The phrase “work-life balance” has found its way into countless employee handbooks and recruitment brochures, yet few people ever master the skill of balancing work with play.
If you find yourself cancelling social outings because you have to work, checking your work email at your kid’s soccer game or calling your boss from your beach vacation, you may be suffering from a lack of work-life balance.
How to Balance Work and Your Personal Life
As an entrepreneur, I have learned the importance of maintaining a personal life outside of work. While it can be difficult to achieve the right balance of work and personal time, especially as you advance in your career, it is possible.
Here is some of my favorite advice for being able to balance work and your personal life, and live your life outside of the office.
1 ) Stop Being Available 24/7
Getting into the habit of answering emails and phone calls outside of work hours can make colleagues expect immediate responses from you. It sends the impression you are always “on call,” which makes people continue to contact you after work hours.
This also gets you in the habit of checking your phone and email all of the time, which takes your focus away from that thing called your personal life.
While it may sound impossible at first, try to unplug at night and/or on weekends. For example, make it a rule to stop checking email after 8 p.m. every night. Be sure to let your coworkers and boss know how to get ahold of you in the event of a true work emergency.
Chances are your colleagues will respect your new contact rules, but if you are still getting bombarded with emails and calls outside of work hours, it may be time to have a chat with your manager or HR.
2 ) Don’t Bring Work Home with You
Some common advice given to people who have a hard time falling asleep is to stop watching TV or using their computer while in bed.
The thought behind this is that you need to train your body to associate your bed with sleep. By having too many “screens” in your bed, you are keeping your mind off of sleep.
The same concept can be applied to work. By keeping work out of your house, you will stop associating your home with work. Create a distinct separation between work and your personal life by leaving work behind at the office.
This may require taking your work email off of your phone, or at least turning off notifications once you leave the office each day.
It is unavoidable to burn the midnight oil from time to time. But if you need to work late, it may be better to stay in the office late than working at home until the wee hours of the morning.
3 ) Cultivate New Interests and Hobbies
The best way to create a better work-life balance is to actually have a life outside of work. This requires putting time and effort into interests other than your career and job industry – something which is surprisingly uncommon for workaholics.
Many people leave behind their hobbies once they enter the workforce. Finding time for your interests when you work all week can be difficult, but it’s important to make time for this.
Whether you want to learn how to play the guitar or take a woodworking class, think of what you could realistically commit to on a weekly or monthly basis. Then once you sign up, add it to your calendar…
4 ) Schedule Personal Activities on Your Calendar
Treat your personal time with the same respect as your work time by scheduling it on your calendar. Recurring “me time,” such as your morning workout or a Sunday golf game, is worthy of some calendar space.
This allows you to avoid filling up your work calendar and having zero time for yourself.
You don’t need to limit this practice to yourself, either.
Include important events for family and friends on your calendar. Schedule a recurring date night with your spouse to ensure you are making enough time for your relationship.
If you have kids, putting their extracurricular activities or sports practice on your calendar lets you plan your work schedule around their most important events.
5 ) Use All of Your Vacation Time
Many people view never taking any time off as a badge of honor and sign of their superior work ethic. But, vacation time is essential for avoiding burn out. Believe it or not, in some countries it is a requirement for managers to use all of their vacation time.
The idea behind this is that disconnecting from work for a few weeks allows you to return refreshed and focused.
When you do take a vacation, really disconnect from work:
- Leave your work laptop and phone at home.
- Turn on your “out of office” notification on your email.
- Let coworkers know which dates you are unavailable.
Hopefully, you will return to the office not only with a great tan, but also a fresh perspective and the energy to implement your new ideas.
Put Yourself First
If you take any advice from this post, it should be this: always put your health and personal relationships before your job. Work will always be there, but you can’t get back the time you didn’t spend on yourself and the people you care about.
How do you balance work and your personal life? Leave a comment below.
Do you want to improve your work life balance?
Whatever time you invest to do so will pay you back many times over. YouвЂ™ll feel less stress and greater satisfaction in the way youвЂ™re living and working.
Here are four steps you can take:
1. Analyze things now
WhatвЂ™s your current situation? There are two ways to do this:
Do an assessment to get an idea of how youвЂ™re using your time now. You can then determine if youвЂ™re a workaholic or if youвЂ™re risking burnout.
Ask the people in the part of your life you feel is lacking to tell you what they think of your work life balance. You may be shocked by what you hear, but itвЂ™s probably got at least a grain of truth in it. You can, and probably should, include asking yourself!
Build up a more accurate reflection of your current habits — developing self awareness this way puts you in a better position to do something about those issues you want to tackle.
2. Clarify what you love
Once you know what your days and weeks consist of and youвЂ™ve given (and been given) some thought to whatвЂ™s out of balance, ask yourself this crucial question:
“What would I love to do more of?”
More of the same? Keep doing what you do. But I guess you want more time for some things and less for others — thatвЂ™s why youвЂ™re reading this, right?
Make a list of the things you want to be doing more of. Exercise? A hobby? Time with family and friends? Balancing work and family is an art in itself.
Whatever it is, be clear about what you want more of — when you are, the only question is ‘how?’
3. Learn to limit and build boundaries
This is right at the heart of good time management. Setting limits is hard at first, particularly if youвЂ™re not used to doing it, or you tend to work the wrong side of the 80-20 rule. But the more you do it, the easier balancing becomes.
Solution? Start small. Pick just one boundary
you can put in place to begin with.
Could you time box 15 minutes each day for something or someone you love? How about going home from work at set times on set days, starting with one day a week? Once youвЂ™ve built one boundary, make anotherвЂ¦ and another.
The same goes for routines. Look for ways to schedule more of what you love. Fence off a regular date to, say, enjoy a meal, rent a movie, or be with someone special. This tends to work best divided into weeks, so use a weekly planner to ensure you вЂpay yourself firstвЂ™.
The cumulative effect of all this adds up. You become more balanced because you feel you are.
4. Increase efficiency
Most people could do what they have to do, to the same degree of quality, but quicker. WeвЂ™ve all got habits that cause us to drag out our work. The result? Less time to do, be or have what we love (which could and, ideally, should include work itself).
How to do that? By gradually learning time management skills and how to get organized so that you waste as little time as possible.
This applies whatever your circumstances, whether you’re in a pressured results only work environment, faced with too much time on your hands, or dealing with some other kind of challenge.
This goes for anything that isnвЂ™t directly related to your work, or doing what you love.
ItвЂ™s tempting to think that multi tasking is an efficient use of time, and it can be when used appropriately. But maximum efficiency is achieved when you work at work and leave it there when you leave your workplace, wherever that happens to be.
Final thoughts on work life balance.
Work life balance can always be improved. Circumstances and situations are never the same for long. The ebb and flow of work, responsibility and desire for what we want are constantly changing.
Make it a habit to review your situation on a regular basis and adjust accordingly.
As with all time management issues, itвЂ™s impossible to ever вЂachieveвЂ™ a good work life balance — it’s like being on a tight rope — you’re only okay for as long as you keep your balance.
Rather, itвЂ™s about adopting a kaizen approach to the systems, structures and habits we use to make us feel we have a healthy balance between work and life.
Want to use your time at work more effectively and efficiently?
Free up more time to use as you choose