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- Why You Need Work-Life Balance
- Final Thoughts
In a world where busyness and hyper-productivity are valued, employees sometimes feel guilty when they find time to relax and enjoy themselves. And if you’re struggling to find the right balance between your professional and personal life, you’re not alone. A whopping 66% of full-time employees do not strongly believe that they have work-life balance.
Why You Need Work-Life Balance
Achieving harmony between the two worlds of your working and personal life is challenging but essential. Numerous studies point to the fact that an unbalanced life promotes hefty levels of dissatisfaction that can trigger:
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Sleep issues
- Increased risk of depression
- Digestive disorders
- Decreased productivity
- Negative impact on personal relationships
Even worse, people sometimes turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms when they feel overwhelmed at work (overeating, smoking, drinking). Not only does this perpetuate the feelings of discontent, it often makes the potential health risks worse!
Our Best Work-Life Balance Tips
Feeling overwhelmed at where to start? Let us help! Here are the top simple but effective strategies for balancing your career and personal life.
This might be the single most important thing you do to achieve harmony throughout your day. Decide which of your tasks are the absolute most important, and focus on those first.
One simple technique that can help you prioritize is the Eisenhower Matrix. Here’s how it works:
Divide a piece of paper into 4 sections, with a horizontal line and a vertical line. Then categorize these 4 sections as follows:
- Important and Urgent
- Important but Not Urgent
- Not Important but Urgent
- Not Important and Not Urgent
Spend a few minutes sorting each task on your to-do list into one of these categories, so you can easily see which ones need immediate attention, and which ones do not.
Then get out your calendar book and start scheduling! Add in your most urgent to-dos for the week. Then, instead of filling the empty spaces in your calendar with more obligations, block out some time for yourself. It can be anything from enjoying your hobbies, relationships, exercise, or anything else that makes you happy.
2. Set, Announce, and Stick to Work Hours
Is there anything more frustrating than getting into a text convo with a work group on a Sunday morning? Colleagues and bosses shouldn’t be expecting immediate answers to work texts, emails, or phone calls late into the evening or on your days off… But thanks to our ever-available, tech-focused world, for many of us, this is a reality
This is especially important for remote workers. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to fall into the habit of leaving your laptop on or keeping your phone at your side, well past your scheduled hours. The constant connectivity makes it easy to blur the line between work and home.
But every employee, remote or in-office, can benefit from this tip.
- Determine the work hours that are best for your schedule.
- Let your boss, colleagues, and clients know what your “office hours” are.
- Set up email and text auto-responders to reply to the messages that will inevitably trickle in. Remind people of your office hours, and let them know that you will reply when you return.
Over time, they will get used to your new schedule and not expect immediate replies after-hours.
Of course, you can make an exception when you’re working on something urgent. But the more you stick to your set working hours, the more time you’ll find for the “life” part of your work life balance.
P.S.: This tip goes both ways! Especially if you work from home, well-meaning family and friends might have the tendency to assume that you’re available to chat at any time. This can lead to you falling behind on daily work projects and the ensuing amount of stress as you rush to catch up. Let them know that during your “office hours” you’re only available for non-work emergencies.
3. Learn to Say “No”
Do you tend to take on more than you can reasonably accomplish? Working late into the night, early in the morning, and through the weekend? If that sounds familiar, here’s a good quote to remember: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
Remind yourself that it’s not just okay to say “no” to extra obligations, it’s crucial to maintaining your newfound work-life balance.
For many, especially the people pleasers among us, saying “yes, of course,” is a near-automatic reaction. The next time someone makes a request of your time, give yourself space to think about it. If you’re not 100% sure that you can fit something into your schedule, let them know that you’ll check your calendar and get back to them.
At work, it might look like saying no to overtime hours to catch your child’s band concert. In your personal life, you might turn down a Friday night gathering with acquaintances in lieu of the yoga class you’ve been looking forward to. The point is, you decide your priorities (Tip #1) and say no to the things that eat away at your time for them.
4. Do at Least One Thing You Enjoy Every Day
Every single day, do at least one thing you enjoy. Even if it’s just 15 minutes to go outside and watch the sunset. This gives you a reason to step away from work, relax your mind, and enjoy some downtime.
Some things to work into your schedule:
- Dinner with friends (make it coffee or even a phone call if you’re short on time!)
