Work-Life Balance During Business Sprints
A few months ago, we talked about how hard it is to balance work, home, and community involvement. It was appropriately named ‘Work-Life Balance? What Is That?’ but it really addresses how to balance your activities in a “normal” environment. Work-life balance strategies are completely different if you are in the midst of a business sprint.
What are business sprints?
Business sprints are temporary increases in work volume or complexity. The key word is temporary. Tax accountants sprint during tax season, event planners sprint during the final days (or weeks) leading up to the event, and new business owners will have several short sprints as they build their customer base.
This article focuses on business sprints but the same concepts pop up during the holiday season, when your children prep for their first day of college, the last weeks leading up to a wedding, or when we are caring for a sick family member.
How can we balance our lives during a sprint?
The short answer is that true work-life balance during a business sprint is unachievable. Our goal is to reduce stress and magnify the effects of our “rest” time. The first step is deciding whether you are a workaholic or someone who can make themselves work hard. I tend to be a workaholic which means I have to make myself relax and enjoy free time. I have a friend who isn’t a workaholic but can make himself work hard. He needs to find ways to motivate himself to keep sprinting. So, I’m going to break the tips up between “Workaholic” and “Needs Motivation”.
The second step is to define your priorities before the sprint begins. Maybe going to little Johnny’s baseball games are #1 on your list while going to your nephew’s birthday party is #13. For me, spending quality time with family and my dogs are #1. Cooking dinner is #421, cleaning my house is #1276, and picking up dog poop is #1277. Managing your priorities will also help you reduce undue stress.
(1) Write down a list of doable items and stick to it. The goal is to stop creating new work for yourself or your team. A business sprint is not the time to get distracted with more work. Focus on reaching the end.
(2) Disconnect from work when you are not working. Stop checking your email as soon as you wake up or right before you go to bed. I’m pretty sure all those emails will be there when you roll into work and you will be in a better frame of mind once you are in 100% work mode.
(3) Make healthful living a priority. Plan your meals and stick to a condensed workout schedule. Try to get at least six hours of quality sleep each night. The ‘Sit Less, Sleep More’ article talks about how lack of sleep can affect cognitive performance just like a six-pack of beer. Healthful living also includes doing things you enjoy. Golf, shop, run, drink margaritas, etc.
(4) Outsource anything you don’t have to do. Hire someone to clean your house, walk your dog, or take care of your lawn. Don’t panic. If this is really a business sprint, you won’t have to keep paying for someone to clean your house … unless you find out how awesome it is for someone else to sweep up the dog hair.
(5) Make plans (before your sprint starts) to go on a vacation. I am just starting a business sprint which will end in 9 weeks. Sometime this week, I will pay for a vacation that will take place in 12 weeks. If I don’t take a vacation immediately after the sprint, I will continue to create more work and forget to slow down. Workaholics have a tough time relaxing on vacation and will go years between vacations if someone doesn’t force the issue. Just see the ‘Hug a Dairy Farmer’ post to see how long I went between vacations.
(1) Create a solid vision of what you want to achieve. See, feel, and even smell your results. If you are a tax accountant, see the list of customers you have served. Wedding planners should see each room in detail and feel the excitement of the wedding party.
(2) Write down your goals and then list actionable ways to achieve it. It’s all about feeling successful and creating a sense of momentum. Revisit the list daily to check off an item. Actionable items are detailed enough for you to complete at least one a day.
(3) Just like the workaholic, you need to make healthful living a priority. Healthful meals, regular exercise, and quality sleep will bolster motivation.
(4) Have a friend or work partner who can help you stay motivated. It is easy for family and friends to make you feel guilty for spending time at work. You may need someone to help you stay focused and motivated for this short sprint.
(5) Make plans for a vacation to reward yourself for all your hard work. When the sprint seems too hard, remind yourself of your vacation. Take a 5- to 10-minute mental break to daydream about what you are going to do once you are finished.
Business sprints affect each person differently. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can help you stay on track.
What do you do to balance your work and life obligations?