Updated: 2 days ago
Work-life balance: Tips to reclaim control
If you are struggling to achieve an ideal work-life balance, you are not alone. Understand how to manage your time better, detach from work, and care for yourself.
In the past, the boundaries between work and home were fairly straightforward. Recently, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task. Many times, work will take precedence over everything else in our lives. Our desire to succeed professionally will push us to push aside our own well-being. Creating a harmonious work-life balance is crucial to improve not only our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, but it is also essential for our careers.
This might be particularly true if you work long hours. Technology enables us to constantly maintain a connection with work, allowing our work to bleed into our time at home. Working from home also can blur personal and professional boundaries.
What is work-life balance, and why is it important?
Work-life balance is defined as the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of their career and the demands of their personal life. Some of the most common reasons that can lead to a reduced work-life balance include:
Increased responsibilities at work
Working longer hours
Increased responsibilities at home
An ideal work-life balance has numerous positive effects, including less stress, a lower risk of burnout, and a greater sense of well-being.
If you are married to your work, consider the cost!
If you are spending most of your time working, your work and home life might be adversely affected. Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
· Fatigue. When you are tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffers. This could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous and costly mistakes.
· Poor health. Stress can deteriorate symptoms related to many medical illnesses and put you at a higher risk of substance misuse.
· Lost time with friends and loved ones. Working too much causes you to miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you with the feeling of being left out and may harm your relationships.
Find a better work-life balance
Managing the demands of your career and personal life will always be an ongoing challenge. Establishing limits and looking after yourself can help achieve the right work-life balance that is best for you.
How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today
When creating the ideal schedule that works best for you, think about the most efficient way to accomplish balance with your personal and work life together. Work-life balance is less about evenly dividing the hours in your day between work and personal life but to provide the flexibility to get everything done in your professional life while still having enough time and energy to enjoy your personal life. There will be some days that require long work hours, to allow for a time later in the week to enjoy your personal activities.
Balancing your personal and professional life can be challenging, but it is essential. Here are twelve ways to create a better work-life balance.
1. Accept that there is no 'perfect' answer to a work-life balance.
When you hear the term "work-life balance," you undoubtedly imagine having a tremendously productive day at work and then leaving early to spend the rest of the day with friends and family. This may seem ideal, but it is not always possible.
Do not strive for the perfect schedule; aim for a realistic one. Some days, your focus will be on work, while other days, you will be able to spend more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend more time with your loved ones. The ideal balance will be achieved over time, not every day.
2. Find a job that you love.
Although work is an expected social norm, your career should not be restrictive. If you hate what you do, you are not going to be happy! You do not need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to produce enough interest and excitement to get you out of bed every morning.
3. Your health should be your priority.
Your overall mental, emotional, and physical health should be your primary concern. If you battle with anxiety or depression and think therapy would benefit you, ensure those sessions are fit into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or rearrange your evening exercise class. If you are battling a chronic illness, do not be afraid of calling in sick on days you are feeling under the weather. Overworking yourself will prevent you from getting better, thus, potentially causing you to take more days off in the future.
Prioritizing your health does not have to consist of any radical or extreme activities. It can be as simple as taking daily meditation or simple exercise.
4. Do not be afraid to unplug.
Disconnecting with the outside world allows us to recover from weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge. Unplugging can mean something simple, like practicing different habits of checking what is on the news instead of checking work emails.
5. Manage your time accordingly.
Give yourself an adequate amount of time to get things done. Do not overextend yourself.
6. Learn to say "no."
Evaluate your priorities at home and work to shorten your to-do list. Cut or delegate activities you do not enjoy or cannot handle. When you stop accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you will have more time for meaningful activities.
7. Disconnect from work.
Teleworking or frequently using technology to connect to work when you are at home can cause you to feel like you are always on the job. This can lead to chronic stress. Ensure you understand your manager’s expectations for when you can disconnect from work. If you work from home, ensure you dress for work and have a quiet and dedicated workspace whenever possible. When you are done working each day, detach and transition back to your home life by changing out of your outfit, taking a drive or walk, or doing an activity with your family.
