Often, work takes a front seat over everything else in our lives. Our desire to succeed professionally can push aside our own well-being. Balancing your professional and personal life can be challenging, but it's essential.
Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.
Creating a harmonious work-life balance or work-life integration is critical to improve not only our physical, emotional and mental well-being, but it’s also important for our career.
Some of the common reasons that lead to a poor work-life balance include:
- Increased responsibilities at work
- Working longer hours
- Increased responsibilities at home
- Having children
A good work-life balance has numerous positive effects, including less stress, a lower risk of burnout and a greater sense of well-being. This not only benefits employees but employers, as well.
Here's how to improve your work-life balance:
1. Accept that there is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance.
When you hear “work-life balance,” you probably imagine having an extremely productive day at work, and leaving early to spend the other half of the day with friends and family. While this may seem ideal, it is not always possible.
Don’t strive for the perfect schedule; strive for a realistic one.
Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend time with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.
2. Find a job that you enjoy.
Although working and having a job is normal and a key part of survival, your career shouldn’t be restraining.
If you hate what you do, chances are you aren’t going to be happy. You don’t need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you don’t dread getting out of bed every morning.
3. Prioritize your health.
Your overall physical, emotional and mental health should be your main concern. If you struggle with anxiety or depression and think therapy would benefit you, fit those sessions into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or ditch an evening activity.
If you are battling a chronic illness, don’t be afraid to call in sick on rough days. Overworking yourself prevents you from getting better, possibly causing you to take more days off in the future.
Prioritizing your health doesn’t have to consist of extreme activities, it can be as simple as daily meditation or exercise.
4. Don’t be afraid to unplug.
Disconnecting with the outside world from time to time allows us to recover from weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge.
Unplugging can mean something simple like reading a book on public transport, instead of checking work emails. Taking that time to unwind is critical to success, and will help you feel more energized when you’re back on the work clock.
5. Take a holiday.
Sometimes, truly unplugging means taking vacation time and shutting work completely off for a while.
Whether your time-off consists of one or two days at home or a two-week trip somewhere else, it’s important to take time off to physically and mentally recharge.
Employees are often worried that taking time off will disrupt the workflow, and they will be met with a backlog of work when they return. This fear should not restrict you from taking a much-needed break. Everyone needs rest.
6. Make time for yourself and your loved ones.
While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. You were an individual before taking this position, and you should prioritize the activities or hobbies that make you happy.
When planning time with your loved ones, create a calendar for family and friend activities.
It may seem strange to plan one-on-one time with someone you live with, but it will ensure that you spend quality time with them without work-life conflict. Just because work keeps you busy doesn’t mean you should neglect personal relationships.
7. Set boundaries and work hours.
Set boundaries for yourself and your colleagues, to avoid burnout. When you leave the office, avoid thinking about upcoming projects or answering company emails.
Consider having a separate computer or phone for work, so you can shut it off when you clock out. If that isn’t possible, use separate browsers, emails or filters for your work and personal platforms.
It could also be helpful to notify team members and your manager about boundaries beyond which you cannot be accessible because you are engaged in personal activities. This will help to ensure that they understand and respect your workplace limits and expectations.
8. Set goals and priorities (and stick to them).
Set achievable goals by implementing time-management strategies, creating and analyzing your to-do list, and cutting out tasks that have little to no value.
Pay attention to when you are most productive at work and block that time off for your most important work-related activities. Avoid checking your emails and phone every few minutes, as those are major time-wasting tasks that derail your attention and productivity.
Structuring your day can increase productivity at work, which can result in more free time to relax outside of work.