The outlook is pretty grim for professionals seeking work-life balance. Thirty-three percent of business owners report working more than 50 hours per week, while an additional 25 percent say they work more than 60 hours a week. Seventy percent also work at least one weekend on a regular basis. The average executive keeps a similar schedule.
The good news? With well-defined boundaries and a few productivity hacks, you can reclaim your evenings, weekends and family time. Here are five steps to save you more than 30 hours a month, so you can get back to doing whatever you darn-well please.
Leave Your Workbag in the Car
If your work materials are in the house, it’s tempting to think you can take a moment to get a task done. But just as giving the famed mouse his cookie leads to more and more requests, doing “one quick task” leads to another and another. Keeping your bag in the car creates physical separation, ensuring you’re truly off the clock when you’re out of the office. If you work from home, you can achieve the same effect by confining your files to work zones. Be vigilant. If those files migrate into other rooms, they’ll start intruding on family time.
I struggled with this habit at first. If I’m being honest, I only made the change successfully because my wife is very persuasive. But I’m grateful she held me to it. This simple practice has dramatically increased how present I am when I’m with my family. My business hasn’t suffered as a result, and I’ve been able to enjoy dinner, bedtime and bath time with my two little girls more often.
Time Your Phone Calls Effectively
Getting in touch with executives is virtually impossible in the middle of the workday, so don’t waste time calling during that time. Instead, schedule your high-level sales calls when executives are most likely to pick up. Research shows the best times are 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. — right before and right after the workday.
By adjusting your call schedule, you’ll reach more executives and connect with these decision makers when they’re far less distracted. Consider this: If you spend 20 hours a month on the phone, this hack can save you around 13 hours every month. That translates to a lot less wait time for corporate VIPs and a lot more face time with your personal VIPs.
Schedule Your Emails
As if it weren’t already tempting enough to email during off-hours, research shows this practice actually gets better response rates. The best time to send emails is around 6 a.m. or between 8 p.m. and midnight. But you don’t have to rise early or burn the midnight oil to enjoy these benefits. With an email scheduling service, such as Boomerang or LetterMeLater.com, you can time your emails effectively without being a slave to the clock.
I recently started using Boomerang to send emails early in the morning. This has not only scored faster responses, but it also has helped me land some of my biggest deals. By adopting these services, you can do the same without sacrificing sleep, family breakfast time or morning workouts.
Get Up Early
You’re asking for trouble if you try to cram healthy cooking, exercise, reading and family time into one evening. By the end of the day, your energy is shot and finishing tasks becomes exponentially harder. Put the big rocks in the jar first by accomplishing the most important things before the day takes its toll.
Hal Elrod wrote the perfect guide for this. His book, “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 a.m.)” tells you how to leverage your mornings for success.
Tackling big tasks earlier not only helps you set priorities, but it also has time-saving benefits. Morning workouts allow you to shower just once a day, and driving to work earlier means you beat rush-hour traffic. If either of these hacks saves you even 15 minutes a day, you’ll enjoy six to seven extra free hours a month.
Learn How to Say “No” to Events
Few things suck time quite like client dinners and corporate events, but you don’t have to wine and dine your clients to show them you care. For a saner schedule, commit to cutting in half the number of events you attend and redirecting that budget to a tangible touchpoint plan.
A sincere handwritten note, an earmarked book that matches your client’s interests, or unique, personalized year-round gifts can do just as much (if not more) as a $250 dinner or bar tab — especially when you’re dealing with other busy professionals. And just one fewer dinner or event per week will save you an extra 12 hours every month.
Adopting these habits takes some adjustment, but the benefits are well worth the effort. This past Valentine’s Day, I got to spend the entire weekend with my wife and kids. Without these hacks, I would have been cloistered in my office or on the road headed to a networking event. But establishing boundaries and managing my time effectively allowed me to stay home. And I’ve got to say, sharing homemade pancakes with my girls beats the conference circuit any day.
John Ruhlin and his firm THE RUHLIN GROUP are considered to be the foremost experts on developing relationships with key executives and the topic of “Appreciative Leadership.” He speaks nationally on the topic, is the bestselling author of “Cutting Edge Sales” and is the number one distributor in the 60 year history of CUTCO Cutlery.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.