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Hynes Blog

Work to Live: 3 Tips for Engineers to Improve Work-Life Balance

Posted by Randy Myers on March 18, 2015

5343267956_32c89b8580_zDo you work to live or live to work?

I imagine many engineers struggle with this question. We’d like to work to live, but external forces such as rapidly evolving technology, shorter product lifecycles and new product capabilities have us living to work. 

Engineers across industries are stretched. Forced to do more with less time and money, and pulled in different directions by competing priorities. Because of this, work-life balance can quickly become an illusive dream rather than a reality.

But all is not lost. Below we’ve put together three tips to help engineers work to live and improve your overall work-life balance.

1. Define your success.

In any success-driven endeavor (personal or professional), you must first define the end goal while still understanding that goal may evolve over time. 

According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business School students, participants differed in their definitions of success, citing “making a difference,” “financial success” and everything in between. We all define success differently; it’s important to define your own success so you can prioritize accordingly.

For example, if you define success at home as having dinner as a family five nights a week, then you know you have to shut down at work around 5 p.m. to get home in time. If you also define success at work as earning a bonus every year, you can get to the office early and work toward that goal without missing family dinner. 

Once you define success, you’ll know exactly what you are striving for and have a better idea of how to achieve it.

2. Focus on time efficiency. 

Many people have a misconception about time—Put in a ton of it, and you’ll get the best results. Not the case. In fact, coming into work very early and leaving very late doesn’t necessarily make you the best engineer. It might make you the least efficient.

Instead of focusing on time, focus on productivity. How effective are you in a given amount of time?

Back to our first example: If you know you have to leave the office by 5 p.m. every night, get as much quality work done in that timeframe as you can. There are a variety of tools available to help you minimize distractions, stay focused, and create and collaborate efficiently. (See the “Tools and Tech” section in The Modern Engineer’s Guide to Getting It Done for more.) 

Less time working and more high-quality output makes you Captain Efficiency. Enjoy the extra time you gain!

3. Manage technology.

The beauty of technologies such as smartphones and laptops is they allow us to be accessible, connected and efficient. But in the pursuit of work-life balance, these devices can leave us distracted. It all depends on how you manage technology.

For example, when you get home, shut down the phone. If you’re having dinner with the family, don’t keep your phone on the table so you can check your emails. Similarly, stay focused at work to maximize efficiency. Avoid texting, social media, games, apps and whatever typically distracts you.

Over-communicate your expectations regarding email, phone calls and texting during and after hours to your team. Your personal life will thank you.

As all advice goes, these aren’t hard and fast rules. There isn’t one work-life balance solution for everyone. You have to take the time to think about what works best for you, and test until you find that comfortable balance. Take these tips and customize them for your own life. 

What tips do you have for balancing your work life and personal life? Please share in the comments below.

Image Credit: Lisa Clarke via Flickr Creative Commons

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Topics: engineering