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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Addicted to Work? Time Management Tips for 'Always-On' Workers

Addicted to Work? Time Management Tips for 'Always-On' Workers
Credit: Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Your career can become an addiction if you blur the line between "work" and "life" too much. Sure, it's convenient to work from any location, or browse emails in bed before having your morning coffee, but doing so can make it difficult to find balance. If left unchecked, this can harm your physical and mental health.

The 24/7 work mentality can affect sleep patterns, interfere with relationships, cause excess stress and distract you from other priorities, like exercise, health and family. [See Related Story: 10 Ways Your Job May Be Bad for Your Health]

"Smartphones have really impacted time management in a way unseen in any period before," said Ian Landsman, founder of help-desk software HelpSpot. "The ability to check your business at every single moment of the day no matter what you're doing has caused people to feel like they should check their business constantly."

Technology is a double-edged sword that has altered people's interactions, affecting their work dynamic and social life, said Diane Belcher, director of continuous learning at Harvard Business Publishing and product director for Harvard ManageMentor learning system.

"In some ways, this adds more flexibility to how people manage their time, but it also means more calls, more meetings, more emails coming at you at all hours of the day. And when you're working 24/7, you have to fit in your personal life somewhere," Belcher said.

The good news is you can still lead a successful career without losing out on other aspects of your life. Time management is a practice that anyone can master, so long as they have the desire.

Landsman and Belcher outlined some do's and don'ts of managing your schedule in the world of 24/7 work.

Sometimes, you need time away from the chaos: the calls, texts, emails and social media alerts. Whether you're spending a night out with your partner or grabbing brunch with an old friend, you don't need to obsess over work at that very moment. If you turn off your smartphone (or at least set it on airplane mode), you won't feel the constant need to check on business matters, said Landsman.

Sleep is essential to success. You want to be alert and mentally available on the job, so think of sleep as a beneficial work tactic. You also deserve the rest, and it will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.

"Time is a limited resource. No matter how accessible we are to our teams, our bosses or our families, we can't make more of it. But what we can do is replenish our energy and maximize our attention," said Belcher.

"These are two big factors in managing time more effectively. Understanding your personal energy levels is critical to driving your performance [and] your satisfaction every day."

While you may feel the need to be "always on," you need some sort of recess from your hectic schedule to focus on yourself and other priorities. In order to provide your best work, taking a breather is crucial.

"If you work from home, make sure to create a little decompression space between when work ends and when you re-engage with your family," Landsman said. "If you don't work at home, see if you might be able to work from home [on occasion]. Find a way to cut at least some of the hours wasted on commuting."

Meditation relaxes the mind and body. After a stressful day of nonstop work, taking a moment to channel your thoughts and quiet the chaos can do wonders, said Landsman.

"Mostly, it's about making a bit of space in your life to decompress. You'll find that you're much more present when you're actually with your family versus thinking about work," he added.

This only makes you frustrated and concerned. If you face a problem during your day, walk away and come back to it later. This gives your mind a break and allows you to face the issue with a more rational and clean perspective, often resulting in a "quick resolution," Landsman said.

Landsman recommended making entries for your to-do's on your calendar, rather than in list form.

"You can only do one thing at a time, so if you schedule your to-do's in your calendar, they'll actually get done," he said.

Organizing your tasks in an efficient manner that makes sense to your schedule not only ensures you'll complete them but also reduces anxiety, allowing you to plan time for breaks, he said.

While scheduling is helpful, don't overbook yourself. "If you don't build in flexibility to respond to the inevitable unexpected tasks, the time will need to come from somewhere else," said Belcher. This will only cause more unneeded stress, which can affect other areas of your life, she said.

"Those unexpected activities are what throw our days into tailspins, so don't book yourself every minute, and [instead] include planned breaks," she added.

By keeping these tips in mind, and cherishing each priority, from health to family, you can succeed in all areas of your life — not just your career.

"Work-life balance is exceptionally important, and it comes down to prioritization," Belcher said. "You will be more refreshed, have a better perspective and be more effective at work if you can find and achieve this balance."

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a recent graduate of Rowan University, where she majored in writing arts and minored in journalism. She currently works as a Purch B2B staff writer while working on her first novel in her free time. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.