“You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything!”
In today’s society, work-life balance is becoming increasingly difficult. It feels impossible to leave work at work and many of us aren’t looking after the most important person in our lives – ourselves! Working too hard can leave us feeling stressed, unhappy, and “stuck”.
Studies show that productive employees usually lead the most balanced lives. This step-by-step guide will help you to achieve a better work-life balance. Remember, you need to find the balance that’s right for you. It doesn’t matter what your boss, your friend or your neighbour is doing …
Reflect on your priorities
The first step is to reflect on your current priorities. Now, this is not just about what you should be doing but rather what you want to be doing.
Take a moment to get some perspective on your life …
- What works well about your life?
- What doesn’t work so well about your life?
- What are your top “must haves”?
- How many of those “must haves” do you currently have?
- What is one step that you could take right now to improve your life?
Write your priorities down in order of importance. What are the steps you could take to achieve those things? These goals that will guide the rest of the process to work-life balance.
Manage your time better
Now that you know what your priorities are, consider how you are currently spending your time. Keep an hourly log for a week to understand when your time is being used well and when it is being wasted. Do your weekly activities fit in with the list of priorities you created? If they don’t, consider eliminating them. Minimise your time with ‘toxic’ people who put you down and complain or gossip too much.
Schedule in some “me” time!
We all need some me time now and again. Some people need less me time, some people need more but regardless, this step is vital for recharging our batteries and gathering our thoughts together.
Most of us are woken up by our alarms first thing in the morning. Then we jump into the shower and the next thing we know, we’re driving off to work. But consider waking up an hour earlier and just sitting in bed with a cup of Earl Grey tea and a book or magazine, doesn’t that sound like the perfect way to start the day?
Now I know what you’re thinking – “I don’t have time for that” – but after writing your hourly log in Step Two, you’ll see just how much time you’re wasting on Facebook or checking your emails; time which would be better spent on you …
It’s time to set some boundaries. Work stays at work. Home stays at home.
How can you leave work at work when you’re constantly connected? Have a digital detox! Turn your phone off or leave it upstairs when you are at home. Or how about not syncing your work emails to your phone at all?
Try banning technology at certain times. When you settle down to watch a film – do you really need to be on Facebook then? When you go to your kids’ football match, should you really be checking your emails?
Stop yourself from staying at the office for longer by scheduling other activities for the evening. Meet with a friend, walk your dog, go to the pictures …
Likewise, it’s important to leave home at home. Ask your friends and family not to contact you at work so that you can focus on the task at hand.
Look after yourself!
Work-life balance doesn’t really mean much if you’re not looking after yourself physically. It’s important that you eat healthily, sleep well and get plenty of exercise. It’ll do wonders for your mood and energy levels too! And you can start small – swap whole milk for semi-skimmed, have a handful of fruit in your cereal, take the stairs instead of the lift. It won’t take long for you to see the changes.
Of course, you could still reward yourself with a wedge of cake every so often …
Invest in personal relationships
You are now well on your way to achieving a better work-life balance so you need to start making sure that you are spending enough time investing in your personal relationships. Being with your loved ones can decrease stress and therefore increase your productivity at work but it’ll also keep you and your friends and family happy.
Try keeping your phones away at the dinner table and banning any ‘work talk’. This time is for you and for your family. And turn that TV off as well! Did you know that one in four parents admit to sending their kids to bed early just so they can watch a few more episodes of their favourite boxset? Instead make conversation and really listen to what is being said.
Ask for help
“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, you can let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
We all struggle at times and that’s okay – you don’t have to go it alone! We often see asking for help as a weakness. We almost believe that by asking for help, we are announcing our failure to everyone around us. But you haven’t failed. And certainly, the best option to prevent future difficulties is to ask for somebody’s advice, help or guidance now.
I am not saying it is an easy feat but look around you, who hasn’t felt overwhelmed with their workload or felt confused about an upcoming project?
Take ten minutes to approach a colleague or manager that you trust and say “I am a little confused about this project. Could we sit down together and have a bit of a brainstorm about it?”
You won’t look back!
Look forward to something!
Some people believe that the key to happiness is having something to look forward to. I believe in living in the present and appreciating each moment but I can’t deny that I look forward to catching up with a friend at the weekend or having a long soak in the bath on my morning off!
Having something to look forward to gives us something to aim for and it gets us tough days, weeks and months. The event you’re looking forward to doesn’t have to be a two week holiday in the States. I look forward to sitting on the sofa with a hot cup of tea and watching Strictly!
And when you are in that moment, enjoy it! Focus on the present and for just 30 minutes, try to put your work stress to the back of your mind.
Speak to a life coach
Now I know I am probably a little biased but speaking to a life coach could help you to put all of the above steps into action. One of my own specialisms is work-life balance. I am passionate about helping professional women to live life to the full. Coaching is about bridging the gap between where you are in your life right now and where you want to be.
It is a partnership; a conversation between two women who often become two friends!
The final step! Work-life balance is an ongoing process. Take some time each month to re-evaluate your priorities and start the process again.