing or cutting down on things that are getting in the way of your true job.

Have any tips to add?
Don’t believe it’s possible to keep from burning out? Tell me!

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Image: kmakice via Flickr, Creative Commons

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.


    1. Wonderful post, Melanie, thank you. The tip I adhere to is find like-minded people and talk to them regularly. For tech, I use DC Web Women: http://www.dcwebwomen.org. For creativity, I just learned about Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/.

      So many tools exist to help us find the balance we need, and I have found that people are always the best solution.

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