It's a commonly held belief that working in advertising means working all the time—nights, weekends, in your dreams. While this may be the industry norm, it's not a hard and fast rule. There are plenty of agencies who know that employees who are able to maintain balance to recharge and reset do better work than those who are burnt out. Here are some small ways to establish good work/life balance whether you're just starting out, or already in the thick of it.
Set a cut-off time for responding to emails. If you do your best work late at night, or are required to respond to requests at any hour, you should do so. But chances are, emails sent after hours just feel like they need a quick response—but would be totally fine if handled within normal work hours. Every time you respond to an email at night, you're setting the expectation that you're available. Establish boundaries early on: you're ready and willing to jump in if needed, but will handle non-urgent emails within normal working hours.
Don't check your work email while still in bed. No matter how on top of things you are, looking at your work-related emails first thing in the morning sends a cocktail of adrenaline and stress-related hormones into your system. Give your body and brain time to ease into the day—at the very least, brush your teeth first. Waiting a few extra minutes before you open up your inbox means you'll be better equipped for whatever's waiting.
Request time-off as early as possible. Let's face it—there's never a convenient time to be out of the office. So schedule your vacations and put in your time-off requests as far in advance as possible. What can they say when it's impossible to predict what'll be going on that far out? Another reason is that managers have to think about coverage, especially around the holidays. You don't want to be denied your request because you're needed to cover for others who put in their time before you.
Stick to a schedule when you work weekends. If you need to come into the office over the weekend (it happens), set a clear schedule for your day. It's been shown that people will use whatever amount of time they're given, so avoid the temptation to use the entirety of the weekend. Look at what you actually need to do, and give yourself a set amount of time to do it (vs. coming in and just working until you're finished). You'll find you can get a lot done in a quiet office if you have a clear to-do list and a finite amount of time to do it.
When starting your career, your goal is to prove yourself by working hard—and you should absolutely do that. But working hard doesn't have to mean burning yourself out before you've even gotten going. Building good work/life balance habits early will set you up to keep loving what you do as you move up and take on even more work.
Reset & recharge,