“Invest in your work-life balance. Time with friends and family is as important as time at work. Getting that out of balance is a path toward unhappiness.” – Stephen Gillett.
Picture this, it’s 3 AM, and you wake up thirsty for a drink of water. Groggy with sleep, you can barely keep your eyes open while reaching for the glass at your bedside. As you take sips of your water, you’re distracted by your phone as it lights up with a notification. Against your better judgment, you pick it up and open it, only to find your boss has just sent you a new task list that needs to be done by yesterday(?!). You groan, sleep lost to the mounting anxiety, and you decide to get a headstart on it.
When did the 9-5 job you got to pay the bills, keep a roof over your head, and put food on your table turn into a 24/7 nightmare?
The truth is, you’re not alone. There are millions of people across the globe juggling responsibilities at work and home while trying to lead a life that they can enjoy sometimes. And this was hard enough to do in pre-pandemic times, fighting traffic and deadlines, coming home beaten and exhausted. Now, you are catching up on lost sleep during weekends, with no time for fun or hobbies in sight.
With the increase in work from home and remote jobs, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep the lines between work and home from blurring.
That brings us to the hot topic of discussion amongst working professionals: “work-life balance.”
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Simply put, it is the art of managing your professional and personal responsibilities so that you have the time and space to do reasonably well in both these spheres of your life. It involves being able to disconnect from work and being able to indulge in activities that enrich your life. It means being able to be at work and not worry about home and vice versa.
Why Is Work-Life Balance Important?
With the rise in dynamic, hybrid workspaces, the pace at which we work is only bound to increase. If we don’t find a way to strike that balance, it can lead to burnout. Stress alone can lead to many serious health issues. Talk about physical manifestation! Finding a way to manage your time between work and personal duties can help you be more mindful and improve your work performance. This, in turn, will lead you to enjoy a better quality of life that comes with professional success.
How to Maintain a Work-Life Balance?
With the “what” and the “why” covered, let’s look at incorporating work-life balance into your daily life.
Manage Your Time Better
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it truly is one of the most crucial elements to finding your balance. Start by structuring your workday around your tasks for the day and try to finish them up promptly. A to-do list will be your best friend to tackle the tasks at hand. Organize tasks from crucial to minor, and use your most productive time of the day to work on the critical tasks.
Remember to schedule short breaks in between tasks that will provide momentary relief. You could take a short walk to stretch your legs or get yourself a cup of coffee. Working with no breaks can often lead to feeling overwhelmed. Striking off the tasks on a to-do list is also immensely satisfying. It instills a sense of pride in a day’s work. And will allow you to relax better out of work.
Be Vocal About Your Needs
To do your best at work, it is pertinent that you know your limitations. As the old adage goes, don’t “bite off more than you can chew.” Once you are clear on what you can or can’t do in a day’s work, communicate that to your team and your manager. It may seem like a difficult conversation to have, but for your own sake (and the company’s), it’s a necessary one. Keeping lines of communication open and clear makes for a more efficient team at work, especially in teams with interdependencies.
It never hurts to check in with your colleagues to see how they’re managing their time and take a tip or four from them. This will help you build a better relationship with people at work. Having a team at work that has your back is a massive load off your mind and can impact your work-life balance more positively than you can imagine.
One of the reasons you end up bringing your work into your home is that you can’t seem to “switch off” from work mode. Whether you work from the office or home, you must set some clear boundaries. Stop checking your emails at the dinner table, and don’t take work phone calls after work hours. If your company uses another app for internal communications, make sure to sign off for the day once you’re done with your work. Don’t even let yourself think about work.
It is a false belief that your level of professionalism has anything to do with your availability round-the-clock. Ensure that your boss and colleagues are aware of your boundaries and that they’re non-negotiable. It may take some time to adjust, but the sooner you shake off these habits, the sooner you’ll experience peace of mind. And be one step closer to achieving a better work-life balance.
Vacation and Time Off
100% attendance is nothing to be proud of anymore. Take time for yourself. Make use of your vacation days every so often. Whether it’s going away for a couple of days or a week traveling to an exotic location, everyone needs rest and rejuvenation. Manage your projects and time so that you can take those days for yourself without being worried about work.
You don’t even have to step out of your house. Take a day off once in a while just to nap, play with your pets, catch up on a tv show, make a short video, or read that book you bought and never opened. Time off looks different for everyone, but the end goal is usually the same – to recharge oneself. Coming back to work after a break, feeling mentally and physically recharged, will boost your productivity levels at work.
Set Time Aside for Yourself
Chasing deadlines and being in meetings all day can be very draining. Having something to look forward to at the end of a workday can actually help you wrap up work faster. It could be spending some quality time with family and friends, playing a sport or a hobby like painting. If you have a long commute, use that time to switch off the work mode and transition to home mode. Listen to your favorite music or an engaging podcast. Take a moment to think about what you genuinely enjoy doing outside of work.
Try to plan your work around them. If it’s not feasible to indulge after work, set some time on the weekends to do what you love. Go for a walk, practice yoga, bake some delicious cookies, and write poems. It could be anything that your heart yearns to do. Work is vital, yet it is only one aspect of your life.
Life at Home
Beyond work, sometimes our responsibilities at home can also lead to us feeling overburdened and stressed. If that is the case, look closely into the division of labor in your home. Do you feel like you’re shouldering a massive part of that burden? Make sure that you’re not stretching yourself out too thin. You can do so by ensuring everyone at home does their share of work and the load doesn’t fall squarely on you. Ask for help when you need it. Hire external help if necessary. Make a chore calendar. Save the time-consuming tasks for the weekend. Again, organization and time management can help you make most of your off-time without tiring you out.
While we’ve established the importance of work-life balance, it is necessary to recognize that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Work-life balance looks different for different individuals. It could mean sitting back with a nice book on the weekend or playing a team sport for some. And more often than not, it is a moving target rather than an end goal.
Some days will be more challenging than others. Some days will pass by like a breeze. Be realistic about your expectations, and you will not be disappointed. And as with most things in life, take it one day at a time.
Tell us what you do to maintain a work-life balance in the comments below.