If you are feeling like you are drowning at work with nothing left in the tank by the end of your workday, you may be lacking in establishing an effective work-life balance. Consider restructuring your routines and priorities to have enough energy for all your personal and professional demands. Your health directly influences your performance and your relationships.
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How to Have a Better Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is not a new concept, which simply means carving out an appropriate time for your professional and personal life, but what constitutes “balance” for one may not be the same for someone else. An individual’s ability to balance work and life is affected by factors relating to an individual’s workplace and working conditions. The level of flexibility and quantity of hours worked, sick and holiday leave provisions, and availability of support structures within the workplace, says Harriet Chan, Co-founder and Marketing Director of CocoFinder.
A Commitment of the Employee and Employer
To most effectively achieve work-life balance, a collaboration between employer and employee is essential. It is the employer’s responsibility to offer working conditions that do not hinder the employee's health and the employee’s responsibility to manage their time. Considering an individual spends the vast majority of the day working, fostering healthy lifestyles is in the interest of the employee and the employer.
As an employer, one of the best ways to promote a healthy work-life balance is to educate employees about it. Offering seminars on the importance of work-life balance and things they can do to achieve it, says Chan. Educating your employees will give them the tools to help themselves, which is a crucial step.
10 Best Tips to Have a Better Work-Life Balance
1. Manage Your Time
As you begin your journey to better personal and professional balance, you will want to gather your own baseline data. Analyze your current calendar and to-do list to see which tasks take the most of your time. If you do not use a formal calendar or daily checklist, this would be the perfect time to implement one!
You will want to prioritize your tasks and determine where you have time gaps for personal time. Do you typically spend them scrolling through social media? Fill that time with a productive personal goal. Visualizing your current schedule will provide clarity in what causes your current workplace's woes.
Take it from Edward Mellett, Founder and co-founder of Wikijob. He suggests analyzing your current circumstances is the first step toward living a balanced life. Keep a one-week journal of everything you do, including professional and personal interests. This information will serve as a wake-up call, revealing how you spend your time and where you waste it.
CEO of CoinPayments, Jason Butcher, also emphasizes this approach. Rank things in order of importance from urgent to unimportant. This will free up some of your time, so you are not wasting it working on things that are not your current priority. It will also help you become more productive at completing your urgent and important tasks. A reminder we can all appreciate, work will always be there, and there is no need to stress out and work overly long hours every day. If it can’t be done today, it can be done tomorrow, says Butcher.
2. Determine Your Priorities
While you manage your schedule or begin to make one, think about everything you may need to complete in the next few weeks to begin narrowing your priorities. Achieving your goals will not happen passively, and you need to make a concerted effort, but know that everything you set out to accomplish in one day may not happen. Aside from just thinking about all your tasks at work, what do you need to accomplish when you leave, or have there been aspects that you have neglected?
If you have not gone to the doctor in some years, you may find that on your least busy day, you have time to take the leap and schedule a few appointments. Or, you may see that you have an opening to finally try that workout class that’s been all the rave. Perhaps you realize you have a family birthday coming up that you had lost track of. To keep yourself organized, consider the following general priorities to see where you may be lacking:
- Personal Health
- Personal Growth
- Personal Relationships
- Religion and Spirituality
3. Set Specific Goals and Objectives
Maintaining balance is no easy fleet and also requires work. Once you have determined your priorities, you need to think strategically about prioritizing your priorities. Your personal health should be a priority, but you must actively manage your health in your schedule.
At first, you may be first striving for the “perfect” schedule when considering some daily restructuring. Each week may not be the same, so keeping your schedule dynamic but focusing on your needs will keep you on this new path. Today’s technological advancements can both work for us or against us. While work notifications on your personal phone keep you up-to-date, you should use that device to also set a reminder for when to shut off those notifications.
Perhaps you want to increase your water intake because your dehydration leaves you with distracting and painful migraines, in addition to the staring contests with your computer. You can use your time management to determine water breaks and how much water you consume daily. Perhaps you want to start getting to the gym at least three times a week for better physical wellness, identify these goals and their greater purpose, and for better motivation so you can stick to them.
4. Know and Communicate Your Boundaries
Once you have determined your priorities, you will need to work hard to ensure they are met. This means staying loyal to yourself and setting clear boundaries for outside influences.
Fraser Wilson, Global Head of Marketing at AnswerConnect, offers a novel way of inadvertently communicating boundaries. “Speaking to colleagues, we’ve found blurring the lines between work and home has made it harder to get into that ‘work headspace.’ We’ve found ways to minimize this by adding physical backgrounds to video calls that also act as a barrier between “work” and “personal” space,” he says.
Utilizing your calendar and planning can also help set and keep your boundaries, says Bill Wells, Head of Operations and Finance at Wild One; I find it very hard (especially working from home) to leave my desk unless I have other set plans. Planning my week and blocking personal time, time for runs, time with family, etc., on my calendar based on those plans has been incredibly helpful.
5. Prioritize Your Health
Not only are you responsible for all your tasks demanded by your job, but then again when you come home to your family. At the end of a long day, you may feel like nothing is left in the tank for yourself. Remember that to do all your other tasks successfully; you need to also be in your best frame of mind, which means prioritizing your own needs.
