Achieving work-life balance can be tough for many people. As a clinical research associate you need to put in that extra effort to reach the next level. We all know how challenging it can, but most people can learn how to achieve a proper work-life balance. In this post, we’re going to share with you the best practices that life coaches regularly teach clients to achieve that kind of balance. While reading this post, occasionally ask yourself the question, how does this apply to me? Sometimes, you’ll think that doesn’t really apply to me – but focus on the principles instead and you’ll find ways that you can take action.
1. The balanced time budget
When people hear the word “balance” they may think of a scale making sure that both sides are equal. Instead, think of it more in terms of a budget – having a balanced budget. This means that we want to underspend our time rather than doing what most people do, which is overspend time going into debt and paying interest. There are three things that you can do to better maintain a time balance.
- First of all, understand the truth of time. The truth of time is there are only 24 hours in a day. There are only 60 minutes in an hour, and no matter what you do, you cannot change that.
- This leads to our next principle, which is the use of a calendar. Many people have multiple calendars and some people have no calendar at all. You want to make sure that you have one calendar because that will show you the balance of how much time you have remaining.
- Last, you have to underspend the amount of time that you have. Rather than trying to pack every single minute full of activity, try to leave at least 5 minutes out of every hour that’s unused.
That will leave room for you to take action on unexpected interruptions and also help you to stay more relaxed. So now that we’ve shared with you the principle of having a balanced time budget, ask yourself:
What’s one action that you can take? Write that action down.
2. Keeping a balance between work and personal time
When we talk about establishing a time budget, it begins with the “goal line”. The goal line is that time where you’re going to stop work and start your personal life each day. Now some people pride themselves on their ability to work as long as it takes working long hours. However, they miss out on a great opportunity! The opportunity is to build systems to be more productive. And to also be more rested each day. For many people, this line is at 5 pm.
Now your start and stop time may be different. It can be 5pm or 6pm or 7pm or whatever time. The point is that you have a commitment to a particular time and you have to stick to it. Also the idea of the goal line can be flexible. Most likely, your personal start and stop time is different on each day of the week.
So take a moment and look at that one calendar that you have and figure out what would be an appropriate line in the sand for you?
3. Balancing personal time for yourself and others
Now once you’ve achieved a good balance between work time and life time, we want to consider a second balance, which is during the life time. What is the balance between your personal activities and family activities? And when speaking about family, we’re thinking of loved ones here. Some people achieve a really good balance in their life time but put too much time into one or the other, meaning they spend all of that extra time on just their own activities, or they spend all of their time just with loved ones or their family.
How can we achieve a better balance in that case? First of all, write down what you feel your ratio is between the two. Is it two to one, three to one? Write that down.
Now, what can we do to get a better balance, a more healthy ratio between personal and family time? First, if you want to increase the amount of personal time that you have, ask yourself, “What do you do for fun?” Many people have begun so absorbed in their careers, they’ve forgotten how to have fun. Sad but true. If you can’t think of the answer, ask yourself, “What did you used to like to do to have fun?” What were your hobbies, maybe when you were a child? Now, on the family side, this is a great opportunity to go to your loved ones and ask them:
- “How can I give myself the best of who I am during that time?
- “How would you like to see more of me during this time?”
That will be a real eye-opening conversation and bring you closer together.
So, write down one action, that you can take to achieve a better ratio between your personal time and your family time.
4. Balancing the technology in your life
One of the more significant challenges that we face to work-life balance in our day is technology. Before, clinical research used to be all about paper work, but nowadays the typical CRA spend more and more time in front of the computer. All those beeps, buzzes and the glowing screens can get in the way of us being more productive at work and also building relationships with others. This is why we recommend that you create a “sanctuary”. Now in the classic sense, a sanctuary is a holy place. It’s set aside to protect things whether that the nature sanctuary or an animal sanctuary. In this case, I want you to create a no-tech sanctuary.
It’s a certain time of the week or certain times of the day where you turn off all of those electronic gadgets. There are a couple of positives that will come from this.
- Number one is that your relationships with others will improve. When you use technology in the presence of others, you’re communicating to them that they’re second place to whatever it is that you’re using in the moment. However, if you can turn those things off and give 100% of your attention to other people, you’ll communicate to them that there’s nothing more important than them.
- The second positive is how it will improve you. It will help you be more refreshed, more relaxed. It will open your mind to new ideas, new inspiration. So take a moment right now and pull out your calendar. Consider where can you set up appropriately no-technology sanctuaries, imagine little “oases” away from the glowing screens.
