In a world where having a “rise-and-grind” attitude is seen as an aspirational mind set and we are expected to always be reachable thanks to mobile internet a lot of us loose sight of a healthy work-life balance. When work related stress accounts for an estimated 10.4 million sick days a year in Britain alone it is imperative that you find a way to even things out to stay healthy.
Having a decent work-life balance doesn’t only benefit the individual, it is also an important consideration for employers as those who feel they have a good balance work about 21% harder than those who feel stressed or over-worked – in fact in many countries, like for example Thailand, traditionally employers will loose respect for employees who put work before their family life, missing important family affairs for meetings is frowned upon – your work may be important but so is your family, work is not going anywhere, it will be there in the morning.
Think about it, if you are always working how does that look to your manager? After a while it just starts to look like you cannot work effectively, meet deadlines or manage your time effectively – working later and harder isn’t always a good thing. On the other hand if your boss is pushing you to work longer hours than you are contracted, put in extra hours and expecting you to be reachable at all hours it may be a good indication to start looking for employment elsewhere as these are signs of an ineffective leader.
So how do you maintain this balance, because it all seems a little easier said than done right? But it’s all about boundaries and you have to be the one to set those, with work, with yourself, with clients, they have to be realistic.
- Set yourself office hours – if you’re working freelance or remotely this one is extra important as people tend to try take advantage of the face that you don’t have clear cut set times. Make sure that your boss and/or clients are clear on when you will and will not be available to take calls, answer emails and complete tasks. Obviously it is easier when you work in and office as these are set for you but make sure you arrive on time and leave when your contracted day is up and don’t take things home with you to finish off.
- Set yourself phone time – be strict on not answering work related calls after a certain time, no one should be calling you at 10pm to ask about a file, that can wait until the next morning. Get home and turn off your phone, put it somewhere you can’t see it and go do something else.
- Set email boundaries – do not put your work emails on your personal phone, if you only have one phone turn off the notifications for the inbox and be strict about only checking them during work hours. You should not have to have them coming to your phone and if your boss has an issue with you not connecting the service then sit down and discuss your reasons why.
- Manage your workload – do not take on work you cannot handle, remember you are well within your rights to say no to extra work if you know you cannot complete it to the best of your abilities, your boss with appreciate your honesty.
Remember, there are exceptions to the rule, sometimes there is an emergency and sometimes it depends on your industry; for example while working on events you may have to be contactable at all times during a big job, but that should not be the norm, do not let it become it.
Remember: we work to live, we do not live to work.
Make time for yourself to have breakfast in the morning without rushing around, avoid checking your emails and work phone before reaching the office and start your morning off right, it will set the tone for the rest of the day.
Work smart and make to-do lists where you can prioritize tasks and avoid time wasting activities like unstructured meetings, mindless scrolling through Facebook, etc.
Take your full lunch break, give yourself at least 30 minutes, leave your desk and take a walk outside if you can, be sure to eat something nutritious. Give your mind a chance to relax in the middle of the day and return to your tasks refreshed.
Don’t take home work and make sure you turn off your phone when you get home, avoid staying late to start new projects and tasks and do not take things home with you, your home should be your sanctuary away from the office.
Plan holidays and book time off so you have something to look forward to and you know you have down time coming your way.
We all know how the work side of the scales works but what about the life part? What exactly does have a life-balance look like? Is it just about taking time out to come home and sit on the sofa in front of your favourite TV show? No.
The life side of the scale is more concerned with bettering yourself, de-stressing and self-care. It is about more than just kicking back and relaxing all the time, here are a few ideas of ways to even the scales:
- Listen to podcasts – it could be while you’re at the gym, cooking dinner, cleaning the house or in the car on the way to or from the office. Choose a topic that interests your that is not related to your day job and expand your mind with unrelated knowledge.
- Read something new – not something for work or related to what you do. Choose fiction, history, self improvement, something engaging that will entertain you.
- Take a class – maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, cook, tap dance, why not do it? Meet some new people, learn a new skill, you’ll be amazed at how much it can improve your life in other areas.
When your brain is active and engaged in more than just work you will find it easier to concentrate in the office, you’ll be more focused and productive, plus you’ll also find your sleep improves as does your mood; remember the brain is a muscle and just like everything else needs to be exercised regularly and not just stuck doing the mundane day to day.
Consider how many habits or day-to-day activities your perform that actually do not serve you. Make a list of what you do every day, really think about each thing you write down…how many of them actually better your day. Does coming home and sitting on the sofa in front of the TV do anything for you? Does it actually de-stress you or does it just distract you? Cleaning the house, it may not de-stress you but it has to be done, it serves a purpose, it affects other aspects of your life so it’s important to make time to do it.
Make time for the little things in your life, most of us waste our days trying to fit everything in and get sh*t done, we are more concerned with working hard and end up letting what makes us happy fall by the wayside in an effort to fit in our work.