When I began my first full-time position, I was prepared to earn overtime and prove I was devoted to my job and my clients. Three months in, I sat down to breakfast with one of my team supervisors. When she asked me what I did in my free time, I laughed and responded, “What free time?” She answered, “We need to fix that.” When someone five positions above you points out the need for a work/life balance, you take it seriously, and since that meeting I have valued seeking one.
As a new professional in the public relations world, a work/life balance seems like a luxury that is far off in the future, but focusing solely on work can lead to early burnout and, ultimately, lower quality of work. Here are some tips to find balance as a new pro:
Stay focused during work hours. If a project is not due until tomorrow, it can be easy to procrastinate during the day. While a quick mental break (reading your favorite blog, watching a YouTube video, etc.) is good, spending 30 minutes looking through your friend of a friend’s sister’s fiancé’s Facebook photos doesn’t help your project or the possibility to get out on time and meet up for happy hour.
Aim for quality, not long hours. Remember, you are evaluated by the quality of your work, not how many hours you’re in the office. Drawing out a project does not make you look better; turning in high quality work is what makes a true impression. Finish your projects efficiently and take on more tasks as possible.
Minimize after-hours Blackberry usage. While checking your Blackberry may seem like your only priority after leaving the office, stay focused in the moment of whatever you’re doing. Check it as you’re leaving dinner or after you’ve watched your favorite show, not during these activities.
Remember that you will be back tomorrow, and work will still be there. As an intern, my responsibilities were project based, and I was used to leaving each day with every project complete. As a full-time employee, I learned long-term projects could wait a day, so it’s okay to go home and eat dinner.
You earn vacation for a reason. Vacation is earned, so take it. Utilize your vacation wisely to make yourself feel like you’re taking a break. You’ll be much more interesting to your co-workers if you talk about your recent ski trip instead of that time your client was featured on Good Morning America.
Seek a work/life balance by following the example of balanced co-workers around you. Need guidance outside of the office? Meet with a PRSA member of your local Chapter. While it may be a guarantee in PR that you will have some long nights, it shouldn’t be every night. Keep work a priority among other priorities, and you’ll find your stride.
What are your tips for maintaining a sense of work/life balance? How do you take time for yourself?
Jessica Noonan currently works within Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate practice in the New York office, providing strategic communication support to numerous key clients. Her active aspiration to become a PR professional led to her role as the 2012 national vice president of professional development for the Public Relations Student Society of America. She is now a member of the Public Relations Society of America where she is Membership Co-Chair on the New Professionals committee and serves on the PRSA-NY Marketing committee. Jessica serves as the President of the newly developed non-profit the LittleBigFund. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, specializing in marketing from American University.