Today, the prospect of gaining a healthy balance between work and life is a dream that few can ever put into practice. With an additional stress on us all to have successful careers, the fear of job loss incentivises working longer hours to ‘prove your worth’. In fact, a recent study from Harvard Business School states that 94% of working professionals reported working in excess of 50 hours a week, with nearly half of them saying that they actually work over 65 hours a week. This of course leaves very little time for much else and before we know where we are, weeks and months have passed without seeing friends or taking time out for ourselves. The never-ending working day can seriously damage our relationships, physical and mental well-being and ultimately our happiness. The term “work-life balance” can mean completely different things to every individual but overall an equal division of work pressure to down time is essential for a happier, more balanced life. Here are our top tips to help you find the right balance that works for you.
Perfection isn’t a thing.
From a young age, a lot of over achievers develop perfection tendencies – which is a lot easier to maintain when your balance is between school grades, hobbies and occasionally a weekend job. As we grow up, more factors are thrown into the mix and life gets more complicated. With tough deadlines, office politics, mortgage payments, maintaining relationships and trying to drink enough water – there is a lot more for us to juggle and it’s ok if we can’t do it all. You leave work thinking you could have done something better and have a desperate urge to return, but you don’t need to. Perfection is not a thing - just be sure you’re doing the best you can.
Make lists. Then stick to them.
Make use of to-do lists. If you find yourself waking up in the night thinking about all the things you’ve still yet to do – you’re going to exhaust yourself before the working day even begins. Prioritise and plan in the form of a list (if that works for you). Stick to this as best you can. Your daily tasks will probably change countless times but having a list of the most important things will help you to keep track. Planning should also help you to switch off as you know that everything you have to do is accounted for and ready for you in black and white when you return to the office. Equally so – if you make plans out of work, it is important to stick to this routine. You will be tired regardless of whether you attend or not, so force yourself to that gym class, or out for that dinner, you will feel better for it.
Learn to say no.
As a nation, we have an obsessive need to please. We are more than keen to make ourselves available to our bosses 24/7 and as a result, we become overwhelmed with the amount of work we have to do. This is when our work comes home with us, because there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete everything. It is ok to say no. If you struggle with this concept, why not try deferring tasks to a time that’s more convenient to you. You don’t necessarily have to say no outright but make yourself less readily available, so that you can dictate your own priorities.
Technology has made the world we live in much more accessible but this has also created expectations that we as people are also always accessible too. If you’re going on holiday or taking time off, do the same from your phone. Checking your emails can be too tempting but this will mean your mind is not fully switched off from work. Robert Brooks, a professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School says that the interruption of mobile notifications not only disrupts your time off but injects an undercurrent of stress in your system. Remove yourself from technology and social media - replace your scrolling with books. Get engrossed in a good fiction, not edited selfies. Read pages, not posts.
Get some exercise.
No matter how busy we are, we will always find time for the crucial things. We eat, we sleep – yet we don’t find time for exercise which is essential for our well-being. As a proven stress reliever, pumping endorphins through your body, it’s terrible that this is the first thing to go when our diaries start to fill up. It is widely recommended that we dedicate a few hours a week to self-care, whether that be in the form of exercise or meditation. If you find you don’t have the time, start with small deep breathing exercises during your commute. Leave your transport at home and walk. Or while you’re catching up on your favourite series, do an at home work-out at the same time. Even these small changes will make an impact to your overall health. These exercises require minor effort but offer major payoffs.
Do what’s right for you.
If you’re happy working overtime and focussing on excelling in your career – don’t let others tell you that this isn’t right. For the ambitious, career progression takes centre stage in their life aspirations and hierarchy of needs. Do be careful to allow time for yourself so that when you are in work you can give 110% of yourself. Find an out to help you switch off completely, something that works for you and allows you to turn your mind off so that you can rest without dreaming of the office. Your happiness and health are the most important factors in life. Take time to reflect on what you really want and what’s no longer as important as you once thought. Don’t forget, you’re doing a great job.