Experts agree that the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging to our relationships (to ourselves and others), health, and our overall happiness. Which is why it makes sense that work-life balance ranks as one of the primary workplace attributes employees are looking for – second only to compensation.
And as far as productivity is concerned, research has shown that workers who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than employees who feel overworked. Therefore, creating a harmonious work-life balance or work-life integration is critical to your success, both personally and professionally.
But the reality is: When working from home or when running your own business, creating work-life balance can seem like an impossible task.
While the concept of work-life balance may mean something different to each individual, in this article, we’ll break down 6 proven steps to help you find the balance that’s right for you.
1. Accept that there is no perfect work-life balance
When you hear “work-life balance,” you might think of someone who has an extremely productive day at work and gets to leave early to spend the other half of the day with friends and family.
While this sounds ideal, it’s not always the right fit for everyone.
A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist mindsets at a young age when their time is only allocated for school, hobbies, and perhaps an after-school job. Now as an adult, your life is no longer a school-and-other-stuff cycle. It gets more complicated.
As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities snowball. Perfectionism slips beyond your reach, and if this mindset is left unchecked, it can become destructive.
So let go of that notion of a perfect schedule, and strive for a realistic one instead.
Some days you will spend more time at work, while other days you might have more time and energy to pursue your passions or spend time with your loved ones.
Balance won’t be achieved overnight, so it’s important to remain fluid and assess where you are and where you ought to be (your goals).
Aim for excellence, or put another way, aim for your personal best today…not perfection.
2. Prioritize your health
While it may sound cringingly cliché, health is still your greatest wealth.
When we speak of balance, not everything has to be about the completion and achievement of a task. It also has to include self-care so that your body, mind, and soul are being renewed.
And it doesn’t have to consist of radical or extreme activities either. It can be as simple as a five-minute meditation or a yoga exercise.
Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do
It’s easy to cancel the gym or your evening run because you have a task that’s due soon.
But if you are as committed to your exercise routines as you are to generating money or making clients happy, you’ll find all of these activities are interconnected.
A healthy body means a fresh mind. And a focused mind helps you function better and complete tasks in less time.
Manage your thoughts
Dedicate a few chunks of your time each week to self-care, especially for yoga or meditation.
If you’re really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute or a quick five-minute meditation in the morning and in the night.
This helps you ground your senses in your present surroundings and have a clutter-free (read:focused) mind.
Don’t be afraid to unplugCutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows you to recover from work stress and gives space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge.
Taking the time to unwind is critical to success, as it helps you feel more energized when you’re back on the clock.
3. Make time for yourself…and your loved ones
While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life.
You were an individual before taking this position, and you still are now. Allocate time for the activities that made you happy before you started on this work journey, and maybe even spend some time finding new passions.
Achieving work-life balance requires deliberate action.
Set aside a weekly day of rest. Indulge in some small pleasures daily. Take a couple of minutes for uninterrupted “you time” – just you and your thoughts.
Moreover, spend time on something you love – other than work – and with those you love.Remember: no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do.
And the poignant truth?
When things go south, everyone (including you) is replaceable at work – no matter how important you think you are to your job or business. So if you’re looking for a sign to make you take that vacation – this is it.
Sometimes, truly unplugging means shutting work completely off for a while. Whether your vacation consists of a one-day staycation or a two-week trip to Maldives, take time off as a necessity.
It will energize and refresh your body and soul, which then enables you to nurture your creativity – an essential ingredient to your work.
4. Change the structure of your work (and life)
Crash diets that fizzle out. New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten by February.
We’ve all been there.
You might be wondering: What’s missing in my routine that prevents me from doing these things?
The drive? I don’t think so. The more likely culprit is probably that you tried to make a massive life change too quickly.
If you’re trying to change a certain aspect of your life, plan it through: start small, then build from there.
Determine your priorities
Spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what you value the most, and make a list of your top priorities at work and at home.
Then audit how much time you actually have each day by asking yourself these fundamental questions: What do I need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?
Set specific goals
Analyze your to-do list and cut out tasks that have little to no value.
Then turn this list of priorities into concrete and measurable goals.
Plan your work and work your plan.
If you want to turn your priorities and goals into reality, then you’ve got to be a strict scheduler.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes the night before (or at the beginning of your day) to schedule your entire activities for the day.
You should also know your peaks and troughs. If you are a morning person, assign your toughest (or those that require high concentration) tasks in the morning. Otherwise, do the opposite.
Track your time
Log everything you do for a week, including your personal activities.
This will help you understand how you are using (and where you are losing) your time.
Create a separate calendar and log your actual time spent there, and cross-reference it with your expected scheduled time. This way, you can effectively estimate how long your tasks actually take and plan accordingly.
Or (shameless plug here) bring us in to help you map out your time.
5. Work smarter, not harder
Whether you’re a business owner or a busy executive, learning how to use time more efficiently is an important skill to learn.
Find the best time-management techniques that work for you, and stick with them. This can include the use of technology to become more organized, avoiding procrastination, finding an accountability partner, and learning to say “no” to projects that eat away at your time.
When you begin to adopt the right combination of time-management practices, you can cut stress and get back hours of your day.
Also, as uncomfortable as it can be, setting boundaries on your working time is a key factor in implementing a good time-management practice.
When you leave the office or clock out from work, it’s important to let go of the day and focus on yourself. Thinking about your upcoming projects or answering “a few quick emails” keeps your brain constantly engaged with work. It prevents you from taking a real rest, and makes it hard to be present and engaged at home when you need to be.
Consider using a separate computer or phone for work, so you can shut it off when you’re done for the day. If you can, notify your team members or other leaders about the boundaries you have set and when you won’t be accessible.
This will help them understand and respect your workplace limits and expectations.
6. Know when to ask for help
If you are overwhelmed and stressed at work, don’t suffer in silence.
Forget about that Superwoman/Superman image and talk to your team about your situation. Engage with a mentor and see if they can provide some needed clarity on what you are struggling with. Remember that the people around you are there to support you, all you have to do is let go enough to ask for the help you need.
Similarly, if a balanced life continues to elude you, or you are experiencing chronic stress, consult a professional – a counselor or mental health provider can work wonders to help you identify and cope with the myriad of stressors you may experience on any given day.
Wrapping things up…
Achieving a well-balanced work life is like training for a marathon: It takes a whole lot of effort to get in shape and a continued drive to stay that way.
Only those who commit themselves to this endeavor will get the chance to reap its enormous benefits.
Just as there are many ways to get in shape, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to achieve a good work-life balance. What is right for you now will ultimately change as new circumstances come into play. So it is only appropriate that you periodically review your situation and adjust accordingly.
But you don’t have to make big changes all at once to get there. Even if you implement only a few of the above strategies, they will already create a clear and measurable impact in your work and life.
Have a good (balanced) life!