Struggling with a Healthy Work-Life Balance?
A few years ago a law was proposed in France barring employees from checking work email after 6:00PM. For most Americans, that concept seems absolutely baffling. We tend to work longer hours and often respond to work emails at all times, whether it’s a workday or the weekend. There reaches a point when being on the job 24/7 actually hinders productivity. Finding a better work-life balance is important not only for your health and happiness but also for your professional advancement. Let’s take a look at a few strategies for finding and maintaining that balance.
Schedule Blocks of Non-Work Time
You probably use some sort of digital calendar to schedule work appointments and meetings. Consider allocating blocks of time for family, exercise, and other activities that will help you live a more balanced life. Remember that a schedule is only meaningful if you stick to it. If you designate an hour for meditation or for grabbing coffee with a friend, stick to your commitment, even if a work problem comes up (within reason). This may involve ignoring email or your work phone for a brief period of time, but stick to your schedule. You may find it difficult to put down your smart phone or step away from the computer, but you need the time to recharge.
This is often difficult for many people, particularly those with Type A personalities. You may feel like you need to do everything because you’ll complete every task better and more efficiently than your colleagues or subordinates. But putting everything on your plate can be highly detrimental to your well-being and professional pursuits. At some point, you must learn to delegate and trust others on your team to complete given tasks. Spreading yourself too thin won’t do you any favors, health-wise or professionally; being a perfectionist can truly drain your energy. In some cases, a task adequately completed is better than you trying to do everything yourself with the risk of making a major mistake.
Integrate Brief Physical Activity
Work days can be long and draining, especially if you’re tackling a big project or problem. Try to incorporate physical activity into your work schedule, even brief exercises. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, for instance. Go for a walk while you plan your meeting schedule. Or just try standing up when you take a phone call. Even a brief round of physical movement can improve your energy, stabilize your mood, and of course benefit your overall health.
Implement Short Workday Breaks
One of the best ways to reenergize yourself during the workday is to take advantage of short breaks. Many people find a 25-and-5 schedule (work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break) a great way to sharpen their focus and maintain their productivity level. You might even consider conducting a time study to determine how effectively you manage your time during the day. For a couple days, write down everything you do in 15 minute increments and then analyze your results. Identify where you’re using time well and where you could improve your time management. The more time you can reclaim in your schedule, the easier it will be to achieve a better work-life balance.
Use Weekends Wisely
Many people save all of their non-work chores for Sundays, limiting their free time before the workweek starts. Try to complete some of those tasks earlier in the weekend or even during the week. Reclaim the majority of the weekend as a sanctuary from chores and duties.
Take a Vacation
Let’s face it. There’s rarely a good time to leave work unattended. Companies are trying to do more work with fewer staff, which means each hour is precious. But taking time to relax and recharge can actually help you perform at a higher level. If you can’t take a full week off at a time, take a day off here or there to refresh and recharge. Even a “staycation” can do wonders for your health and well-being.
You wouldn’t try to run a marathon if you’d never run a 5K before. If you were trying to lose 20 pounds, it would be healthier to drop one pound per week, rather than trying to starve yourself and lose everything at an unhealthy pace. In the long run, short cuts and lack of planning will set you up for failure. To improve your work life-balance, a series of small, gradual steps will be much more beneficial than making major, disruptive changes all at once. Try to incorporate some of the strategies discussed above in moderation each week to strike an effective balance in your life. Work to enhance your life; don’t just live to work!