Achieving a healthy balance between the demands of your work and your personal life has always been important. Now, with the added pressures of the pandemic, more people working from home, and the onslaught of information through traditional and social media it’s nearly impossible to turn-off or tune-out. This makes achieving balance between work and home even more important; not only for your mental health but for your physical and emotional wellbeing as well. Here are some tips for finding the balance you deserve.
Get Up and Move
One of the key reasons we need work life balance is to fend off the impact of stress, and exercise is key to that goal. Exercise helps clear the mind, it makes us happy and it helps us sleep better – all important elements in the quest for balance – but finding time for exercise often feels like one more item to add to the ‘to do’ list. Bringing exercise to work is a great way to achieve the balance you need. Things you can do include:
- Take short, regular stretch breaks
- Exercise over your lunch break
- Do seated exercises at your desk
- Use a sit ball or standing desk
- Join colleagues for a fitness challenge
Set ‘No Work’ Boundaries
Thanks to technology, carrying work home is very easy. Emails come in day and night, messaging systems make availability seem 24/7, and with more people working from home the boundary between work and life is blurred to the point of extinction. To preserve your mental freshness for all aspects of your life, you need to set aside clear and distinct times for working:
- Leave your laptop at the office or tuck it away in your home office
- If you work from home, maintain a work area that is separate from the rest of the house
- Set no-email/text/call boundaries with colleagues
- Likewise, ask friends and family to respect your time at work and only call for an emergency
- Turn off your cell phone periodically
Adopt Effective Time Management
Often we are our own worst enemy when it comes to finding balance. How many times have you let a deadline loom closer and closer without proper planning or not built in enough contingency time for a project due date? To achieve balance you have to maintain effective time management and that isn’t always intuitive. Start with the following:
- Track your time to discover current patterns and identity discretionary time
- Identify and minimize time wasting activities
- Think about what tasks you could delegate
- Set small task-related goals to conquer procrastination
- Find a time management system that works for you and stick to it
- Build in a time for rest
As an adjunct to effective time management, understanding your priorities is also key to finding a healthy balance. In the moment, everything that comes at you is a priority. However, the reality is priorities shift and they need constant assessment and reassessment as you work toward a healthy balance. When you are clear about your priorities it is much easier to establish a plan and accomplish what needs to be done. Ask yourself:
- What do I want to accomplish today?
- If I can’t achieve all of them, which ones are the most important?
- What can I sacrifice today that will still enable me to feel good about what I achieve?
- How do I dedicate time to my priorities both personal and professional?
- What is really most important in life and am I focusing on that?
Take Time Off
Vacation time, and time away from work is an absolute necessity. Gone are the days when you should be rewarded or recognized for not taking your full allotment of vacation days. Rest and relaxation will rejuvenate you and allow you time to focus on the ‘life’ side of your balanced equation. A few tips for maximizing your time off:
- Use an out-of-office reply and only work in emergency situations
- Aim for a few unconnected days
- Take a mix of long and short breaks and don’t feel pressured to take elaborate breaks – do what will be most relaxing
- If you work for yourself, give yourself vacation time too
The stresses and pressures of work and life aren’t likely going away and finding balance can add to the pressure if you let it. Awareness of your emotional reaction to being pulled in different directions will help you find the balance you need and by acknowledging how you are feeling you can make the changes required. Start with the following:
- Do short, meditative exercises that help you connect with your feelings and senses
- Practice deep breathing regularly throughout the day
- Be present – focus less on what ‘could be’ and think more about ‘what is’
- Limit distractions – shut off the phone, close the door, disconnect from social media
To achieve a healthy balance between your work and home life you may have to let go of the idea that you will be perfect in both realms. It’s a hard ideal to give up, but the desire to do everything to the best of your ability all the time is as noble as it is debilitating. Balance doesn’t always mean doing things equally well all the time – sometimes it means doing work really well and life not so much, and then alternating as circumstances change. Whatever YOUR balance looks like, it’s a healthy balance if it works for you at the time.
- See balance as ‘seasonal’ and adjust accordingly
- Be open about your struggles with balance and talk to your team and your family when you are feeling pressured
- Be kind to yourself – excuse a messy kitchen, hire someone to mow the lawn, apologize if you have to take a work call at the playground – and then move on
Work life balance doesn’t have to be elusive. You can achieve the balance you deserve with some clear and concrete actions. As with most things in life, you won’t get the balance right all the time and you’ll have to continually scan your circumstances to keep life’s teeter-totter as upright as possible. And certainly, our over-connected, high tech lives don’t make finding balance easy but nothing that’s worth achieving ever is!
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