Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but ultimately includes prioritization between work and your personal life. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans work on average 50 hours per week. When added up, that means most Americans are working an extra day every week.
Work-life balance does not occur by happenstance, but must be planned and executed with deliberate intent. Here are five tips to help you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
How many times have you answered an email on your day off or after you just got home from a long day’s work? Most people can attest to doing this at least once or twice a week. In today’s culture, technology suggests the expectation of accessibility as the norm.
Take time to put your work phone down and enjoy living in the moment. As hard as it may seem at first, make an effort to put your phone away and be fully present to the people and world around you.
At your daughter’s next piano recital or while sitting at home for a family dinner, turn your technology on the silent mode and place it out of sight. This simple act will give you time to unplug from work and an opportunity to reconnect and spend quality time with your friends and family. The more you practice holding off on offering an immediate response to every notification on your phone, the easier it will become to practice resolve in this area. Doing this will also send a message to those you care about, that although your career is important, they are also a priority to you.
2) Rome was not built in a day – start small.
When we try to do too much too soon, we set ourselves up for failure. Just as quickly as New Year’s resolutions can be forgotten, our work-life balance goals can just as easily be tossed to the wayside if we do not plan accordingly and commit to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It may be best not to commit to radical changes, but instead start with one small step at a time and build your way up to larger goal-setting to ensure long-term success.
For example, instead of promising yourself that you will not work on your days off, start by deciding that you will only work on two of your days off per month. As you begin to experience small successes with small goals, make the resolve not to work on more than one of your days off per month.
Slow and steady wins the race towards work-life balance. As you begin to see success and the fruit of your determination to strike a balance in your life, it will become easier and easier.
3) Find time to exercise and de–stress.
This tip may seem like an obvious suggestion, but less than 25 percent of Americans participate in the recommended weekly amount of exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As busy as we may become, we make time for things that are most important to us like eating, right? But, how often do we make time for exercise and relaxation?
We are all guilty of not making time to exercise at some point or another, but it is one of the most important things we can do for our health. Exercising can help us reduce stress and increase hormones, like endorphins, which help lighten our mood. If it is hard to motivate yourself to exercise, do a little research and find a sport or activity that you like doing. Venture out and discover new activities that you may enjoy. Great ways to get moving are fitness classes at your gym, intramural sports or joining a running club.
4) Don’t waste your time – it’s valuable.
Create a list of what is most important in your life. This list can serve as a priority-based accountability guide to help allocate your time. Once your list has been created, you can begin eliminating things from your daily schedule that are not a priority.
For example, if social media has become a black hole that is constantly stealing valuable time from your day, set boundaries or a daily time limit to keep you on track. To be successful, you may need to delete apps from your phone or turn off mobile notifications from frequently used social media platforms. Or, set a pre-determined amount of time per day to surf social media. Whatever strategy you choose, stick to it.
If your time is being absorbed by idle conversations during work hours, find creative ways to limit those interactions. Try using earphones or excusing yourself from a juicy – yet distracting – conversation and go work instead. The goal is to have a productive work day so that you can enjoy your personal time away from work.
5) Carve out downtime in your schedule.
If you do not plan time to simply enjoy life, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of work and home. As you focus on improving work-life balance, plan your week in advance to help maximize your time at work, but remember to also make space in your schedule to relax and enjoy life with family and friends.
Calendars are made for more than just planning to-do lists. They are a great way to coordinate events and activities with friends/family, giving you something fun to look forward to during the week. Whether it is an outing with your friends to go bowling or attending a play with your spouse/significant other, building downtime into your schedule will help you stay motivated and maintain a healthy balance between time at work and time at play.
Finding work-life balance can sometimes seem out of reach, but start with these tips first and you just might surprise yourself! Here’s to you being well on your way to enjoying the beauty of living a more balanced and fulfilled life – in no time.