Finding your work-life balance comes down to your personal preferences, identifying better work practices and what is best for you. It’s also knowing that our circumstances inevitably change so you will likely need to adjust your “work” or “life” elements at certain stages, that is, you are never always going to achieve an equal balance.
Ultimately, it’s about understanding how you prioritise yourself for each side of the scale. This can be improved through the processes and techniques revealed below.
Ask for support
Achieving work-life balance shouldn’t feel like it’s all on you.
Ideally, you should be speaking to your manager about your workload during your regular catchups anyway, so that they’re fully aware of what’s on your plate – especially during those times when you’re under the pump more than usual. Being transparent about this will make discussions about flexible work hours or adjusting your responsibilities easier, as they will already have context as to why you’re asking. This support might also extend out to your team, in terms of agreeing to more efficient processes and respecting start/finish times for your day to avoid working well past your hours.
On the flip side of the coin, you can also look for support in your non-work relationships – partners, family and close friends. Connect with these important people in your life to discuss how you’re feeling, get good advice or simply be listened to. Scheduling in time with them for video calls, hanging out, walks, exercise, dinners et cetera are also a good way to chill out, laugh and de-stress.
Don’t over-prioritise your work tasks
Prioritising your daily work tasks is a common tip when assessing your current state of work-life balance. But the reality of work is that other priorities and requests will come in, which then knocks out your other tasks in the set amount of time you originally gave yourself.
The advice here, then, is to refrain from over-prioritising, over-defining or setting too concrete a list without leaving any gaps for other work to come in. Equally, it’s important to bring in some flexibility into your day, such as having the ability to move a task’s deadline to the next day or week where possible. This is also helped through having more practical deadlines with your manager and team members if it’s not an urgent one. It means the true high priority tasks can be completed without compromising any last-minute tasks that sneak into your day. And importantly, without adding additional stress from an already manageable daily workload.
Structure your time
Once you have defined your priorities, structure your day around them. Grouping similar tasks together can be more efficient, or perhaps there are easy tasks you can tick off the list first thing. While some argue that hard tasks should be given priority so that you get over that procrastination wall, everyone’s got their own work style and you shouldn’t limit yourself to how you go about doing your job.
To reiterate the point above, being flexible in how you structure your time will allow you to “go with the flow”, rather than feeling like your day is slipping away from you when it doesn’t follow your structure.
Eliminate or reduce factors that add stress
We all have those down moments during our workday – they can be caused by interruptions, distractions, loss of focus and even just our general mood. Ultimately, experiencing too many of these moments will result in stress, which doesn’t help your efforts to gain work-life balance.
The best way to tackle this one is to find ways to directly eliminate or reduce these stressors.
For example, if you live with housemates and the noise level is too much for you to focus on work or prevents you from having noise-free video calls, address it with them transparently and ask that they respect your request.
Create and set routines for them that work to your advantage, which result in a less stressful day for you.
Incorporate activities and habits that make you focus
For many, the first cup of coffee sets the tone for the day and helps to get us through the first initial hours of work. For others, it may be a morning walk or exercise routine.
Whatever your usual practice is – during the entire day and not just in the mornings – think about how you feel afterwards and what your focus levels are like.
Whether you benefit from a gym workout at lunch, a meditation class or fresh air during a 30 minute powerwalk as 3pm nears, stick to these great habits as they break up your day, giving you a chance to step away from work and return recharged.
If you don’t currently have any in place, do some research around what successful people do collectively as activities or habits to give you some ideas.
Don’t skip breaks
You shouldn’t be sacrificing your lunch breaks for the sake of getting more work done. While we know this isn’t always the reality, ensure you are at least taking shorter, more frequent breaks to rest when you can.
Our breaks are not only for eating to refuel but to also rest, stretch, move or exercise, socialise and attend to personal matters. Ignoring your breaks will only lead to burn out and resentment.
Make use of annual leave
Whether or not you’re working from home (WFH) due to COVID-19 lockdowns, you can still apply for and use your annual leave days. As we adjust to our WFH new normal, the lines between work and life can quickly become blurred. Being able to take some leave during this time means you can fully switch off from the “work” side of things, so that you can enjoy the “life” side of the balancing scale.
Before you take your leave, it’s a good idea to write down a plan of what you want to do: walk for at least an hour, find time to meditate, learn to cook a new dish, finish reading two books, volunteer, workout every evening, the list goes on.
These are activities that we can easily forget about but are essential to bringing the focus back to you and your wellbeing.
Alternatively, if you are feeling burnt out from work, taking the time to relax and do nothing is equally a valid way to spend your leave.
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