Time management expert Dave Crenshaw on why you should build mini vacations into your week

Call it work-life rhythm – not work-life balance – if you want to achieve it. That’s according to Dave Crenshaw, author, time-management expert, and speaker. He recently published The Power of Having Fun.

“The reason why I prefer the term ‘work-life rhythm’ to work-life balance is because balance implies it’s a one-to-one ratio, like it’s on a scale, and we have to make sure that we spend just as much personal time as we do with work time,” Crenshaw told Ladders.

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But of course, no one is capable of that – life just doesn’t work that way. “Things go really fast and it’s hard for us to keep up, and we’re never going to achieve a one-to-one balance,” Crenshaw said. “But what we can do is we can find the right pace of life, the right amount of time that we work, and the right amount of time that we need to take a break, in order for work to be productive.”

Everyone has their own rhythm.

“For some people, that is going to be a very fast pace of life, and for others, it’s going to be a more relaxed pace. The question is finding out what your rhythm is.”

Crenshaw uses a few concepts to achieve work-life rhythm.

The “line-in-the-sand” theory

The line is the sand in a boundary, a way of saying what you will not do. For example, your line in the sand might be that you will stop working at six o’clock, and absolutely stop checking emails from home after 8 pm.

“The line in the sand says, ‘There is a line which I will not cross, a point in the day where I’m giving myself permission to turn off the phone, to turn off the email,’ explained Crenshaw. “Without that permission, people will work as long as it takes. If you give yourself permission to work as long as it takes, guess what happens? You’re going to work late, long hours. That’s not productive.”

Having a boundary, he says, means that to finish on time, you’re “going to have to be more focused. I’m going to have to reduce the amount of interruptions that I’m causing for myself or that others are causing for me.”

Boundaries boost creativity and quality

“It’s almost like a game,” said Crenshaw. “It creates an opportunity to look for new things and be more creative and do work in a different way. Constraints are surprisingly effective at helping people their work.”

Don’t forget to have fun

“Having fun is critical to effective productivity,” said Crenshaw. Its purpose in work and play is two-pronged: “Having fun is essential to not just feeling happy, but also productivity.”

Unfortunately, Crenshaw said, a lot of people put “fun” as their last priority – and only if they can fit it in.

“It should be a top priority,” he said. In fact, when you’re scheduling your year, “vacation should be one of the very first things that you schedule because then you have to work around it.”

But vacations aren’t just yearly, said Crenshaw. They should come in bursts. “Monthly, daily, weekly, you want to have little pockets of fun.” They should function like mini oases.

“An oasis is a moment in that journey where you get refreshed,” Crenshaw said. “Well, you can put little oases into your day and into your week. Even if it’s just for five minutes where you say, “This is my sanctuary from the rest of the day. I’m going to spend five minutes watching funny videos on YouTube.’ That five minutes is so powerful on either side. One, because you know that the break is coming and it’s going to provide a relief. Then afterward, because it provided a relief you’re more productive.”

Not only is it good for you, but it’s good for your work.

“When you take these breaks to have fun, no matter how you define fun, your productivity increases. Your ability to feel happiness, and your ability to feel that work-life balance improves significantly.”

More work does not equal more productivity

Ultimately, Crenshaw says, in order to achieve work-life rhythm, we have to let go of the idea that working harder means that we are more productive.

“There is so much guilt and so much pressure in our society to continue to be busy,” he said.

“We’re not rats in a maze, but yet, so many of us treat ourselves as if we are. We’re depriving ourselves of those moments, thinking that we’re being more productive when in fact, we’re going to get worse and worse.”

“It’s not a matter of being lazy, it’s a matter of being smart. When you take time off on a consistent basis – not all the time, but on a regular interval, that’s smart. You will get things done. You will be more productive.”

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