Feeling like all you do is work? You’re not alone. Statistics show that more than 60 percent of U.S. employees feel like their work-life balance is out of whack.
It’s so secret — managing all the things you have to do as an adult is a challenge. Regardless of which industry you’re part of, it’s not uncommon these days to find yourself working till later than planned or replying to emails at unseemly hours.
From doing your best on the job to taking care of yourself (and, if you have them, your kids) to trying to see friends and stay sane, we know you’ve got a lot on your plate.
And while it’s up for debate whether you can “have it all,” you certainly ought to be able to balance everything you’ve got and live a happy, fulfilling life.
The road to a healthy work-life balance may be long and twisted, but the following tips can help you attain your goals.
What Does Work-Life Balance Mean?
The idea of “balance” is easy enough to explain, but what does it actually mean? Is it more than just hitting a weekly yoga class? And, most importantly, in a world where the boundaries between work and home are increasingly blurred, how do you figure out what works?
Work-life balance refers to the way in which people prioritize their time and effort between professional and personal obligations. It’s not necessarily about evenly distributing your time, but rather creating a lifestyle in which you’re not overworking.
A good work-life balance will leave you with enough time and energy to focus on your personal life, making sure to see friends, enjoy time alone, do things you enjoy, and so on.
There are many factors that could impact your work-life balance. For example, your boss’ demands, family obligations, and responsibilities both at work and at home. Some of these are easier to control, whereas others may be a result of different life circumstances that are not necessarily only up to you.
Why Work-Life Balance is Important
Just like in our diets, to stay healthy and energized for the long-haul, people need variety in how they spend their time.
We tend to fall into the trap of believing that we can be productive all the time, or that an eight-hour day at work equates to eight hours of output. However, that’s simply not true. Researches show that beyond a certain number of hours, employees actually don’t produce anything more — but the impact to their health increases dramatically.
Married to Your Work? Consider the Cost
Poor work-life balance can have a far bigger impact than just skipping the gym. If you’re spending most of your time working, your work and your home life might be negatively affected. Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
By its very definition, work-life balance impacts all areas of your life. It tends to show up differently for different people, however. Here are 8 characteristics associated with poor balance:
1. You can’t stop thinking about work when you’re not at work. Those who find it difficult to draw boundaries between work and life are at higher risk of burnout.
2. Your relationships — both inside and outside of work — are beginning to suffer. You may be easily irritated with coworkers and distant with loved ones.
3. You feel off. You have unexplained aches and pains. You may rarely have energy or find it difficult to focus when at work.
4. When you’re not at work, everything seems uninteresting or unimportant. You just don’t feel like doing anything unless you have to. You often turn down invitations, further isolating yourself from your friends.
5. You spend a lot of money outsourcing support for personal tasks. Your laundry, dishes, and mail pile up, waiting for the day when you “have time” to get around to them.
6. You struggle to take time off when you’re sick, mentally strained, or when you need to take care of personal tasks. You don’t remember your last vacation and you don’t have plans to take one.
7. You can’t imagine doing what you do for the rest of your life. Even if you work in a field or a company you once loved, it feels impossible to imagine continuing life, as it is, for long.
8. You always feel like no matter what you’re doing, you should be doing something else. Over time, this lack of presence and direction often leads to an existential crisis.
15 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance
Here are top 15 tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
1. Have set work hours – and stick to them.
Set work hours for yourself and do everything in your power to stick to them.
Decide when you want to start and end each day. Factor in your lunch break and other personal responsibilities, like taking your dog for a walk or cooking for your family. This will lead to a more realistic schedule, helping you stick to your work hours successfully.
Otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be working until midnight every night.
2. Make post-work plans.
Even with a strict work schedule, it’s all too easy to find yourself getting caught up in your task and working extra hours. Knowing when to let go and continue tomorrow isn’t always easy.
Making plans for the end of your workday can be a good solution for this. Unless there’s a task that absolutely needs to be completed today, deciding on a plan for a specific time can help you shift from work-mode to you-mode.
Whether you plan to meet friends, attend a yoga class, or try out a new baking craze, focusing on personal time can also be crucial to your overall well-being and help result in a positive work-life balance.
3. Take proper breaks.
Giving yourself the time to step away from your desk is vital for your work and life balance. Removing yourself from your duties can also be a good way to deal with stress at work. It will give you the breather you need to revitalize and look at your tasks with a fresh mind.
You may also find that taking breaks will help you be more productive.
If possible, set a dedicated time for your lunch break, and do your best to disconnect during this time. You can also take mini breaks every hour or so, in order to take a short walk, stretch, or even utilize the time to do personal chores if you find that useful.
