4 Specific Ways Leaders Can Strike a Healthy Work-Life Balance and Avoid Burnout
Reductions in the workforce can make leaders feel like they have to fill in productivity gaps, spending too much time working and far too little time on their needs. Here’s how leaders can make sure they’re taking care of themselves.
By Paul Walker
In January alone, more than 81,000 Americans were laid off, and despite signals that the job market remains strong, there are likely more to come. The fallout from these headcount changes is significant, and it often increases pressure on leaders to do more with less.
Dramatic reductions in the workforce can make leaders feel like they have to fill in productivity gaps, taking on too much day in and day out — spending too much time working and far too little time taking care of themselves. This kind of manic pace quickly leads to burnout, compromising leaders’ health, well-being and ability to support a successful team.
Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders on how to find appropriate work-life balance so they can lead effectively and continue to help their teams deliver results. Here are four specific ways leaders can strike a healthy work-life balance.
1. Prioritize yourself first
As a leader, you need to determine what your business and personal priorities are. Identify your needs and carve out time for those key life facets before anything else. Decide your priorities in regard to your personal health and life outside of work first, followed by professional development and business endeavors.
It can help to think of your priorities as a glass jar filled with rocks. The glass jar represents your day, the large rocks are your priorities and the smaller pebbles are the filler. If you first add the pebbles into your jar, followed by the large rocks, you’ll find that the large rocks won’t fit no matter what you do. Instead, if you fill your jar with the big rocks first, followed by the pebbles, you’ll find that all of the rocks fit well.
The analogy here is to fill your life’s jar with the important things first. It takes deliberate, daily effort, but the rewards are significant. Make filling your jar part of your daily leadership routine, and you’ll set a strong example for your employees to always put the most important “rocks” first.
2. Sharpen the saw: Daily self-renewal
Prioritizing is just one part of the puzzle. In conjunction, you must practice daily self-renewal, or as the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey called it, “sharpening the saw.” Sharpening the saw means preserving your greatest asset — you.
Each day, give deliberate focus and attention to the four different aspects of yourself: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual. Make it a habit to check in with yourself and evaluate how you’re doing in each of these areas and what life changes you might need to make to operate at the highest level.
If you aren’t recharging and making time for self-renewal, you will likely experience fatigue, burnout and unhappiness. Thankfully, every day offers a new opportunity for you to make a change. And remember, as you undertake this whole-person approach, you’ll model this positive behavior for your employees, showing it’s okay to take care of yourself first so you can better take care of business.
3. Inspire trust
Without question, trust is the most important aspect of building a cohesive team. As a leader, you inspire trust by acting with integrity and making time to connect purposefully with your employees. You also inspire trust when you show how important it is to take care of yourself and that the well-being of your people and your team always comes before business.
When you create a culture of trust, you will find your employees feel comfortable discussing their lives outside of work and will be more inclined to take better care of themselves while at work.
4. Ask for help
One of the best leadership principles for maintaining a healthy work-life balance is being humble enough to ask for help. I’ve seen it firsthand: leaders love to help other leaders. Whether it’s choosing a mentor or coach or sharing challenges with your team, recognize that leadership does not have to be a lonely role.
Treat leadership as the team sport that it is and surround yourself with people you respect who will give you great advice, even if it differs from your own. Some problems are too big for any one person to solve but can easily be overcome with outside help. Giving others an opportunity to help you creates connections and forges stronger relationships — both key elements in successful leadership.
Like many business leaders, I too am feeling the pressures of working toward big goals with limited resources. It’s a lot to carry. Despite the ambiguity of the moment, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your health and well-being so that you remain an effective leader instead of succumbing to burnout.