We’ve all heard of “work-life” balance, but what does that mean? In short, work-life balance means making sure you devote as much energy and attention to both your personal and professional lives. In doing so, you ensure both grow, rather than sacrificing one for the other.
Sure, striking this work-life balance can seem unattainable, especially if you’re adding it to an already robust to-do list teeming with Zoom meetings, but work-life balance can be easier by following these tips and techniques.
Set a Schedule
One of the most basic tools in maintaining work-life balance is a schedule.
It doesn’t have to be the same every week or even every day, but you should have an idea each morning what lies ahead, how you’ll tackle it, and how long you’ll spend on each task. This will help you easily divide your work and life duties without sacrificing one or the other.
For example, only do work-work between certain hours, while reserving the remaining for your family, hobbies, and/or friends.
Dedicate Your Workspace
You may have learned this during the pandemic, but it’s worth repeating: when working from home or splitting time in offices, create a “work zone” reserved for work and work alone. This becomes a spatial barrier between “home” and “life.”
If you live in a small home or apartment and can’t create a dedicated space, perhaps an existing space, like a kitchen table, can have certain “work hours.”
Play to Your Strengths
Speaking of time, we know about morning people and night owls. The same principle can be applied toward doing work. Some of us are sharper in the morning, others get rolling in the afternoon.
The key is to know when you’re best at what task and accomplish it then. For example, if you’re better at writing in the morning, schedule all of your writing then; if you crash post-lunch, avoid setting meetings at that time and instead do your email reading.
One way to keep yourself on task – and make sure time’s balanced – is to set goals. They can be small – for example, read two briefs after lunch – or more long-term: Take on five new clients in six months. Just remember to keep the goals realistic – if you’re in the mail room and want to be CEO, well, that will take more than a week – and to create benchmarks that keep you on track.
Whatever the goal and timeline, keeping it in mind will make sure you complete your tasks without rushing at the end, or giving up precious personal time.
Technology enables endless communication. And that needs to stop. If you or your team are constantly checking and replying to emails, you can never “turn off” and enjoy their home lives, which leads to burnout.
That’s why some workplaces and even entire countries are limiting email hours: Employees are encouraged not to send or reply to emails during certain times. This ensures that employees are more focused during “email hours,” rather than splitting their attention.
If you’re an employee, ask your managers to give this tactic a try, and if you’re a manager, set a good example by limiting “off hours” emails. If you take the lead, your team will follow – and be happier and more productive as a result.
Yes, it’s tempting to keep at a certain task until it’s “perfect,” but be sure other duties aren’t falling by the wayside. If they are, pause that one task to work on something else. This break will reduce stress about falling behind while also letting your subconscious mind work out a new, better way forward on that other task.
Even a short walk around the block can go a long way in terms of clearing the head. Another great break activity: cleaning or doing dishes – try that and you’ll find this old idiom’s right on the money: “Busy hands, quiet mind.”
Don’t Be ‘Perfect’
“Perfect” was in quotation marks above. That’s because there’s no such thing as “perfection” – a lesson we should all remember as we tackle our to-do lists.
Yes, we should all do our best work, but we also can’t beat ourselves up if something goes wrong or we err in some way. Nobody’s perfect and there’s always another opportunity around the corner – a reminder that works just as well in personal lives, too.
Just Say No
This tip works just as well at work as it does off the clock: Don’t be afraid to say no to a project or activity if you don’t have time or energy. It’s okay to graciously decline. You can even be honest and say, “I wouldn’t be at my best and would rather engage when I can truly shine.”
Taking personal time for yourself will make your social and work interactions that much more valuable, productive, and enjoyable.
If you’ve read any other article on work-life balance, you know exercise is an essential tool in maintaining work-life equilibrium. That’s because exercise both keeps your physical body healthy and can also encourage healthier responses to stress, meaning we can accomplish more without losing our cool or our minds.
Different than physical exercise but with some of the same results, meditation and other mindfulness techniques are shown to reduce existing stress, help people manage new stresses that arise, lower blood pressure, increase mental acuity, and generally elevate moods.
And, best of all, meditation can happen anywhere: Even just 5 minutes in a quiet corner can go a long way in helping maintain equilibrium.
Just Eat It
Any wellness list worth its salt will remind you that eating well maintains a healthy mind and body – and this wellness list is no different.
Maintaining a work-life balance requires well balanced meals – and bonus points if you’re able to make it yourself: home cooking (ideally) includes less additives and the actual action can reduce stress and build confidence, which increase positive thinking and results.
Plus, as a bonus, cooking at home’s often more affordable than ordering in or eating out. And don’t worry if your first few attempts fall flat – as with all hobbies or activities, practice makes “perfect” better.
Connect With Friends
Friendships can fall through the cracks during our hectic day-to-days, but it’s those friendships that can also get us through the day. Studies show that maintaining healthy, mutually respectful friendships boosts mood, health, and builds healthy stress responses.
We humans are social animals, after all, so get out there and follow your instincts!
Listen to the Music
Studies show that listening to music can stimulate creativity, lower blood pressure, improve mood and memory.
So whether you rock, rap, croon, or just jam, turn it on, turn it up, and feel the beat for better work-life balance.
Be Honest, Don’t Worry
If you’re struggling to keep up or need more time on a project, tell the truth. There’s no shame in letting your team know you’re overwhelmed – plus, it’s better to take the extra time and do the work well than do it fast and miss the mark.
And this lesson applies to personal lives, as well. Honesty really is the best policy.
Be Kind to Yourself
At the risk of repeating ourselves, work-life balance requires being kind to others and to ourselves. While we should all strive to do our best at work and off the clock, sometimes we fail to meet our goals, argue with a friend, or just have a no good, very bad day – and that’s okay.
Just remember that we’re all human – and never be afraid to apologize when you’re in the wrong. It will feel good for you and feel good for the person hearing the words.
Study after study shows sleep is the number one ingredient to success. In addition to reducing risk of heart attack, reducing stress and increasing immunity, sleeping gives our minds and bodies to rest and recharge, letting ideas mature and muscles relax, meaning we’re ready to tackle tomorrow, rather than slogging through and missing the mark.
If you’re still having trouble maintaining work-life balance, there’s no shame in asking for a sabbatical or time off to regroup. Your managers or employers should understand that this brief “pause” will make you a better teammate – and person – in the long run.
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