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A few years ago, I was working for a national nonprofit organization that regularly promoted “work-life balance.” And, while the regular promotion of this was present, it was not practiced. Often I would come into the office and someone would ask me, “Did you get my email last night?” My response was always, “I don’t know, I didn’t check it.” There would be this look of disbelief and over time I got to the point where I realized that checking my e-mail at night was expected… and so I did.

When I became the Executive Director of a smaller nonprofit, there were just four of us on staff and when it was time to take a vacation, it wasn’t really a vacation. I was, essentially, working remotely while burning through vacation days. There were a lot of things going on that included a major capital campaign and an organizational expansion so sure… things had to get done.

But upon the conclusion of the expansion and after some conversations with my family, it was clear that I had gotten into this rut where my “work-life balance” was, well, completely unbalanced. I started reading time management articles and searching for ideas on how I could #OwnMyTime.

So, in no particular order, here are the ways I have created a “work-life” balance in our organization:

  • When I’m on vacation, I disconnect the work e-mail from my cell phone. I even go as far as to put a custom “out of office” message on my cell phone and unless it’s family or friends, I don’t answer it.
  • Sometimes people will reach out to me via social media. I politely tell them “I’m on vacation this week, but I’ll check into that when I’m back in the office” or “I’m on vacation this week, but if you call my assistant, she might be able to find that answer for you.”
  • I offer flextime for some positions where it’s possible to do so. If your child is sick and you need to stay home on a Tuesday, no issue. Tell me if you want to use some of your PTO time that day or if you’d like to come in extra hours on other days to make up the time.

Texting is a bit more difficult, but if you have a culture where time off is valued, people won’t text you if they know you are on vacation. It takes time and it takes a bit of willpower, but it can be done. And no, it isn’t always perfect. But for your mental sanity, I can promise you it is worth your time.