At the height of the financial crisis, billionaire investor Warren Buffet was in the middle of negotiating a $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs, according to Time Magazine. The investment was a critical infusion of cash to shore up the investment bank’s balance sheet at one of the most turbulent times in economic history. But partway through the negotiations, Buffett notified Goldman Sachs that he would be unavailable for a couple hours.
What could pull away one of the world’s most respected investors from a $5 billion deal in the crucial final hours of deal-making? He had promised his grandchildren that he would take them to Dairy Queen for an ice cream, and he did not want to break that promise.
We’re not all Warren Buffett, and we can’t all delay pressing business. But the story illustrates the way that successful people are able to separate life and work at critical times, and how often both work and life can benefit from that balance.
The balance of our personal and professional lives can be a challenge for modern workers who are connected 24/7. Emails can reach smartphone-connected employees at all times of the day, night and weekend. In fact, a study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that 60 percent of workers who use smartphones for their jobs are connected 13.5 or more hours per day and spend five hours each weekend reading emails.
Here are three ways that employees can work to establish a healthy personal and professional balance even in the age of the smartphone:
• Establish a Reasonable Give-and-Take
Our lives are a constant balancing act between career goals, business achievements and personal success. The balance between our careers and life outside of work gets tilted when work consistently overrides other parts of our lives. But this does not mean that work will not take priority from time to time or family duties will not require occasional work flexibility.
The modern work world often requires that some employees devote more time to the office during busy business periods, and, in return, balance that with flexibility for family at other times. This give-and-take might not feel like balance during a busy business time, but make sure to make up some of that lost personal time when business calms down.
• Unplug from Time to Time
Our brains sometimes need a break from the constant digital hum of work life. This is not only healthy for our families and quality of life, it is important for the quality of our work. A break from staring at a screen or running from meeting to meeting can often unlock the creativity that leads to great business ideas. Successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey have all been known to use outdoor walking meetings as a way to unplug and stimulate ideas. Realize that unplugging at times can be good for your family life as well as your work performance.
• Take Control of Certain Parts of Your Day
A work-life imbalance often grows gradually. If you don’t set boundaries around certain parts of your day or week, work can creep in until you realize that you are answering emails at 11 p.m. at night and catching up on projects every weekend.
Avoid that slow fading of work-life balance by taking complete control of certain parts of your day. Communicate with co-workers or clients to establish boundaries around important family time, vacation or weekends so that there is no expectation that you will be available. That control over certain times will give you the predictability to fully engage in your outside-of-work pursuits without the nagging worry in the back of your head that you are missing an email or falling behind on client communication.