How to Achieve Work-Life Balance
What comes to your mind first when you hear the term “work-life balance”?
The ideal scenario might be waking up easily at 6 AM, hitting the gym, grabbing your meal-prepped lunch and heading off to work in order to be able to come home earlier, do some chores or meetups, cook dinner and wind down with a nice book or movie in bed by 10 PM.
However, that’s often not the case. And you should know, that’s perfectly fine.
Not even when working from home should be easy to switch off. In fact, many home-based workers struggle to strike a healthy work-life balance because the lines are more blurred.
Consider the Facts
Compared to the 38 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US comes in at number 30 for work-life balance.
A couple of the reasons it is so low is because 11.4 percent of Americans work 50 or more hours per week, while they spend 11.4 hours on leisure and personal care daily.
The number one country, Netherlands, on the other hand, has only 0.5 percent of people working those long hours and they dedicate 15.9 hours for leisure and personal care.
The issue of work-life balance seems to be more important for Millennials than it is for older workers. And for small businesses hiring this group, having policies in place which make this balance possible is key to keeping them employed longer and happier.
Some days, you might focus more on work, while others you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend quality time with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.
In today’s “less is more” competitive reality, managing careers and social life, and feel satisfied with both, is an ongoing challenge. Nowadays that many companies have slashed their ranks – and expect more from the employees, it can seem like an impossible mission.
Especially if you are among people who strive to give 100%.
According to people who study workplace culture, many employees today are so busy making a living that they have no time to make a life. In contrast, numerous studies have shown the most productive employees are well-rounded professionals with full and well-balanced lives – both in and out of the workplace. Likewise, the most successful companies are those that foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity.
However, a few small steps can go a long way toward staying sane at work and home.
Balancing a career and a personal life can often seem like an impossible goal
Prioritize your tasks
Instead of thinking what your priorities should be, try to figure out what you actually want your priorities to be and how to manage your time.
If you could only focus on one thing in your life,
what would that be?
Make that answer your priority and then go further to identify your top five priorities.
Here are categories you can follow in order to prioritize your tasks: (1) Urgent and important; (2) Important but not urgent; (3) Urgent but not important; (4) Neither urgent or important.
In order to plot some personal time, try to create a timeline of your activities. Not only it allows you to create some private space, but also it can be a great motivation booster.
There is time-tracking software that allows you to quickly build an understanding of how long a particular task takes. You can also use specific computer programs or apps which can help you with this. For example Google Suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive) or Office 365 (Microsoft Word and Excel).
You can simply create a table in Excel, put dates across the top, activities down the side and break each task into components. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion, whether it’s a five-minute break or a walk to get a coffee.
The less time you spend doing busy work or procrastinating, the more time you can spend productively.
Know your peaks and troughs
Don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on more. Don’t try and be all things to all people. Schedule your priorities and don’t acquiesce to every request that comes your way.
Play to your strengths and learn to say NO to yourself first.
If you are not a whiz at accounts or graphic design, outsource them instead of wasting time. Once you stop doing things out of guilt, you will notice having plenty of time to focus on some other activities and that will truly bring you joy.
Learn Your Employer’s Policies
In the US, full-time working men spend 8.35 hours in the workplace, while women work 7.84 hours. And of the employed adults, 33 percent work on an average Saturday, Sunday, or holiday. This has led 66 percent of full-time employees to say they don’t strongly believe they have a work-life balance.
Inquire about your company’s policies on flextime and working from home. Working from home once or twice a week would give you much-needed extra time. If you’re a strong performer, you have a better chance of negotiating an arrangement that works for both you and your employer. When discussing this option with your boss, approach it from a position of strength. Describe how the flexibility could ultimately help your company.
Don’t be afraid to unplug
Technology is a good servant, but a bad master. The aim is to help you make your life easier, not control it.
With employers expecting responses at any hour, 57 percent of workers said technology has ruined the modern day family dinner. At the same time, 40 percent said it was OK to answer an urgent work email at the dinner table. Ban technology at certain times so that you can focus on your family or friends.
Sometimes, truly unplugging means taking a vacation and shutting work completely for a while.
You don’t need to go far and spend a lot of money,
but you do need to recharge your batteries.
If you are surrounded by good people at work, a vacation could be even only taking a walk around the neighborhood without looking at your phone.
Do some work on your mental health such as reading a business book, watching a movie or meditation. After some practice, meditation shuts your mind down and allows more important things to surface. Alternatively, spend time with someone who will lift you up and support you. This will certainly make you more productive, creative and happy.
Rethink Your Idea of “Clean”
Try to get used to a little messiness and spend more time enjoying your life. Allow yourself to daydream in the subway or appreciate good weather on your walk to work. If you don’t allow yourself pockets of personal time, you’ll become too burned out to fully appreciate any part of your life.
In the end, don’t get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes all at once.
The process of achieving a healthy work-life balance is like becoming a professional athlete.
Even if implementing only a few of the above strategies, they will have a positive and measurable impact on your life. Avoid multitasking if possible. Instead, devote your full attention to the task at hand. Start with one clear goal then continue by adding another, and another.
Everyone has a different definition of what work-life balance means to them. The important thing to remember is finding the balance that is right for you.
For small business owners, who are notorious for working long hours in and out of the office, it means hiring the best people and deploying the right technology to manage your company. This will allow you to dedicate more hours to your leisure and personal care.
While work might be demanding at times, it should never become a priority over your well-being. You need time and energy for your hobbies and interests, for your family and loved ones.
Don’t spend eight hours a day working just to come home and neglect the things that keep your spirits high and passion fresh.
The real key is to create goals that you are passionate about with respect to health and appearance, career and relationships. Achieving balance in both your work and personal lives allows you to perform optimally in both areas.
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