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We Asked, You Answered: How Can Ninjas Find Work/Life Balance?

The “9 to 5 job”—is there any phrase that’s more laughable than that?

With round-the-clock email accessibility and phones that only get switched off on airplanes, most of the employed population struggles to achieve work/life balance. And, perhaps we’re biased, but office ninjas face an even bigger challenge. Sure, we can basically do anything and everything, but at some point “any time” got thrown in there too. And, before we knew it, we started getting calls in the restroom… and the callers expected an answer.

Work/life balance is a tricky issue, so we consulted the experts: our community of office ninjas. Based on our conversations, we identified 3 key ways to create or regain work/life balance.

Set Boundaries

Boundary

First of all, it’s up to you to identify your boundaries and share them with your manager and coworkers. If certain times in the evenings are sacred or you know that responding to emails on Saturdays simply isn’t realistic, be clear and upfront. This kind of transparency ensures that everyone knows exactly what to expect.

Office Ninja Cindy B., who works as an Executive Assistant at hybris Software, touched upon this very point. She wrote:

I still work long hours but I don’t feel bad about dropping my kid at school or taking a lunch break. There is more pressure to be available to them but I set limits and strive to maintain consistency in my schedule so my executives and family know what they can expect from me.

Put Yourself on the Schedule

Schedule

There’s a reason we schedule certain meetings and conversations: they’re a priority and cannot be missed. Make sure you’re giving your personal time the same level of consideration. Lunch breaks, an exercise class and even a 10-minute walk can all help us feel more centered and balanced. Make appointments with yourself and keep them the same way you would a meeting with your boss or a colleague.

Janine B., an Administrative Services Manager, found this tactic to be particularly helpful. She wrote:

I would mark my calendar ‘12pm-1:30pm gym’ or ‘offline’ so that everyone I supported understood. This was something that I was fortunate enough to work out with my execs. Before then, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be ‘on vacation’ and have my laptop out by the pool.

Move On if You Need To

Leave

So, what happens when you set boundaries that your boss doesn’t respect and make appointments that your coworkers ignore? If your work environment is starting to take a toll on your health and happiness and there’s no relief in sight, it may be time to move on.

MJ, an Executive Assistant who spent 20 years “on call” for the executives she supported, had this very experience. She wrote:

It was the last company I worked for that woke me up and I got fed up. I took almost a year of disability because of anxiety attacks, emotional and physical stress and that really made me realize that I need a life. I had forgotten how to smile and just be the happy no attitude person I used to be. The last four years have been wonderful with the company I work for now. I can work from home when I need to and my boss doesn’t bother me after 5pm or before 9am unless it’s an emergency. No stress at all!! I’m enjoying more of my personal life but still staying as a rockstar at my work place!

Work/life balance is achievable—even for the all-powerful office ninja! It just takes a little planning, a willingness to stick to your guns, and, sometimes, the strength to walk away from an unhealthy situation.

What are your tips for maintaining work/life balance?

Comments

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  1. I have found it very useful and important for myself, to set the boundaries right from the start, i.e. in the job interview, making clear that given my great organisational and prioritisation skills, I am not the right person for a job requiring presenteeism just because, and also that I have a private life. In case of an emergency I am the first to work extra hours, but do not let it be the norm. Same goes for e-mails or phone calls out of business hours. The former CEO of my company was fantastic at prioritising and taught me a lot about the relativity of important and urgent. I understand that there are business sectors operationg 24/7 making it harder to disconnect, but from experience many people do not even stop to think about whether their e-mail or call is really that urgent and the receiver does not always stop to think whether the e-mail really has to be replied instantly or can wait till the next day.

  2. The one thing I will not do is take my phone into the bathroom. That is my sanctuary. My office is the first one people see when they come in; I answer the phone for the company, our sister company and for some of the staff when needed. I go to the bathroom for the need, but also for the quiet. I actually hate when my boss emails me from the bathroom. What? He can’t be off his phone for 5 minutes? I’m connected, but not that connected. The only time I didn’t follow my own rule was when my mom was in the hospital. I took my phone everywhere in case they needed to get in touch. No one and nothing else is that important that it can’t wait.

  3. I find that actually informing my teammates I check email during work hours and am only available by text after hours helps tremendously. Not that I actually do, because we as OMs and Admins are always on the look out, but so they know my boundaries incase I don’t get back to them right away. Also, I find it very helpful when I get home to put my phone in another room………on vibrate. :D

    1. Excellent advice, Lauren! Setting those boundaries (and sticking to ’em) is a huge deal in maintaining the necessary balance. And I’m loving the plan of keeping your phone in the other room… maybe I’ll have to give that one a go sometime. ;)

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