Just about everybody goes through stressful times at work. Projects pile up, you stay late and have to work evenings and weekends — but the flow of emails and messages doesn’t slow down. When this busy schedule becomes the norm, it’s time to re-evaluate your work-life balance — and make some healthy changes to avoid job burnout.
“To many, our work is more than just work,” says psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD. “It is an embedded part of our values. We are proud of our work.” “However, if work crosses the line between something that brings us great value and joy to something that brings about great stress that begins to harm our health or relationships, we need to seriously evaluate what is causing this stress and how to manage this stress,” she adds. “Besides an emergent situation such as saving someone’s life, nothing should come before your own health or relationships.”
3 rules for better work-life balance | The Way We Work, a TED series
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the ability to invest evenly in personal and professional endeavors. The work portion of this balance refers to time spent at work, working from home or performing functions related to work. The life portion of this balance typically includes ones social or personal interests, time with family and friends or any other leisure activities. The ideal work-life balance may look different for each individual or even for the same individual at different times in their life. Achieving work-life balance creates tremendous personal and professional benefits.
Tips for better work-life balance
Here are 10 tips to help you achieve better work-life balance:
Establish clear boundaries
Establishing boundaries at work is an effective way to create work-life balance because it ensures you have time and space available for meaningful aspects of your personal life. Possible boundaries include not taking work home, not checking work email on weekends and leaving work on time each day, even if you are in the middle of a task. While there are likely to be occasional exceptions or last-minute emergencies, do your best to stick to these boundaries. Discussing your desired boundaries with your manager to gain their support can help you feel comfortable implementing these practices.
Make your time count
Effective work-life balance requires that you spend your time meaningfully in each of the respective spaces. By ensuring you spend your time outside of work pursuing hobbies or doing activities that align with your values, you can recharge your energy levels and feel more fulfilled. This also helps you be more present at work, knowing that you have ample opportunities for a full life outside of work as well. Similarly, if you engage in challenging, meaningful projects at work, you will be more likely to experience work as fulfilling, and thus, find that both work and your personal life are valuable.
Make concrete commitments
Most people are more likely to stick with personal activities if they have made a commitment of some kind. This could be signing up for an exercise class with a friend, volunteering to host friends at your house or booking tickets to a show. By making a commitment, you increase the likelihood that you will follow through and uphold your intended work-life balance.
Schedule an ongoing activity
Related to the idea of spending your personal time meaningfully, committing to a particular activity on an ongoing basis can help enhance work-life balance because it gives direction to your personal activities. By being consistent, you can build skills, see progress over time and feel more deeply connected to the activities in your personal life than if you only did something one time.
Enlist a friend for help
Just as committing to a set activity will increase your likelihood of following through, so too will asking a friend to serve as an accountability partner or to join the activities with you. Its possible that your friend is also seeking a better work-life balance and will appreciate your support in return.
If work-life balance is new for you, starting small can be an effective strategy thats manageable for you and your coworkers and friends who might need to adjust to your new patterns. An example of this could be establishing one work boundary and sticking with it for a few weeks before introducing another one. Socially, this could mean making one weekly commitment and introducing others over time. Starting small increases the chances of being successful, which can provide motivation to establish additional similar practices.
Multitask where you can
Although it may seem counterintuitive, multitasking can create a greater work-life balance for certain individuals. For example, teachers who want to leave work at a set time might choose to grade papers at home while watching TV. Although they are technically working at home, this facilitates better work-life balance because it allows them to enjoy the early departure time by filling their early evening hours with meaningful personal activities. Joining a conference call while driving to work or doing a working lunch are other examples of multitasking that can enhance your work-life balance by freeing up time elsewhere.
Fundamental to work-life balance is the idea that you are splitting your time and energy between more than one entity and are not going all-in on any one thing. Since the boundaries necessary to uphold this balance are not conducive to perfectionism, it is helpful to acknowledge that early on. For example, if picking your kids up from school offers you meaningful work-life balance, then you should be okay with leaving assignments as-is when that time of day comes.
There will be times when you strive to uphold personal commitments and fall short or aim to be fully present at work after a meaningful personal weekend and you cannot. Acknowledging work-life balance as a challenging task and accepting that you might not always hit your goals along the way can help you manage your expectations.
Allow for flexibility
Having a work-life balance does not mean that work and life always represent exactly 50% of your time and energy. There will be times when it is necessary to give more to one than the other. What is important is that you are aware of the need for balance, you are establishing systems and structures to support that and you are flexible in creating new routines as needed. Flexibility allows you to see short term adjustments in the context of the bigger picture.
A great example of this is your work hours. Even if you typically work an eight-hour day, meeting an out-of-town friend for lunch or watching your childs holiday concert might mean leaving a few hours early one day. Being flexible and staying late to make up for it another night helps relieve the concerns of missing work and allows you to meet your personal and professional obligations.
Monitor your progress
Monitoring your progress every few months can help improve your work-life balance because you can identify what is working and adjust what is not. Maybe a boundary that you implemented has been challenging to maintain and you would like to adjust it. Spend some time brainstorming an alternative and plan how to discuss that with your boss.
What are 3 ways to improve work/life balance?
- Donate Your Time, Expertise, or Finances. …
- Find a Mentor to Provide Advice & Insight. …
- Plan Your Vacation & Days Off in Advance. …
- Prioritize Your Top Tasks & Do Them First. …
- Take Time to Rest Both Mentally & Physically. …
- Add Exercise as a Part of Your Daily Routine.
How do I improve my work-life balance?
- Manage your time. Give yourself enough time to get things done. …
- Learn to say “no.” Evaluate your priorities at work and at home and try to shorten your to-do list. …
- Detach from work. …
- Consider your options.
What are the five steps to working life balance?
- Examine your situation. Think about what your most important values are and how you want to spend your time. …
- Manage other people’s expectations. …
- Take care of your health. …
- Learn to say no. …
- Plan fun activities for your personal time.
What is the perfect work/life balance?