Over the past few years, the term "work/life balance" has become a point of discussion and priority for many employees regardless of age or phase of their career. While the exact definition of work/life balance is different for different people, it is probably safe to say that many people are looking for additional time to pursue personal interests and believe that working less is the only way to achieve this so-called work/life balance.
This particular topic has been fresh in my mind in recent years. Earlier in my career, and before kids were part of the equation, 12-hour days were frequent. I remember specifically trying to complete a number of projects prior to having my first child in 2014. I was organizing my team and crossing tasks off my to-do list until the day I went into labor. When the time came to actually step away for a few months, I had the sense that I left a number of loose ends and unresolved items.
I always had this vision that when we reached a certain sales goal, acquired a certain piece of equipment, made a key hire, or completed a series of projects, I would actually find more time for personal pursuits and improve my work/life balance. As my career with a fast-growing tradeshow supplier grew, I realized my idealistic work/life vision was never going to be a reality. The more equipment we installed, positions we added, and projects we took on, the more I learned that it is less about work/life balance and more about optimizing my professional contributions to have the highest impact.
Over the past few years, I have really focused on optimizing my professional contributions for both me and my family. Not every strategy was a success but here are a few helpful tips for thriving in the fast-paced printing world, optimizing your time at work, and ensuring that you have enough time for personal pursuits.
Set realistic boundaries for yourself
There is always work to be done and projects to complete. When new projects come across your desk, be realistic with your timeline and what resources it will take to complete the project.
Actually plan & schedule your “work” time
About a year ago, I started blocking time on my calendar to work on my own projects and check emails. Prior to scheduling my time, days would get sucked up with last minute questions from the team, putting out fires, and instantly answering every email that came through. I usually left the office feeling defeated in that little had been accomplished on any given day. Better managing my calendar and specifically scheduling time for my own projects was a game-changer for allowing me to focus on my own strategic priorities.
Be a Team Player
At the end of the day, we all want more time for the things we enjoy whether it’s family, friends or hobbies. Stepping in on a last-minute rush project comes through the door so your teammate can get home to watch her son’s soccer game or celebrate a friend’s birthday dinner goes a long way. When everyone steps-up and shares responsibility, it can go a long way for team morale and creates a positive energy feedback loop.
Not every week, busy-season or year is going to go as planned. Last year, I lost a key leader on our graphics team and it left a large gap. Until I was able to recruit, hire and train a replacement, my personal career goals and projects were on the back burner. Most major disruptions are temporary. Frequently, you will come out the other side with greater clarity than from what caused the disruption in the first place.
Work/life balance is not about reducing time spent at work but ensuring that time spent on work is optimized. A robust work/life balance strategy can help today’s busy print professionals find that optimal balance and maximize professional contributions.
About the Author
Jaime Herand is the Vice President of Graphics Operations of Orbus Exhibit and Display Group and leads worldwide graphics operations for the P3 Group out of Orbus’ Woodridge facility. Since joining Orbus in January 2005, she has played an instrumental role in Orbus’ growth to a market-leader in the display, exhibit, and event solutions industry.