4. Plot some personal time.
When personal issues arise, it can be tempting to bury yourself in your work. Don’t do it If you don’t make time for your personal life — our “me” time, including your family and your health — you won’t have a business to go back to.
Take at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “you time.” It will do wonders for your well-being, and your relationships and your career will benefit too.
Connect with your spiritual source. Belief in God, or a higher power, can be a deep well from which to draw inspiration, guidance, and strength. Setting aside a weekly day of rest can be helpful, as well.
5. Know your peaks and troughs.
Are you a morning person?
If you are, assign tough, high-concentration tasks to the mornings. Don’t leave the tough tasks until its night time and vice versa.
6. Make your workspace work for you.
Whether working in office or at home it does tend to require long hours and not much downtime, so invest in equipment that will support you.
That includes getting a comfortable chair, an ergonomic keyboard, a support stand for your laptop, etc. An ergonomic assessment of your workspace is worth every cent.
As for freelancers, working from home isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem.
It’s generally recommended to avoid working in a place you strongly associate with relaxation, such as your couch or bedroom. Although you may not have a dedicated spare room, do your best to create a workspace that feels comfortable for you.
7. Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do.
It’s easy to cancel the gym, the evening run or the yoga class because a client wants something done yesterday.
Instead, ensure exercise is given as much priority as your clients and making money. A healthy body means a fresh mind, which means you will function better and complete tasks in less time.
8. Establish boundaries.
Set fair and realistic limits on what you will and will not do both at work and at home.
Clearly communicate these boundaries to your supervisor, coworkers, partner and family.
For instance, you might commit to not working late on certain days unless there is a crisis. Additionally, set aside a time at home during which you will not check or respond to work-related emails or voice mails.
9. Take care of your health.
Your health should always be your No. 1 priority. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work life and your personal life will suffer.
Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals (especially breakfast), exercise at least three times per week and sleep a minimum of seven hours per night.
While you may not think you have time to add exercise and extra sleep to your jam-packed schedule, these practices relieve stress, raise your energy level, increase your stamina, improve your mental clarity, boost your immune system, and make you a happier, more engaged, and more productive person.
Additionally, refrain from the excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to relieve stress. These substances only tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause even more problems.
10. Leave work at work.
Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms.
This might consist of listening to music or recorded books during your evening commute, exercising at the fitness center, running errands, or keeping personal appointments.
Scheduling such activities immediately following your normal work hours also prevents you from spending that extra twenty minutes at the office which then turns into several hours.
11. Let go of perfectionism.
A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, hobbies and maybe an after-school job.
It’s easier to maintain that perfectionist habit as a kid, but as you grow up, life gets more complicated.
As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities mushroom. Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive.
The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism. As life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going. The healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence.
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility.
The work day never seems to end. There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment.
Phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. Don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family.
Make quality time true quality time. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will developing a stronger habit of resilience.
13. Limit time-wasting activities and people.
If you’re mindlessly surfing Facebook or cat blogs when you should be getting work done, try using productivity software like Freedom, LeechBlock or RescueTime. And if you find your time being gobbled up by less constructive people, find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions.
Cornered every morning by the office chatterbox? Politely excuse yourself. Drinks with the work gang the night before a busy, important day? Bow out and get a good night sleep. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.
To some, this may seem selfish. But it isn’t selfish, It’s that whole airplane metaphor.
If you have a child, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not on the child. When it comes to being a good friend, spouse, parent or worker, the better you are yourself, the better you are going to be in all those areas as well.
14. Just say no.
If you’re available 24/7 to your boss’s — with all due respect — increasingly loopy and unremitting demands, and you’re the kind of person who as a result gets overloaded, try harnessing the power of no.
If you tend to say yes without thinking when you’re asked to do something extra, stall. Don’t answer straight away. Say you’ll get back to the person asking, then use that time to think clearly about whether to say yes or no. If you want to say yes, fine. But if you want to say no, say no and keep saying it.
Don’t justify your actions or give excuses. There’s no need to be nasty or rude.
15. Make ’em wait.
One way to avoid being incessantly available is to make it clear to your colleagues that you will reply to emails within 24 or 48 hours.
As long as you’re reliable about replying in the end, it’s surprising how little this bothers people. Quite so, but texting is based on different parameters — to send a text is to expect a quick, even immediate reply. But fear not, remember the previous point — just say no.
You need to make it clear that you’re not endlessly available for work queries outside working hours. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done.