Balance is one of the hardest things to achieve in every aspect of our lives, in what we eat, in our entertainment, at work, in how we view ourselves, in how we view others, and on and on. In this article, we will focus on one of these aspects: work/life balance.
What is Work/Life Balance?
We could define work/life balance as the equilibrium between the time and energy put into our career and into our personal life.
Does that imply giving ourselves equally to both components of life? Is that, in fact, balanced? Is the balance between work and life something we can stumble upon, or is it something we have to create?
All these questions are strictly linked. Work/life balance does not look the same for everybody. Work/life balance for a wife and mother of two children with a part-time job looks different from that of a single woman with a full-time job. Therefore, we can say that work/life balance, as such, is not something we find but something we all create for ourselves, often after much trial and error. How, then, can we reduce the number of trials and errors?
Work/Life Balance Strategies
1. Be flexible
Be willing to adapt. It is rare for a person’s circumstances to remain the same for extended periods. Therefore, work/life balance will not always be the same. Take the time to often reassess your circumstances and how they are affecting your health, and make the necessary changes.
Some people are used to being expert jugglers that can multitask, but this comes at a cost. Once again, self-examination plays a key part. Multitasker or not, sit down and make a list of your habits and daily activities. Then, divide these into things that are essential and things that can be dropped.
If you find it very difficult to drop a certain activity, like checking social media, watching TV, or even sleeping too much, find a way to minimize the amount of time spent on that activity. The goal is to reduce the time spent on activities that drain our energy.
3. Schedule some “me time”
This is easier said than done. “Me time” can be anything from having an afternoon spa to 15 min of watching the sunrise with your favorite hot drink to jogging for 30 minutes. Do anything that you love and that will help clear your mind. There is not a fixed amount of time or a specific type of activity that you must do. Sit down, plan your week, and schedule some “me time” that suits you best.
4. Learn to switch off
If you really want to achieve work/life balance, don’t bring work into the time designated for your own personal life. What does this mean? If you are someone that works from home or your work phone is also your personal phone, ensure that once the time allotted for work is finished, you stop working. Don’t reply to work messages during out-of-office hours, don’t check emails while you’re watching TV or spending time with your family, don’t start planning the following day of work, and don’t pick up client phone calls.
You may be thinking, “But I tend to forget things very easily, and as soon as I remember something that needs to get done at work, I need to do it immediately.” Keep a notepad with you to jot down what you need to do the following day and then leave it for tomorrow.
For many, this is not easy. Many people find it hard to disconnect from work entirely. It is important to set boundaries, both mentally and physically. For example, limit your smartphone use by turning off push notifications or setting your phone to “do not disturb” mode. Also, minimize work talk at home. Try to talk about topics that are unrelated to work. Reemphasize to yourself why leaving work in its proper place is beneficial. Implementing these habits will help you to switch off from work.
There is nothing like a good friend to help us achieve our goals. Friends can see things we don’t. If you are in a rut, a good friend will say. So, communicate your worries and your goals to your friends. Let others help you realize when it’s time for a change. Accept support to help you achieve your goal.
These are just a few tips to start you on this journey toward balance.
Why Is Work/Life Balance Important?
Many people think, “Is work/life balance really that important? Can it affect my life that much? I love my job, do I really need to prioritize some time for myself?”
Let’s use our imagination for a second. Imagine yourself years from now. You are retired. You have plenty of time but very little energy. Your physical limitations prevent you from being able to do much. You look back on the time you had the energy and physical health and strength to do plenty of things, yet work consumed most of your time, energy, and attention. Is it worth it?
We focus so much on growing our economy, but what about our emotional growth? Maybe the solution is in the way we perceive life. We normally talk about work/life balance. But what if instead of constantly trying to find time for our life, we try to find time for our work? What if we change the way we prioritize our work and prioritize our life instead? Food for thought.
Work/Life Balance Benefits
In a more practical way, what are some of the benefits that come from creating balance in our life?
Personal health and well-being, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Reduced stress. It is possible! We are so used to feeling stressed that sometimes we think that the absence of stress means we must have missed something, or we aren’t working hard enough. We don’t need to be stressed to be doing things right. A work/life balance means we will feel calmer and happier.
Development of mindfulness. Switching off work will give your head and your heart a chance to stop and be present in the moment.
More productivity. Taking a break from work and sticking to a schedule will help you be more focused and do more in less time.
How to Find Work/Life Balance
So, the remaining question is: Where do I start?
Here’s a list of questions that can help you. Take some “me time”, grab a cup of coffee, and a notepad, and give these questions some thought:
What is my daily schedule?
What would I like it to be?
What activities that I enjoy and help me recharge would I like to include in my day-to-day life?
What draining activities are taking away time from the activities that will energize me? Can I drop these activities? If not, can I reduce the time dedicated to these activities?
What is the reasonable amount of time that I can dedicate to myself?
How will I include it in my schedule?
What do I need for these activities?
What challenges may arise? How will I overcome them?
Who can I talk to that will help me achieve my goal?
How do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally with the pace of my life now?
How do I want to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally?
How will being balanced improve other aspects of my life?
How often should I assess my circumstances?
It is never too late to change a pattern of life that is not working. Changes are never easy, but they are worth it when they impact your life significantly. Sit down, self-examine, begin the change, and be patient. You are now closer to creating your own work/life balance!
Written by Aradhna Mulet