We’ve talked about the importance of work-life balance. But how do you achieve it? There are different ways to go about it. We’ll give you some pointers and tips that’ll lead you to happiness.
1. Accept that there is no perfect balance
First of all, there's no such thing as a perfect balance. So, relax. Strive for a realistic, tailormade schedule. Don’t wake up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym and then meditate before heading off to work with your meal-prepped lunch in hand, hitting it out of the park at the office, to then go home early, cook dinner, do some chores, go for drinks with friends and go to bed on time somehow, just ‘cause some full-time Instagram influencer told you to.
If this is you, great. If not, find your own balance.
Some days, you might have to focus on work more. Other days you might need to spend more time with loved ones and pursue your hobbies. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.
Like our hero, Bruce Lee said, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water”. Constantly evaluate and adapt to where you are versus your goals and priorities. Allow yourself to remain open to redirecting and assessing your needs on any day. It’s key to finding a balance.
2. Take short breaks throughout the day
Take breaks. And stop feeling guilty about them. We weren’t designed to stare at bright screens for hours on end. It’s bad for our physical and our mental wellbeing.
Studies show that we can focus for 20 minutes at a time. The longer you’re trying to work without focus, the more frustrated you tend to get. Go for a walk, go to your company’s games room if it has one or do some light exercise. You can even go out as a team and grab a coffee. Some leading companies will hire meditation practitioners to help calm and de-stress their people. Do anything that takes you away from the task you were performing.
All of these techniques will positively impact your work performance, productivity, and happiness.
3. Flexible working and work-life balance
I’ll be frank. I’m done with working set hours. I want to work whenever and wherever it suits me best. And so do millions of workers across the world. By 2020 half of us will be working remotely. Instead of working classic 9 to 5 days, you should start working when you're at the top of your game. It’ll boost your work-life balance. If you’re more productive during the morning, you should be able to work then. Or maybe you need to pick up your children from school and work to an office closer to them. That idea shouldn't be far-fetched. The freedom to work whenever you want and to be judged solely on your output will absolutely improve your work-life balance.
Not all managers are eager to allow their employees to work wherever they want. But the trend is inevitable. It benefits them too. Studies have shown that the more autonomy you’ll get, the happier, healthier and more productive you’ll be. Plus, your partner, friends, and children won’t have to miss you as much as they did before. And you’ll get rid of the FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out. A win-win for everybody involved.
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To reach work-life balance, divide your time into different areas. Identify what constitutes of family and friend time, me-time, work etc...and determine where you work and where you relax. That means that if you're watching your daughter’s football game, you shouldn’t check your professional emails. Or that you don’t open your laptop in the living room if you have people over. In other words, make disconnecting easier on yourself. That is if you WANT to cut the cord in certain situations.
You might find not answering phones and emails to be tough and end up worried about your bosses’ reaction because you can’t help them find a certain file. But toughen up and persevere. If it's urgent, they’ll call you back. And if you’re really having a hard time, implement a transition period where you grant yourself 15 minutes in a certain situation to answer your emails and calls. But only if you absolutely have to. After a few weeks, you’ll probably discover that it’s not necessary.
Your job is important. But it shouldn’t be your entire life. The secret to work-life balance is the ability to make time for yourself. Now that you’ve compartmentalized your activities, you can prioritize them. Decide what you truly want to spend most of your time on. You should prioritize the activities or hobbies that made you happy.
Go for a walk in the park, treat yourself to a massage or take a hot bath. No matter what you do, it’s essential for your work-life balance to set aside an hour every two days to do something strictly for yourself.
Additionally, surround yourself with loved ones. Don’t isolate yourself. Have your alone time, but don’t neglect your personal relationships because you’re busy. Don't take your loved ones for granted. Make them a priority too.
6. Cut what’s unimportant
You’ve prioritized what’s important in your life. Consequently, you know what activities you can do without. You might recognize them as the activities that take more time to fulfill than they should. Or those that are physically and mentally draining.
