6 Simple Changes That Make Anyone’s Work Life Better
This article is brought to you by the AICPA.
Here at TFD, we wholeheartedly believe that work should be one piece of your fulfilling-life pie — not the entire dish. (Yes, even if you’re an entrepreneur or a booked-and-busy freelancer.) But for many of us these days, the lines between our work and personal lives are increasingly blurred.
Improving your work life isn’t just about being as productive as possible — it’s about putting out your best work possible without it overtaking the rest of your life. Here are some of our favorite tips for keeping up at work without ever burning out.
1. Start blocking off time on your calendar for solo tasks, not just meetings.
This is something that our CEO Chelsea and our CRO, Annie, have always done, and after a few years of working with them, I finally started doing it myself. I don’t time block my entire calendar — something always inevitably comes up and throws me off — but I will occasionally set aside an hour and specifically close Slack if there’s something I really need to get done. This is especially true for non-urgent things that just keep falling to the bottom of my to-do list…until they are suddenly, actually urgent. Blocking time off on your calendar for a task just gives it a sense of importance that it wouldn’t have otherwise. Bonus, if coworkers see that you’re “busy,” they’re much less likely to bug you during that time.
(Also, if you do use Slack or another such work-messaging platform, don’t be afraid to set an away message if you’re in the middle of something!)
2. Stop doing tasks you’re not really equipped to handle yourself.
Something that a lot of people (myself included) need to get better at is outsourcing. This is especially true for small business owners and freelancers just starting out. It feels like you can spare no expense, so you try to do everything yourself — which often backfires and ends up costing you more in the long run.
If you run your own small business or freelancing operation, definitely consider using the services of a Certified Public Accountant to help you reach your business goals. CPAs are qualified financial experts who give advice all year round — not just when you need to file or pay your taxes. They can offer broad business knowledge and financial expertise that most of us simply don’t have. They can help you with the super-important parts of your business you should almost never DIY, including financial and tax planning, business valuation, accounting services, and setting and meeting your business-growth goals. The less you have to think about your business finances, the more energy you’ll have for actually running your business — AKA the parts of your work life you actually enjoy.
To find a CPA near you, click here to check out the AICPA’s Find-a-CPA tool.
3. Dedicate your lunch break to a specific activity so you’re forced to take a break for a bit.
According to a global survey from QuickBooks, 58% of Americans take just 30 minutes for their lunch break every day, and 15% take 15 minutes or less. And that data is from 2019 — who knows how shortened the average work-from-home lunch break is.
Personally, I find that the only way to actually take an hour-long break during the middle of my at-home workday is to have a dedicated activity. This could be a Zoom pilates session, a walk with my husband, a lunchtime book club meeting, or — the most likely option — actually cooking a meal for my lunch. I miss a lot about going into our physical office every day, and a big part of that is the lunchtime walks I used to take to get food or pick up a book from the library. I don’t have the same midtown Manhattan food options around me, but there’s no reason I can’t take those outdoor breaks more often. If you’re struggling to create boundaries between your work and home life, try committing to a lunchtime activity at least once a week (and bonus if it actually gets you out of the house). And use the tip in point #1: actually put your lunch break on your calendar!
4. Spend a few days auditing your time so you get a better sense of where it’s going.
TFD contributor Sarah Doyel recently wrote about how auditing her time helped her better manage the hours in her day and avoid feeling burnt out at the end of every workweek. A time audit is basically just tracking every hour or 30-minute period for a few days or week, to see how much time you’re actually spending on different tasks. It’s tedious, but it can certainly help — especially if you’re feeling overworked.
5. Keep a running accomplishments list.
One of the major secrets to confidence is to give yourself legitimate reasons to feel proud. Keeping a running document of your accomplishments is a great idea to prevent you from forgetting what’s gone well. This can be projects that were successful at work, fires you put out quickly, or really any measures of success of any kind. This also gives you an easy list to reference when talking to your supervisors in the future (especially if you want to negotiate a raise.)
6. Find a way to minimize your distractions.
There are so many different ways to do this, so you have to find what actually works for you. We really love the idea of a distraction journal, in which you would write down everything you get tempted to do that would take you away from the task at hand (e.g. “reached for my phone to check Instagram”). If you find your email particularly distracting, especially when you can see out of the corner of your eye that you have a new message, try closing the tab for a few hours a day so that you’re not thinking about what you’re missing. I also use a work timer plugin that blocks me from visiting distracting sites (Twitter, Reddit) while it’s turned on. Whatever you can do to keep distractions from taking your attention away during work hours is a good investment. The goal is simply to manage your time more effectively, so you feel like you can leave work behind as soon as you clock out — and give your attention to literally anything else.
Remember — feeling overwhelmed in your work life is normal, but there are so many things you can do to mitigate burnout. And if you’re running your own business, make peace with the fact that you simply can’t do everything, no matter how much of a badass you are. Check out the AICPA’s Find-a-CPA tool to find a CPA in your area to get your business goals on track today.
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