Poor work/life balance can cause stress, unhappiness and reduced productivity. Unfortunately, it's very easy to fall into bad habits that mean you're spending much more of your mental energy on your work life than on your personal life. Here are 9 tips on how to stay balanced.
1. Spread your oranges evenly
The 12 oranges analogy is a way of making sure you're spending equal amounts of time on the important things in life.
You have four buckets, labelled 'family', 'friends', 'work' and 'me'. You also have 12 oranges. Based on how much mental energy you spend on them, how are your oranges divided between the four buckets? To maintain a balanced life and good mental health, your 12 oranges should ideally be equally divided between the four buckets.
Are your oranges evenly distributed?
2. Stop 'multi-tasking'
Humans can't multitask. Our brains just aren't wired that way. When we say we're 'multitasking', what we're actually doing is 'task-switching'. Every time we switch from one task to another, our brains take time to refocus. Instead of increasing productivity, task-switching is actually a less efficient way of completing tasks.
You might be task-switching because you haven't worked out which of your tasks is the most important. Prioritise your tasks first, then tackle them in order. Complete each task before moving on to the next one. By doing this you'll be more productive and your work won't encroach on your personal life.
3. Keep fit
Fitness keeps you motivated, focused and energized. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day is enough to boost your general health and well-being, as well as reduce stress, improve memory and increase productivity, so make time to get to the gym or go for a run.
Try to exercise in the morning. Exercising early gives you energy and endorphins to tackle your work day. Exercising at night gives you energy right before you go to bed, which isn't ideal.
4. Treat your personal commitments as seriously as your work ones
Use the same calendar for your personal commitments as your work ones, rather than trying to juggle multiple calendars. That way you won't forget about anything and you're more likely to treat everything with the same level of importance.
Most importantly, adhere to your schedule! Don't blow off your personal commitments - force yourself to step away from your desk. Distracting yourself from a task or problem gives your brain the chance to work on it in the background - you'll return with renewed energy and possibly a solution!
5. Get serious about saying 'no'
Don't be afraid to say 'no' when people ask you to take on additional tasks. This might be in your work life, such as attending a meeting that isn't crucial to your workload or helping your colleague with one of their own tasks, or in your personal life, such as a request to coach your child's sport team.
If an opportunity just doesn't fit into your schedule, you need to feel confident about turning it down and not feeling guilty about it. Even if you do have time for it, is it something that's worth you spending time on over other, possibly more important, activities?
6. Be ruthless
Chances are you have a lot of things that you'd like to do, both in your work life and your personal life, but only a limited amount of time in which to get around to everything.
Therefore, you need to be aware of which things are most important to you and focus on achieving them rather than letting yourself be distracted by other things that perhaps aren't as worthy of your time.
7. Leave work on time
You're not doing anybody any favours by starting work early and leaving late. Working long days every day of the week is not something to be proud of. In reality, you'll be a better employee, parent, partner and friend if you take the time to achieve balance in your life.
While it may be necessary to put in extra hours every so often when you have a large project to finish by a certain deadline, this should not be the norm.
On top of this, once you've left the office for the day, try to stop thinking about work. Don't take your work home with you. If you must, write down any work-related thoughts you have so you can revisit them once you're back in the office.
8. Get enough sleep
This isn't a new idea, but it's as important now as it ever was. Getting enough sleep is absolutely crucial to staying healthy and productive. Try to get the same amount of sleep every night, preferably in complete 90-minute cycles.
It's also a good idea to wind down prior to bedtime by doing something calm like reading, meditation or yoga. There are plenty of apps out there which can help you wind down and de-stress whenever you feel you need to.
9. Take advantage of teleworking technologies
If your employer allows teleworking, take advantage of this. In the modern world, it's becoming increasingly less necessary for workers to be tied to the office during business hours every day. By using technology such as teleconferencing and web conferencing, you can still communicate efficiently and effectively with your coworkers, whether they're located in the office or spread across the country or even the world. With these conferencing options, there are no communication limits.
If your employer doesn't currently allow teleworking, perhaps try and raise the idea with them, as teleworking offers advantages for employers as well as employees. Teleworkers can be more productive because they do not experience the interruptions that are common in an office environment.
Allowing employees to work from home can also prevent an office flu outbreak. Employees will often drag themselves into the office while sick because they don't want to miss out on pay, they don't want to burden their colleagues by creating a staff shortage, or they don't want their workload to pile up. However, teleworking allows employees to work comfortably from home while keeping themselves safely isolated from their colleagues, saving the business thousands of dollars.
If you feel like your work/life balance is out of kilter, try using these 9 tips to regain your balance and live a healthier, more productive life both at work and at home.