Motive: Take a break — time management in adland
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) When you work in a creative industry, time management is a critical skill that you’ll need to master to ensure you do the best work you can, more efficiently than the other person. One of the most difficult concepts to get your head around is that, to contribute more at work, you should spend more time away from work.
Achieving that perfect balance between work and a personal life has become one of the most-challenging issues facing our workforce today, particularly the creativework force. This is because the way we work has changed.
When it becomes the normal, it’s a problem
In the past, nine-to-five meant just that. Today, it’s not uncommon to have to cancel social plans because a deadline has moved and you’re needed to work late — and it’s not unheard of to get a call from the office while you’re on leave asking you to cut your holiday short. When this only happens occasionally, it’s a nuisance. But, when it becomes the norm, then you have a problem.
Whatever you call it, “work-life balance” or “work-life integration”, properly managing the time you spend upon business and upon leisure may drastically improve your overall enjoyment of life, and your performance in the office. Here are some tips to help you balance it out.
Take time off
Most people only ever take time off during the festive season. It doesn’t seem so bad, until you realise that this equates to only two-to-three weeks every 12 months. This is one of the reasons that people feel like they are always working and don’t have a life. If this is you, try and take a week of your leave mid-year, or opt for more mini-breaks of 3–4 days every few months. If you’re really trying to save up leave days, try and use midweek public holidays to get more time off without using up too many of them.
People also don’t take time off when they don’t have a destination nailed down; this would mean ‘wasted leave days’, in their opinion. It’s time for you — and everybody who thinks like this– to realise that it’s not what you do or where you go that matters, but rather that you’re simply not working. Whether you’re sipping cocktails on the coast, spoiling yourself at a spa, or simply being a couch potato and catching up on series, taking time for yourself is very beneficial.
Just being away from work for a few days will help you reset mentally, and be more focused and productive when you get back to the office.
Diarise social activities
Many of us religiously refer to our calendar for business meetings and commitments, but don’t use one outside work. It might seem unnecessary, but treating your social life with the same diligence you treat your workday can make a huge difference when it comes to work-life integration.
For example, say you have a dinner with a friend on Wednesday at 6pm. You put it in your calendar as 6–8pm. You then find out that a deadline has moved, and you’ll have to put in extra hours to meet it. Because you set a time to meet with your friend, you now have an option to either shorten the meeting, meet a little later, or move the dinner. If it weren’t in your diary, you would most likely call to cancel.
It might seem like a very small action but, by diarising your social activities, psychologically you’re putting them at the same level of importance as work meetings.
Bring some home to work
Not every day at the office in the creative industry is chock-a-block, and there are even days where not much is happening. On these days, it’s possible for you to do the opposite of taking work home, and use some of the time for yourself.
Go online, find funny memes, and be the first one to send it out for a change. Pop out to go and deal with the chores you haven’t had the time for. Instead of a smoke break, go get a 15-minute head‑and-shoulder massage. Go to gym.
You still have to be responsible and let the people you work with know that you’re going out, and always be contactable in case anything comes up. But taking a bit of your time on a quiet day can dramatically boost your morale at work, and make you a happier employee.
Is that all it takes to have a good work-life balance? No. There are many factors that contribute to how you balance work and play, and it takes some time to get it right. But the more you do things that help you manage the balance better, the easier it will become, and the more you will enjoy life overall.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is an award-winning senior copywriter at FCB Africa with several years of experience in the advertising industry. More than a writer, he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things; and he once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.