8. Consider your options.
Ask your employer about job sharing, a compressed workweek, flex hours, or other work scheduling flexibility. The more control that you have over your schedule, the less stressed you are likely to be.
9. Take vacations.
Completely unplugging means taking vacation time and shutting work completely off. Whether your vacation consists of a one-day quick staycation or a two-week trip to Tahiti, it is essential to take time off to physically and mentally recharge.
Many times, people do not take time off because they are often worried about disrupting the workflow, or they will be met with an enormous backlog of work when they return. This fear should not restrict them from taking a much-needed break.
10. Make time for yourself and your loved ones.
Even though your job is essential, it should not encompass your entire life. You were an individual who had a life before taking this position at work, and you should prioritize the activities or hobbies that will make you happy. Work-life balance requires deliberate action.
When planning time with your loved ones, create a specific calendar for romantic and family dates. It may feel a little weird to plan individual time with someone you live with, but it will ensure that you have quality time with them without conflicting with work. Just because work keeps you busy does not mean you should neglect personal relationships.
11. Set boundaries and work hours.
Set boundaries for yourself and your fellow colleagues to avoid burnout. Avoid thinking about work or answering any company emails after you leave work. Consider having a separate computer or work phone, so you can shut it off when you off the clock. If that is not possible, use different browsers, emails, or filters for your work and personal platforms.
Additionally, it is recommended to establish specific work hours. Whether you work away from an office or at home, it is essential to establish start and stop times for work; otherwise, you may find yourself answering work-related emails late at night, during vacations, or on weekends off.
It is advisable to notify team members and managers about your boundaries in which you cannot be accessible while engaged in personal activities. This will help them understand and ensure they respect your expectations.
12. Stick to the goals and priorities you set.
Implement time-management strategies, analyzing your to-do list, and cutting out tasks that have no value. Pay attention to when you are the most productive in your workday and allot that time for your most important work-related activities. Avoid checking your emails and phone every few minutes, as those are the most time-consuming tasks that can derail your attention and productivity. Structuring your day can increase work productivity, resulting in more free time to relax outside of work.
Take care of yourself
Establishing a healthy lifestyle is essential to coping with stress and achieving a work-life balance. Eat well, including physical activity in your daily routine, and get enough sleep. Also, aim to:
· Relax. Routinely allot time for activities that you enjoy, such as exercise, gardening, yoga, or reading. Hobbies can help you take your mind off of work, relax, and recharge. Even better, find activities that you can share with your friends and family like hiking, dancing, or taking cooking classes.
· Volunteer. Finding opportunities for volunteering to help others can improve your connections with others and lead to better satisfaction and lower psychological stress.
· Develop a support system. Establish a support structure at work by joining forces with co-workers who can cover for you when family conflicts arise. At home, recruit trusted friends and family to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when your work demands are higher.
Know when to seek professional help
If your life feels too hectic to manage and you feel like you are spinning your wheels worrying about it, enlist the services of a mental health provider. If your employer has an employee assistance program, take advantage of the services available.
Creating a work-life balance is a continuous process as your family, interests, and work-life change. Continually examine your priorities — and make changes, when necessary — to make sure you are keeping on track and taking care of yourself and your priorities.
Mayo Clinic (2020). Work-life balance: Tips to reclaim control. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/work-life-balance/art-20048134
Sanfilippo, M. (2020). How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today. Fortune Web Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5244-improve-work-life-balance-today.html
Image provided by Hawk, R. (2019). 5 Ways to Promote Your Team's Work-Life Balance. The Center from Association Leadership (ASAE). Retrieved from https://www.asaecenter.org/association-careerhq/career/articles/talent-management/5-ways-to-promote-your-teams-work-life-balance