By Jo Gifford Career Balancing life and work 19 Jun 2015 Creating boundaries between work and life and managing time are essential skills to success. Whether you are employed or self-employed, finding harmony between work, clients and time off is essential to increased productivity and a happier you. Let’s start by setting expectations, not with your clients and employer, but with yourself. This is the cornerstone of managing productivity and balance; if you commit to yourself to work in a way that is proactive and not reactive, productive and not overwhelmed, the next steps are by far easier to manage. Begin by asking yourself these key questions: What is important to me to achieve this month/week/day/hour? How am I willing to be contacted, by whom, and when? As simple as they sound, setting some ground rules for yourself makes it easier to extend your boundaries to others. Setting expectations Managing expectations of others – be they your clients or employer – is crucial. This involves making your actions as clear as your ethos and goals. For example, if you want to leave work at 5pm each day, do so without guilt. If you don’t plan to be available at weekends or evenings, don’t check your email and reply. Set the tone by how you behave, and stick by your own manifesto. Managing Communications We are in constant reach now, from email to whatsapp, text messages, tweets, instagram, facebook, G+ and more. Being clear about how you will respond and when is a major step in staying in control of your time, keeping focused, and maintaining life work balance. If you are self-employed, it can be useful to send out a new client welcome pack or simple information page which sets out how you work, how you can be contacted and when. Taking a pro-active stance helps clients feel looked after, and re-assured that they know how to find you if and when they need; it also serves as a way to set your house rules early on in a client relationship. Here are some tips on dealing with email, calls and social media availability: Email Email is one of the worst culprits for a time vacuum! Remember, whilst some emails are truly urgent, they tend to be other people’s requests on your time, so gain the upper hand with these helpful tips: Use Sanebox to help stay on top of your inbox Try Unroll.me for your subscriptions and newsfeeds Use The Email Game to make your inbox fun, and to get into the habit of being efficient with your email communications Use an autoresponder to let people know how often you check your inbox, and when. This can be a really helpful tool in managing expectations, and can also be a great time to includes some answers to FAQ’s Try to check email as little as possible to stay focussed. Once a day is a great goal (here’s how I do it) If you do happen to check your email at the weekend, use a tool such as Boomerang for Gmail that enables emails to be sent in advance, thus setting the precedence that you only respond on weekdays. Calls Phone calls can also be really time consuming, so use your discretion when taking them or making yourself available. Use your voicemail function to let people know when you check messages and when you are available If you don’t wish to be available to clients or your employer after certain hours, let them know that and stick to your guns If needs be, put your mobile phone on a setting that automatically makes you unavailable for calls after a certain time If you a client or your employer texts you on evenings or weekends and expects a response, a polite reminder of your preferred methods of working and your boundaries usually does the trick If you use Skype for business calls, set your availability to “busy” or “away” to prevent unwanted incoming calls Social Media Having a personal social media presence can make it very difficult to avoid being contacted outside of working hours, so use your discretion. If you a self employed, make sure your clients know whether or not you find Facebook Messenger an appropriate form of communication. Set your privacy settings so that clients or your employer cannot see your personal online activity if you prefer to have a divide between your work life and personal life. Productivity Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, making the most of your time with productivity is hugely important part of your work. Here are some practical tips to keep you in the zone! 1. Keep your emails short and sweet Working with a three sentence rule that packs a punch is a great guideline to staying on track in your inbox. 2. Work on the one thing that will move you forward. Keep focussed on one task at a time, and prioritise which needs to be done first. No more browsers with all the tabs open, please! 3. Check emails once a day. As above, checking email less not only sets better expectations, but it also helps you get more done with your day. 4. Plug into brain ticking, neural stroking music as you focus. Using music and your environment to help you focus is a great way to supercharge your day. 5. Bulk process things while you are in the zone. Bulk processing tasks helps to eliminate the switchover time between modes of working, and helps you to get more done in less time. 6. Work in do-able chunks and 10 minute workouts “Chunking” tasks can help you to keep on track by making the goal really do-able and short. 7. Take time off – it makes you work (but, more importantly, live) better. Building time off into your day really helps your productivity to soar. It may feel counter productive at first, but we all work better with a body and mind that is refreshed. 8. Stop the noise and the FOMO Don’t let the fear of missing out have you tied to all your online social media platforms and your inbox. The content machine is showing no signs of slowing down, so rest assured that you simply cannot keep up to date with everything. 9. Go offline, then bring it online with Evernote. Working offline to brainstorm and plan your projects and tasks can be really useful. Using a system like Evernote means you can then document your offline thoughts and ideas, and keep them safely stored digitally. 10. Outsource and delegate where you can. As an entrepreneur, outsourcing is a powerful way to leverage more time as your business grows. Employees can learn to delegate tasks where appropriate to do so, to empower your team, and free up more time for your super productive day! Jo Gifford mentors solopreneurs to tell their business story online and to work in smarter, creative ways on www.dexterousdiva.co.uk.