A New Way to Think About Time Management and Work-Life Balance

A New Way to Think About Time Management and Work-Life BalanceIn our busy world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and time-strapped. Many of us struggle to find time for what’s most important to us. As the founder and CEO of Real Life E, a time coaching and training company, my friend Elizabeth Grace Saunders is on a mission to help.

Her new ebook, How to Invest Your Time Like Money, hits the Web today and introduces unique time-investment and work-life balance ideas based on the principles of personal finance. I love this concept and was excited to learn more, so I reached out to Elizabeth with some questions. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

What negative consequences do people see when they don’t balance their time budgets?

Time debt — which leads to stress, overwhelm, missed deadlines, broken commitments and a sense of helplessness that no matter how hard you work, you can never keep up.

Often it seems like we have no control over the demands on our time — particularly those that come from our bosses and colleagues. Why is it important to take ownership of those time demands anyway?

Due to the fact that most employees have multiple projects and many even have multiple bosses, it’s unlikely anyone will know how much you have on your agenda unless you tell them. Your boss relies on you to tell him when you are overloaded and need help with prioritizing. If you don’t, he’ll assume everything is fine and keep giving you more work.

How can employees balance taking ownership of the time they spend on work with the need to meet their bosses and colleagues’ needs and expectations?

It all comes down to respectfully presenting the situation, i.e. how much time you have available and the various tasks and projects on your plate, and then asking for guidance on priorities. Once your boss is aware of how many different things you have to do, he can tell you to focus on certain activities and not on others. Also, he can give you a sense of how long you should spend on a task before moving on to the next one.

In regard to colleagues, the most important thing you can do is to set expectations by letting them know when you will be able to get work to them given your overall workload.

But don’t you have to put in a lot of extra time and effort to succeed in today’s working world?

More time and effort doesn’t always mean you’re going to have more meaningful results. In my work as a time coach, I see that the people who spend the most time working are often the least effective. They tend to overinvest in answering email, going to nonessential meetings, and doing other nice, but not necessary tasks, and underinvest in what really matters. If you get the most important activities done, not doing a lot of the other smaller items won’t make a big difference in your career.

How can job seekers identify good opportunities that will fit with their time budgets and help them achieve their professional and personal goals?

Look for workplaces that reward effectiveness, i.e. getting the right things done at the right time, versus those that reward spending the longest number of hours at your desk. The culture of an organization plays a huge role in your ability to achieve balance.

How is the challenge of time management different for millennials than for older generations?

I think millennials tend to value balance more but they also tend to be more attracted to some lower-value activities, such as email. The key to successfully investing your time as a millennial is to realize you can work reasonable hours, but you need to overcome the temptation to spend your time on quick, easy tasks, and instead focus on the big, hard projects.

If you get the really important items done within the hours you want to work, other generations will respect your approach. If you work shorter hours and don’t get the most important activities done, your performance could come into question. It’s OK to make your work environment work for you, but you also need to make sure that you’re working to provide the maximum value while you’re there.

What challenges do you face trying to balance your time budget? Share with me and Elizabeth on Twitter.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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