Juggling your professional and personal lives becomes even more difficult when you develop bad work habits that affect your performance and productivity.
Even being too ambitious can become a detriment, suggested Maura Thomas, a speaker, author, and founder of RegainYourTime.com. When tech pros feel obligated to respond to after-hour emails and text messages right away, it can create a negative dynamic with co-workers.
“Just because the CIO is on the clock in the middle of the night doesn’t mean you have to be,” added Thomas, who is known for taking execs to task for communicating 24/7. “Clarify your boss’s expectations, because most executives don’t expect or even want you to respond to their emails until the next business day.”
You may not have control over everything that happens over the course of a workday, but how you manage your time, prioritize and schedule your activities has a huge impact on your ability to get away from work and focus on your personal life. Ask yourself: Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?
Studies show that multi-taskers aren’t more productive. In fact, the opposite is true, because they lose focus switching between tasks, said Jeff Davidson, an author and work-life balance expert.
“You can only give sharp attention to one thing at a time because the brain has to engage,” he explained. “If you’re besieged by competing tasks and interests, go from completion to completion. Or set a timer and devote 20-minute stretches of time to each task.”
Davidson thinks that breaking the multi-tasking habit will help you accomplish more work in less time: “Your anxiety will rise for the first few days if you go cold turkey, but the results will be self-reinforcing.”
Do you check your email or smartphone for texts and status updates hundreds of times a day, even during vacation? Are you obsessed with being the first on your team to share a new code-review tool? If you answered “yes,” you may be suffering from a productivity-sapping affliction known as the fear of missing out (or FOMO).
“If you’re responsible for keeping your team updated or you like being the source of breaking news, send out updates once or twice a day, otherwise you’ll destroy your rhythm,” Davidson said.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz recently admitted that resting matters, and working extremely hard without a break is unsustainable for most people. Thomas agrees.
“Being a knowledge worker requires energy and fresh ideas, so the best thing you can do to succeed at work, is to not work evenings, weekends or when you’re on vacation,” she said.
Are you guilty of adding extra tweaks to designs or making software so elaborate that your team misses its deadlines? There are lots of reasons for the scope-changes and project delays that result in overtime. And while some of them are beyond your control, you can certainly ensure that you are clear on deliverables and goals before you start an assignment. And you can resist the urge to create gold-plated software and upgrades—sometimes a “plain wrap” solution is good enough.
While you can’t always avoid the need to fight office fires, soothing frazzled users and jumping into ad-hoc meetings siphons time away from vital activities such as software reviews and testing. Triaging crises, and setting aside a set time every week to deal with minor issues, can be effective ways to cut down on unplanned interruptions. Or ask your manager to designate one person on the team to serve as “fire chief” for a set period.
Managing Your Time, Not Your Energy
Consciously segregating tasks based on difficulty, and alternating between periods of intense focus and renewal throughout the day, can help you maintain higher levels of productivity and get out of the office sooner than using old-fashioned time-management techniques.
“Take advantage of high-energy times by tackling tasks that require maximum focus,” Davidson said. “Then use the alternate intervals to knock out low-energy tasks like responding to emails or completing documentation.”