For most of us, we need a job to keep living comfortably with a roof over our heads, and while it's essential to work to earn an income, work shouldn’t be everything. In this digital world, it's imperative that we learn how to maintain a proper work-life balance, even when there’s pressure from all sides saying that being ‘on’ 24/7 is acceptable.
You need time and energy to relax, think, and give yourself a break. If you don’t, this can lead to a decrease in productivity. What’s worse, a work-life conflict has been associated with numerous adverse implications regarding employees’ mental and physical health.
We have listed our best strategies for improving quality of work life below, along with some bonus work-life balance tips and techniques.
Why it Matters
Finding a work-life balance is hard for everyone, and in fact, for many people, it’s not even a choice. We can sometimes be in a financial or personal situation where changing jobs is an impossibility, or we may really enjoy our work, even love it, but it encroaches on our lives a little too much.
However, finding a good balance between your personal life and your work life is imperative, as long hours and overworking are associated with health risks such as depression, weight gain, increased smoking, and increased alcohol consumption.
The Kelley School of Business from Indiana University recently found that employees working in high-stress jobs with little to no control are more likely to die earlier than employees with more balance and power in their work.
To achieve a happy balance, there’s no need to draw a definitive line between your personal life and your work. A proper work-life balance isn't about constructing an impassable wall between your professional and own lives, but about finding ways to integrate and connect the two.
Boundaries are Important
You need to set strict boundaries to achieve a balance between your professional and personal life. It can be very complicated to navigate the demands of home and career responsibilities, and we cannot often prioritize and balance our family and work life. It's essential that we overcome the guilt of working long hours and accept the need for individual personal time.
Don’t fall into the trap of being afraid to set boundaries as you might be seen as disloyal to the position. Setting strict yet flexible limits is more likely to earn you respect, as when you put yourself first, you are better prepared to manage and handle people and give them what they need.
Set Your Work Hours
This can be especially hard if you work from home, as you are always around your working space. However, try and set a finishing time as an explicit goal as early on as possible. If you set an absolute time to turn off your computer and finish work, then you can use that time as a deadline to complete your tasks for the day, which in turn will ensure you’re more focused throughout the day.
Don’t Be Afraid of Unplugging
Today’s world is connected, and there’s always something happening. However, when we cut ties with the outside world, we can manage some of the stress, let go of the work week and have some time and space to come up with other emerging thoughts and ideas.
When you’re always in work-mode, you don’t allow other essential things to surface. Sometimes, to truly unplug you can take a vacation (even a mental one such as meditation), and completely shut off work for a while.
Procrastinating at work is quite common, primarily if you’re working from home and surrounded by distractions. You can find yourself surfing your favorite websites to distract yourself with some interesting reading, or playing a quick online game.
These things are time wasters and can leave you even more drained by the end of the day. Try some methods to counteract wasting time, such as blocking your most distracting websites and closing all software that can potentially distract you and which you don’t need to use actively.
Take Regular Breaks
When you allow yourself to take regular brief breaks, you can recharge your mind and body. A good way to time your breaks is using the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer (either a physical or virtual one) during 25 minutes, and diligently do your task without any distractions or breaks.
When it's time for your break, do something that interests you, such as browsing Facebook, reading an article, drinking some water, or eating a healthy snack. Make sure your break is also timed, and once you’ve cleared your mind, get back to the task at hand.
Before Finishing Work, Write a To-Do List for the Next Day
Sometimes, the most significant work challenge when we’re sitting down to start working is figuring out what needs to be done, what tasks you need to start on, and which jobs you need to pick up and continue. Getting back to the working flow in the mornings can be hard, and you can waste a lot of time trying to figure out what you need to do.
Before finishing work in the evening, create a to-do list, where you write down all the key things that need to be done the next morning along with any deadlines. Leave your list somewhere where you’ll see it first thing in the morning so you can start your tasks without dawdling.
Take Your Work Goals Into Consideration, but Keep Them Flexible
A lot of us find ourselves with little or no work-life balance as we take on more projects or responsibilities than we can reasonably manage. This commonly turns to work encroaching more and more on our personal lives, to our discomfort and the annoyance of our family and friends. We usually do this to get ahead in our workplace, believing that it will improve our lives, when in actuality, it can make things worse.
It's important to take a step back from time to time and ask yourself if taking on more responsibilities and projects is something that you can manage, and if it will lead you to achieve your goals. Taking on smaller projects or fewer responsibilities and doing a great job will further enhance your career more so than taking on too much and failing to do your best.
Eliminate Distractions With Focused Sessions
Practice focused sessions where all distractions are eliminated. Too often, especially when working from home, you get distracted by people in your home, instant messages, phone calls, etc. These distractions can destroy your train of thought and make it more difficult for you to focus.
One solution is to have sessions where you do not allow yourself to be distracted and just focus on your work. Close your email, turn off notifications on your phone (or power off completely), close your office door, and focus on the tasks at hand.
Unplug When You Finish Your Work Day
After you’ve finished working and have shut down your computer, don’t check your email, and turn off your work phone if you have one. Any issues that have come up can be dealt with the next morning. There’s no need to let technology crash your work-home barrier, unless it's really necessary for your current position.
Unwind With a Fulfilling and Relaxing Activity
When you think about unwinding, does vegetating in front of a screen come to mind? If so, you need to change your focus. Watching TV can be relaxing, but it doesn’t provide personal fulfillment, and too much television without other physical activities can lead to anxiety and depression. Instead of binge-watching a show, find an activity that you enjoy, such as meditation or yoga, or just reading a book.
To thrive in our personal lives, regular exercise is critical. You shouldn't leave your priorities on the back burner, and this includes your health, so incorporate at least thirty minutes of exercise in your daily routine.
Physical activity reduces work-related stress, pumping endorphins through your body, which are responsible for an increased state and sense of well-being. Besides what you may think, working out gives you increased energy levels and lifts your mood. Studies show that to achieve a proper work-life balance; exercising is a must.
If you are struggling to regularly fit exercise into your daily routine, then consider incorporating it into your work day. You could use a treadmill desk or other exercise equipment for desk jobs, or simply try some of these exercises you can do from your desk.
Get Involved in Personal Projects Unrelated to Work
We tend to get more absorbed in work if we don’t have a meaningful element in our personal lives, so work becomes our life. This is dangerous in the long run, as just focusing on work will end up stressing you out and wearing you down. Find a project that you can involve yourself in unrelated to work, such as a volunteer project, a community group, a sports team or something that provides you with fun, personal growth, and personal development.
Take Time Off
It can often happen that we end up losing our vacation days because we didn’t use them, as we may feel that there’s always something more important going on. Don’t let yourself fall into that mind trap, and use up your available vacation days, even if for a staycation. Use that free time to do something different or fun, or spend some time with your friends and family.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night's sleep plays a vital role in our well-being. When we get enough quality sleep, we protect our safety, quality of life, physical and mental health, and general well-being. Prolonged sleep deficiency increases your risk for chronic health issues, as well as affecting how you get along with others, learn, work, react, and think. Getting enough sleep will improve your concentration levels, therefore increasing your productivity levels at work and the enjoyment of your personal life.
What do you do to achieve a better work-life balance? Comment below and let's get a discussion started!