Yes, it's already Labor Day. Here's how to make sure the end of summer isn't the end of work-life balance, too

If you and your family hit the road for a summer vacation this year, congratulations! Only about thirty-five percent of Americans expected to do so when asked earlier this year by AAA. Even though many of us would like to see that number even higher, summer remains the biggest travel season while kids are primarily free from school and other activities. And regardless of travel, many of us find summer to be more relaxing than the rest of the year, even if only slightly

But as Labor Day approaches, most families fall back into their post-summer routines. The unofficial end of summer could easily become the end of any resemblance of work-life balance we were able to enjoy for the last three months.

It’s fitting that a holiday dedicated specifically to the hard work and achievement by American workers should also serve as the perfect time to reflect on how effective we are at the daily juggle of work and life, and whether either item on the scales is weighing the other down. 

Here are six ways to ensure Labor Day doesn’t mark the end of work-life balance and we’re able to fulfill all of our familial and professional duties throughout the year.

It’s fitting that a holiday dedicated specifically to the hard work and achievement by American workers should also serve as the perfect time to reflect on how effective we are at the daily juggle of work and life, and whether either item on the scales is weighing the other down.

1. Be Intentional

Don’t be afraid to schedule a set time or date in order to spend time with family. Over the past few years, I have scheduled “date days” either for my wife, kids, or all of us. It can come in many forms and doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, but ensuring you’ve allocated that window ahead of time (and placed it on your calendar) prevents you from continually pushing quality time toward the back burner.

2. Negotiate when necessary

I’m not oblivious to reality. Not everyone has a job with a set schedule or flexibility and there are bound to be times where long days and late nights are the industry standard. But when you’re clearly adding value to your organization, don’t be afraid to use that as an opportunity to negotiate for more time off down the line. If 12-14 hour days are becoming the norm, it’s time for a course correction and a reasonable manager should be understanding if you ask for a well-deserved half-day off.

3. Manage time wisely

So many of us think we’re great multi-taskers but the reality is there’s really only a small percentage of us who are wired to handle several tasks at once. I know that I’m not one of them. Instead of switching back and forth between tasks, I try to do one task at a time. Trying to force your way into being a multi-tasker really only means you’re working less efficiently. In fact, multitasking actually makes most of us 40 percent slower. 

4. Increase emotional intelligence

More than anything, work-life balance is about handling and managing relationships. Trying to keep co-workers and family members happy when they’re both dependent on you requires a certain level of empathy of their positions as well. Try to see the other person’s side. Is your coworker picking up a lot of your slack? Or is your spouse handling the bulk of the household duties? Recognizing a potential conflict before it arises can help keep everyone happy.

5. Regular exercise 

Several years ago, my own research outlined how important it is to maintain a regular exercise routine in order to keep a sense of balance between work and family. Even though I know the well-documented benefits of regular exercise, even the best of us can fall out of the routine. After nearly 6 months of slacking, I’ve started my workouts again and I've already notice a difference. I’m more alert and focused at work and I have the stamina for play time with my girls when I get home. High intensity interval training is a time-effective way to squeeze in a good workout into an already busy day.

6. Don’t forget to rest

It sounds counterintuitive. I’m low on time to divvy up between work and family so the best way to spend the time I do have is with a nap? Everyone needs time to recharge, and you’ll find the residual time gained is actually higher quality. Besides, it’s impossible to expect someone to handle the marathon to Thanksgiving and Christmas without some respite.

Since these holidays are among the few times society skews back toward balancing work and life, we need to ensure we’re keeping ourselves on track and the next quality family time doesn’t come when it’s time to eat turkey or open presents.

Russell Clayton is assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Fla., and the author of "In Search of Work-Life Balance".