You should cut those activities immediately. Your work-life balance will only improve. You’ll free up time for what really matters. And you’ll save energy to do those things with more intensity and focus.
If those activities involve friends with whom you tend to do energy-draining activities, drop the activities, not the friends. Professionally, don’t cling on to maintenance activities you could easily delegate. Delegate or hire someone else to take care of it.
7. What’s work-life balance without health?
We’ve talked about prioritizing. Your absolute priority should be your health. Take good care of yourself. Physically and mentally. If you’ve already been struggling with anxiety or depression, you should consider therapy. Therapy will give you the tools to detect a looming burnout before it strikes. Try and fit those therapy sessions in your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or skip yoga class.
If you’re already suffering from an ailment, don’t be afraid to call in sick. You shouldn’t be too proud and try to work through it. It’s just not worth it. You’ll end up making your ailment worse, causing a longer absence than you would’ve if you would've sought help or rested immediately.
8. Take that vacation
Reboot. Take a break from work. It’ll allow you to mentally and physically recover from the everyday workplace stresses. This is essential to your focus, productivity, and work-life balance.
A break from work allows us to mentally and physically recover from the everyday workplace stresses. This is vital as it will increase the individual’s focus and productivity when you return. It will also help to reduce your psychological distress. This is evidenced by a workplace happiness report by The American Sociological Association.
9. Unplugging is key to a healthy work-life balance
Unplug. Our smartphone is our gateway to the world. And we sometimes feel we couldn't do without. How else would we meet the love of our life? Or pass time in the bathroom? Or know that Sarah from 3rd grade wants to “live, laugh, love” more?
It might be tough. But you should unplug. Cutting ties with the outside world from time to time will help you refresh from the weekly stress. Stop the barrage of articles, memes, and video clips, and give you and your mind space for other thoughts and ideas.
10. Don’t mess up your work-life balance for a shitty job
If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. A cliché, but it’s true. If you manage to cut all the unpleasantness from your job, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it and be happier.
Not everyone is lucky enough to cut the clutter or to have a job they like. The secret to overcoming that is just to try and love your job as a whole. If you succeed, you won’t dread getting out of bed every single morning. And you won’t feel like every minute at the office is a minute wasted. If you're not able to, ask yourself if your job is worth clinging on to.
Sometimes it isn’t the job that’s the problem, but one of the coworkers or management. Maybe you're tired of one of your colleagues taking little bites of your homemade lunch. I'm on to you, Philip!
Anyway, if the atmosphere proves to be too toxic, it’s time to find a new job.
If you can’t love what you do and you can’t do what you love outside of your job, it’s time to quit. There’s no point in messing up your work-life balance for a job you hate. That’s a recipe for stress, depression, and burnouts.
Ask your boss for midday workouts. Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that exercise is an asset to not only your work but to work-life balance as a whole.
Saint Leo University assistant professor of Management Russell Clayton found a correlation between physical activity and navigating the intersection of work and home. If you exercise regularly, you’re less likely to feel a conflict between your working life and your home life.
When you exercise, you release some of your pent-up stress. And the less stress you feel, the more enjoyable you’ll find your office or your kitchen.
You'll also boost your self-efficacy, the confidence you have that you can get things done. Folks with high self-efficacy are more likely to face the various tasks to be met in the day as challenges to be mastered. As one of Clayton’s interview subjects told him, “an hour of exercise creates a feeling that lasts well beyond that hour spent at the gym.”
It’s all up to you
There you have it: 11 tips to attain and maintain a solid work-life balance. In the end, it’s all up to you. Maybe you feel like buckling down for months on end. Or maybe you want to spend all of your time with friends and family. No matter what you do, determine what’s important to you and make sure you enjoy what matters the most. No matter what your priorities are, you should consider remote working. Not only could you work closer to home, but you could also meet inspiring people or work with creative startups. Come and try for yourself.
And here's how remote working is beneficial to your work-life balance.