5. Creating power-down time
We mentioned before to establish a goal line , that point where you stop work and begin your personal life. But if you have a hard time making that transition? Many people do. There are a few ways that you can establish a transition time if you need it:
- Number one is with the commute. For most people, this is natural and automatic. We would recommend that during the commute, you listen to things related to your personal interests rather than work.That will allow your mind the opportunity to transition from thinking about work to being ready to spend time with loved ones or your personal activities. It can be tempting to read trial protocols, monitoring reports or whatever during this time, but we highly recommend you shouldn’t.
- Second is exercise. Exercise creates a natural barrier between work and personal life. And many people like to use this. It allows their minds to recharge, regenerate, and they find they have more energy and their ability to give the best of themselves to those they love.
- Number three is a hobby. Now some people like to use a hobby at the end of their work day to clear their mind and be ready to spend time with loved ones.
Take a moment and consider, do you need transition time? And if so, what would be the one activity that you could start to implement in your day to create that natural barrier between work and personal time?
6. Scheduling the unexpected
Do you know what’s the worst threat to productivity? It’s something we refer to as “switches”. Something unexpected that comes suddenly. But what about unexpected switches, the big ones; a tragedy, a loss of life, even a positive switch such an upswing in business. These major switches can really derail your schedule and get you out of balance for a long period of time if you let them. These are a few things that people use to stay on top of these big, major, unexpected switches.
- Number 1 is stop. Take a moment and assess what’s going on. Allow yourself to process that this is a big event and that it is going to have an impact on your life.
- Number 2, open your calendar. Get ready to take a look at that budget that we’ve talked about and find more time which leads to Step 3.
- Budget the time. This means give yourself extra space, extra room, perhaps a few days that are empty and don’t have anything to do but just allow yourself to catch up.Perhaps you need to drop one or two things that you’re committed to.
- Number 4, shuffle. This means that you move activities around, that you reallocate how much time it’s going to take to do things and appropriately and as necessary procrastinate, but procrastinate to the calendar to give yourself time to get things done.
- And last, follow this schedule. You’ve taken the time to strategically deal with this issue. Now trust it.
Follow that schedule and you’ll arrive at the other end of this tragedy or this big life event and find that your life is still in balance.
7. Preparing for vacations
Just before vacation, most people work in a flurry of activity and become more productive to get everything done they can leave. Once back at work, they are more rested and will get more done by working hard and focused. Now, imagine having a vacation after every week of work! – it’s a crazy idea but there’s an element of truth to that. Many people work too much and they need to take vacations more often. Allow us to share with you a few ideas to get the most out of your vacations and help you have better balance in your life.
- Number one is block out the time well in advance. Now that sounds strange but many people tell themselves, “I’m gonna do a vacation some time in the next three months” and haven’t actually committed a time to doing it. Block out the time, and stick to the plan.
- Next, you want to schedule power-down time and power-up time. This means adding extra room in your schedule to make that transition, so that when you leave on the vacation you’re not stressed out because you were working like crazy and when you come back you’re not stressed out again because you’re overwhelmed with everything that you saw when you came back. Put extra time in your schedule.
- And last, take with you on your vacation a gathering point. This is a notepad or perhaps even a phone where you put all of your ideas that come to you, because when you’re on vacation, ideas are going to come. Your mind is more free, but we want to have an outlet for them, so that we can dump them out of your head and then deal with those ideas when we get back.
So when is your next vacation on your schedule? Try this system and see if it doesn’t help you feel better balanced and more rested.
In Summary – Be balanced, not busy!
We’ve discussed a lot of strategies about how to achieve better work-life balance. There’s one more principle that we want to leave you with. Often people ask us what do you think is the biggest obstacle of getting more productive of getting better balance? What I say is that it’s your self-perception. Many people wear busy like it’s a badge of honor. You ask them how they’re doing. They say, “I’m busy.” It’s a bit like rowing a boat with one oar in the water. Yes, you’re getting a lot of done and there’s a lot of activity, but you’re just going in circles.
Instead what we want to do is focus on results. That’s what balance is really about. It’s about what you’re accomplishing. Instead we want to find satisfaction in life. We want to build relationships with loved ones and we want to accomplish great things. Please put your worth on what you’re accomplishing and the results that you get. We wish you more happiness, more balance, and greater satisfaction in your CRA career.