Work-life balance (insert eye-roll here) is a great theory; however, putting it into practice is another thing. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance isn’t always easy, especially in the IT services space. And let’s face it, there are very good reasons why.
At Continuum, we have Account Managers speaking to over 5,600 partners discussing consistent narratives, from the demands of constantly being on the hunt for talent to the episodic nature of the IT world. What this means is that, ultimately, there are rarely “typical” workdays. MSPs need to be on 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year. Additionally, running an MSP business requires a plan that demands daily, weekly and monthly goals are met. All of these elements require attention, often at the expense of the well-intentioned balance. So, where can you begin to improve your work-life balance?
In the following three-part series, we will explore how you can achieve a better work-life balance by developing the right mentality, obtaining the right tools, and maximizing those tools with the right behavior. But first, you have to get in the right state of mind.
Why Should I Care?
Because you do! Developing, planning and investing in your own business takes care, even if the primary motivators for starting a business differ. I have spoken to several MSPs who discuss great pride in being the person that alleviates the pain of technology for their clients, enabling the client to prosper and grow. There is great satisfaction in making an impact on another’s life and profiting from that impact at the same time. For many of you, it is more than likely a combination of several of these elements. That said, my good doctors of IT infrastructure, in order to treat others, you must first treat yourself.
How to Balance Objectives
Each of us has our own unique set of needs, and we’re happiest when those needs are being met. An individual bent on self-improvement might try to focus on fulfilling all of these needs at once, which can result in the reverse outcome. To put this into perspective, look at the image below.
This is called the Wellness Wheel, and on it, there are eight domains of importance: intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, financial, occupational, emotional, and environmental. Think of the Wellness Wheel as a compartmentalization of the necessary elements of a person’s life that enables each day and endeavor to run smoothly. If someone were to have a connection with each of these domains, they would achieve a level of balance that would not only ensure professional and personal success, but an overall sense of well-being.
However, it is often difficult to focus equally on all these domains. Don’t get me wrong, they are all important, but to get a little closer to an overall sense of self-satisfaction, it may be best to focus on no more than two at a time—starting with what is most important to you. Most successful business owners are familiar with the concept of keeping goals achievable and building momentum; work-life balance is no different.
Eat the Frog... Last
Some of you may have heard the expression “eat the frog first” as a philosophy for taking care of the big, ugly task first. It’s our natural tendency to initially go after the domain that is the toughest to achieve. While that may work for task prioritization, it does not necessarily help when creating a game plan for work-life balance. Additionally, not all domains are important to each individual. My advice, pick a month to fine tune a domain you already have an affinity for and build your success from there.
Let’s Talk Mindfulness
Believe it or not, one of the most valuable tools I have found for getting in the right mentality is meditation. Now, people may have certain misconceptions about meditation, but I believe it is a practice that has a guaranteed positive physiological response to the body and mind. Slowing down the mental processes slows down your heart rate and reduces anxiety that can rob any of us from doing our best problem solving. Bottom line: a calm brain is an effective brain.
Try carving out 10 minutes, three times a day and finding a quiet space, even if it has to be your car, to practice meditating. The benefits are unique to everyone, but many practitioners of meditation report feeling less stress overall (e.g. issues that used to drive them over the edge, no longer do), mental clarity, increased ability to think “outside the box,” and improved communication. These not only benefit individual business owners, but their employees as well. Have you ever worked for someone constantly on edge? Remember, stressed out managers make for stressed employees.
Talk to Your Team
When I used to run a mental health facility in Pittsburgh, my team and I would take five to ten minutes each day to process what we had going on and what our game plan was for those tasks. In high stress environments, it is essential to center the mind of your team and yourself to maximize results. I’ve found that the perfect time to do so is in the morning, before the day kicks off. Additionally, it makes an important statement to your team: as a business owner, you care.
Avoid Burning Out
Finally, running a business is a 24-hour a day gig. But you know what they say: a light bulb that’s on for 24-hours a day burns out more quickly. If you’re “on” running your business around the clock, you will rob yourself of your finest work and inevitably burn out. Not only will this have negative effects on your business, but your clients’ businesses as well.
In the next part of this series, we are going to discuss how to improve your work-life balance with the right tools. These will help you open space in your daily calendar to shut down and re-focus, so you do not have to live to work, but work to live and enjoy your hard-fought success.
By Carlos Borges
By Ray Vrabel