- A visit to your favorite bookstore
- A walk outside to breathe in the fresh air
It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, complicated, or expensive activity, as long as it’s something that will restore your happiness. Write it on your calendar if you need to, but every day find a few minutes of “you” time.
5. Use Tech to Your Advantage
Technology can be one of your biggest allies as you attempt to regain a work-life balance.
Video conferences and e-signing can mean no more driving to meet clients, saving you hours each week. Schedule social media uploads ahead of time, so you won’t have to be connected on days off. Use online project management boards to keep teams informed and productive.
There are plenty of tools out there that can help make your job smoother and easier; don’t hesitate to use them!
- One of our top recommendations for managing your professional and personal life is Cozi. This easy-to-use app will handle almost everything: calendar, to-do list, shopping lists, and more. Even better, you can share Cozi with your family, so everyone is kept informed and up-to-date.
- With near-constant WiFi access and a digital tool in your pocket, it’s not always easy to disconnect. The Space app monitors which apps you use and for how long. It might be an eye-opener for you to see how often you check work emails during your downtime! If you need a little help keeping your work at bay, Space can even place time restrictions on certain apps.
6. Take Breaks
It almost sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But here’s the reality: Taking a break can actually make you more productive and thus give you more free time. Increasing your productivity will help you knock items off your “to-do’ list more quickly. This can open up more free time in your schedule and help you restore your work-life balance. You’ll get more done plus have more downtime: a work-life balance win-win!
So how long do you work? And how often do you take breaks? Luckily for workers everywhere, scientists have figured out the optimal work/break ratio. According to research, the ideal rhythm is to work for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break.
But here’s the trick: each of those time segments needs to be dedicated.
- When you’re in “work mode,” you shouldn’t hop on Facebook or skim the news online. Instead, give your uninterrupted concentration to the task at hand.
- Similarly, when you take your break, you should disconnect completely from your work. Answering phone calls or emails isn’t a break. If at all possible, stand up from your desk and stretch, giving your body a break, too.
An alternative rhythm that’s been quite popular since the 1980s is known as the Pomodoro Technique. If you prefer intense work sprints with mini “distractions” sprinkled into your day, this might work better for you.
- 1 Pomodoro = 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute breaks
- Every 4 Pomodoros = a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes
If you’re not sure which method will work best for you, try each of them for one week. Track how much you accomplished and how you felt. At the end of the two weeks, you can adopt the method that works best for you.
7. Manage Your Personal Schedule Like Your Work Schedule
Family, friends, hobbies, time alone… these are all as deserving of time on your calendar as your work projects, meetings, and conference calls.
Every week, decide which personal commitments you’ll enjoy the most, and block off time for them on your schedule. Consider these “set in stone” commitments just as you would that weekly team meeting!
While you’re setting up your schedule, you may even try adding in some long-term plans. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, it’ll give you something to look forward to.
8. Make Time to Exercise
Exercise is good for both your body and your mind. Whether it’s an invigorating spin class, a relaxing yoga class, or a walk in the fresh air, physical activity can help clear your mind, ground your body and balance your energy.
And exercise causes your body to release “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These can help reduce stress, aid in sleep, and more.
Find an activity you love, and as mentioned above, make an immovable commitment to it in your schedule.
9. Cultivate Your Support System
Don’t try to go it alone. Having people you can depend on, even at the last minute, is essential to your peace of mind. Knowing that there is someone you can call when life happens, who will pick up the slack either at work or at home, can go a long way towards easing your stress.
Trying to juggle everything at once is both exhausting and stressful for everybody, but especially working parents. The work life balance for moms and dads is never easy. Even when continuing their careers, women in particular have traditionally taken on more of the child care. It’s as crucial to know who at work can finish a project when you have a sick kid as it is to know who can pick up your child from school if a meeting runs over.
Grow your support system with family, friends, and coworkers who you trust and respect. Reach out to them when you need help recouping your work-life balance. For many professionals, asking for help is uncomfortable. But realizing that you need a hand and asking for it is never a sign of weakness, it’s an act of strength (and self love!)
Don’t add to your stress by trying to find the “perfect work-life balance”… it’s always a work in progress! And what works at one point in your career and personal life might not work during the next stage. Always be open to adapting, so you can find an optimally harmonious relationship between the different facets of your life.
The most important thing is to find the balance that works for you. If that means checking emails on a Sunday night so you know what to expect Monday morning, go for it. Just be sure to respect your “off” time as much as your “on” time and prioritize yourself.