How Busy Managers Can Achieve Work-Life Balance


5 min read

How Busy Managers Can Achieve Work-Life Balance

Nikki Thorpe

Nikki Thorpe

Oct 13, 2017


    How busy managers can achieve work-life balance

    As a manager, it’s important that you figure out an effective way to keep yourself from diving too far into either end of that equation. Too much work leads to burnout. Too much life leads to stalled career progress and a lack of fulfillment.

    Workaholism simply isn’t sustainable, not if we want to keep ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally healthy — and if we don’t keep ourselves healthy, then sooner or later, that burnout will grow strong enough to keep us from working at all, or at least working efficiently.

    It can also result in actual physical illness, which at some point will interfere with your earning potential and career advancement. Multiple studies, in fact, have shown a correlation between overwork and debilitating cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, etc.).

    Moreover, regular downtime is essential for your workplace productivity. Yet too many American workers don’t take advantage of the avenues for periodic disengagement to achieve work-life balance. One study showed Americans had an average of 9 unused vacation days in 2012.

    Employee happiness and retention are directly tied to work-life balance. In 2015, one study found that over a third of all employees were considering or actively looking for a new position, and the Center for American Progress tells us that food services and hospitality are among the industries with the highest percentage of turnover.

    So how can you protect your work-life balance while maintaining a healthy approach to both? Let’s look at specific strategies you can use to stay at the top of your game, both personally and professionally.

    Manage your time wisely

    One of the first things you can and should do as a manager to maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal lives is to make the most of your time in both contexts.

    Working on productivity — i.e., getting more of your daily agenda done during each day — helps you minimize the intrusion of work-related thoughts and obligations throughout the rest of your day.

    • One way to achieve this is by reducing or eliminating the delays caused by transitions between different tasks. When you group similar tasks together, you minimize interruptions and distractions. Adhere to a “chunked schedule” philosophy. For example, return phone calls in a one hour-long chunk, or schedule a few half-hour sessions throughout the day to deal with emails.
    • If you find yourself procrastinating on specific tasks, figure out why first. Do you lack information? Are you afraid of a failure or a misstep? Address that cause first, then implement other procrastination fixes as necessary.
    • Pick a drop-dead work-ending time, then stick to it. Don’t let yourself go past it, except in extremely unusual circumstances.
    • If you regularly find yourself wondering where your time is going, conduct a time audit. Track how you spend your workdays to figure out where you’re spending too much time and what’s getting short shrift. Then make adjustments accordingly.
    • Be scrupulous in taking sufficient breaks and getting enough rest. Down time is essential for maximum efficiency and productivity.

    Hire the best, then delegate and empower

    One common culprit behind managerial burnout is the insistence on adhering to the old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Instead, smart managers know they need to first hire the best employees possible, then empower and delegate to them.

    Let your team members take on more responsibility. Give them the tools they need to know when to use their new authority, when to call you, and when to say a kind yet firm “no” if necessary.

    Respect your own boundaries

    Learn how to establish and enforce your own boundaries. Think about specifics: When can people from work intrude on your personal time? Under what circumstances?

    One way to help your team members help you more effectively is to empower them more to handle certain situations that might arise without calling you.

    For example, if the assistant manager on duty is empowered to resolve diner complaints up to $25 without further approval, you won’t have to be disturbed every time someone complains about an overcooked steak.

    But you also have to enforce and respect your own boundaries. Resist the urge to check in, reply to emails, or send instructions when you’re supposed to be off-duty.

    Only by training yourself to respect your own boundaries can you hope to train others to respect them as well.

    By the same token, it’s important to be clear with yourself about what you need in the first place.

    Don’t assume what’s best for others is good enough for you. People have varying needs for sleep, nutrition, and mental health self-care. You may need more time for spiritual reflection than another person, or less sleep but more time to spend with your children.

    Be clear about your needs, and take care of those first. The notion of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others holds true in most contexts.

    Unplug every so often

    Get over your fear of the “off” button.

    When you’re on vacation, or even enjoying a day off, discipline yourself to turn off the work phone, the email notifications, and anything that keeps you tied to the workplace.

    Additionally, set your out-of-office email notification and before you leave, make sure your second in command is duly authorized to handle most challenges that might pop up in your absence.

    Unplugging from the workplace completely during those vacations and longer breaks is invaluable in helping you regain perspective to see your life as a whole, instead of a long series of workdays interrupted with personal breaks.

    If you never disconnect, then on some level you’re always “on” and tethered to the workplace. That means your brain never has an adequate chance to recover and refresh itself, which is crucial for optimal performance.


    Keep in mind that maintaining work-life balance is in many respects just like maintaining physical balance.

    Imagine yourself on one of those balance boards. You don’t simply achieve a static balanced condition and just stay still. It’s a constant process of adjustments -- a little more here, a little less there.

    Work-life balance is the same. So don’t get frustrated with yourself if you take the occasional phone call after dinner or take a mental health day every so often. Judge your overall progress instead of your daily performance.

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