Like many Americans, you might have foregone health care amidst the latest COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from an annual physical, you may need more than just a simple check-up. The Cleveland Clinic Health Maintenance Guideline highlights the frequency of types of care Adults should seek to maintain good health. If you are looking for ways to implement healthy habits at home, consider the CDC Healthy Eating Guide for recommendations.
Try listening to your body and what it needs, which includes minimizing distraction. If you are feeling symptoms of burnout such as lack of motivation, anxiety, or other feelings hindering your mental health, you may benefit from a mental health specialist, or if applicable, utilize your company’s employee assistance program. In addition, check the services covered under your health benefits to see what you already qualify and pay for.
6. Prioritize Your Interests
Finding balance in your life does not have to be treated like a job, and you should make time for fun, too. Instead of only allocating yourself some fun free time every so often, you should also find short-versions of activities you enjoy doing to bring on the go when you find a free moment. You may have a couple of minutes to knock out a few pages from that book you have been reading or listening to a new podcast by your favorite creator.
Take it from Jennifer Harder, Founder & CEO of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers. She says a successful work-life balance entails more than just prioritizing work and family. It's also about prioritizing the activities that one enjoys on a personal level. With the ups and downs of juggling jobs and family, we often forget to feed our own ambitions and dreams. Employees who have a pastime are more likely to set aside time for themselves. This does, in fact, assist them in quenching their thirst for a decent life in accordance with an employee's preferences.
7. Exercise and Meditate
Exercise is a great way to improve your energy and productivity by releasing endorphins. While exercise may seem strenuous and extreme, it has extreme benefits on work-life balance and should be treated as a need similar to eating and sleeping. Incorporating exercise into your already chaotic schedule may seem low-priority, but you will see the benefits in the long run, no pun intended.
While exercise may seem like an added chore at first, thousands of workouts exist tailored to various interests and skill levels. You may even benefit from having a friend or your significant other come too. Having a buddy can hold you both accountable and surround yourself with people that enable healthier living. If you are unsure where to start, check out the CDC’s guidelines for adult physical activity.
Yoga and meditation incorporate both exercise and mindfulness. Meditation or breathing exercises are great coping mechanisms in times of high stress. Take five minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. What seems like 5 minutes of lost productivity are actually 5 minutes of mental clarity and refocusing. For more information on the benefits of meditation, check out the NIH’s Health Information on Meditation.
In a remote world, employers may unknowingly foster a culture of constant accessibility. Just because you may have your workplace instant messaging platform downloaded on your personal phone does not mean you are required to flood your personal notifications with your professional ones.
Unplugging and muting notifications is another way to set boundaries, says Lisa DeAngelis, Ph.D. from Dragonfly Coaching LLC. From an employee perspective, I think there are two keys to a healthy, integrated life. First, it is about creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. In other words, saying to your key stakeholders, "when I take time off, I truly unplug. I will not be checking messages, she says.
Unplugging does constitute not only work-related messages and emails but also social media too. Give yourself a mental break and focus on your own activities, spending time with a loved one, or just in a moment of reflection. You may feel sensory overload during the day, so taking time to unwind and disconnect will help you reestablish some mental clarity and newfound energy.
9. Take Your Vacation
If you have a set number of vacation days, you should absolutely use them. As important as your job may seem, and while you may dread the work left at your desk while you’re away, your employer can likely quickly replace your role. By not taking vacation days, not only are you hindering your productivity at work, but you are directly contributing to a workplace culture of shame related to taking needed personal time.
Jacob Villa, Co-founder of School Authority, says it is past time for businesses to recognize how vacations from work have become a crucial element of today's workplace culture. Allowing staff to take long breaks without losing pay is a very effective strategy. Employees feel more energized and calm when they return to work, which leads to increased production.
If you do take a vacation, be sure to practice the same principles you do after work, making sure to turn off your work-related notifications and “unplug.” If your employer expects you to do some quantity of work while out-of-office, be sure to set clear boundaries, letting them know when specifically you will be available or when you plan to check-in. This will help you manage your time without the weight of work looming over you while focusing on self-care.
10. Start Small and Be Patient
If you are used to a demanding schedule or working throughout all hours of the day, suddenly “unplugging” and freeing up time for your personal life may seem foreign. This may feel selfish, or you may have feelings of anxiousness when you begin to decide to stop checking work notifications after a certain hour. You may even feel uneasiness with extra time on your hands, not spent working. Try restructuring your schedule in progressive increments, and if you are uncomfortable at first, remember to be patient as you change your professional identity.
Establishing a system of work-life balance takes time and experience, discovering your evolving needs and priorities. What you find works for you today may not work ten years from now, and you may go through this process again. Time management, prioritizing your health and your relationships, and exercising and meditation will always be effective means of adding balance back to your life.
You have more control over your time than you think you do. If you are struggling at work to find enjoyment in what you do or in making sound structural changes to balance your personal life better, you may want to switch jobs. While navigating the job market is daunting, you can first make behavioral changes before switching ships. Unhealthy habits now may lead to unhealthy habits even at your seemingly “perfect” job.