They say life's a balancing act. Walk the high beam like a pro.
Life's fluidity demands a certain flexibility in both work and personal activities, and trying to schedule equal time for each can be frustrating and seemingly impossible. Some jobs have set schedules — when you leave for the day, the work stays behind until the next day. However, as technology evolves and there are more opportunities to telecommute, the line between work and life blurs. Is it OK to throw a load of laundry in the wash between conference calls? What about taking 20 minutes to mow the lawn between meetings?
As more and more employees work from home full-time and everyone has 24/7 access to email, achieving a better work-life balance may not seem like an easily attainable goal. However, both workers and businesses benefit when you are able to find that balance. So, how can you juggle the pressure of both worlds without causing yourself additional stress? Below are seven tips to help you get started.
1. Drop activities that drain your time or energy
It's easy to get sucked into habits that make us less efficient without us realizing it, like keeping your Facebook tab open at work so you don't miss something “important.” Do an inventory of activities that don't enhance your life or career — and minimize the amount of time you spend on them.
It's hard to say “no,” especially when it's to a supervisor, co-workers, or a loved one, but sometimes that powerful little word is the key to achieving work-life balance. Will the office really collapse in on itself if you don't chair one more committee? Can someone else help out at the school dance next weekend? Learn to use “no” judiciously and it will become a powerful tool in balancing work and your personal life.
2. Rethink how you complete errands and chores
A good friend of mine was quite good at achieving work-life balance, managing to make great career strides while also juggling the crazy needs of her family of five. Her advice? Life's too short to stress over dust bunnies. For example, she decided that the last thing she wanted to do in her free time was clean, so she hired a cleaning service that scrubs her house twice a month.
Are there errands you could outsource to someone else? What about ordering your groceries online with a service like FreshDirect or hiring a dog walker through Wag!? Check out Lifehacker's infographic on the services you can use to outsource your chores.
Another option is to trade services with friends. The next time you get together with your friends, brainstorm how you can help each other out, save some money, and spend time doing tasks you enjoy that others might dread.
3. Get a move on
Exercise is not just good for your body — it's also good for your mind. Finding time to hit the gym may be hard during the workday when you have a jam-packed schedule, but it will ultimately help you get more things done. Studies have found that exercise releases endorphins, boosts energy, and increases your ability to concentrate.
If the gym's not an option, are there people in your neighborhood you could meet several mornings a week before work to go for a brisk 20-minute walk with? If mornings are a no-go, how about stepping away from your desk at lunchtime for a stroll? Remember: It's all about work-life balance.
There will always be another client, another email, or another fire that needs tending, but it's important to know when to say “enough” and step away. Trust that someone else can work the problem or that the problem isn't so dire that you can't deal with it during the next business day.
Study after study shows that people desperately need more sleep and that sleep deprivation affects their health and well-being. Exposure to electronics right before bed can negatively impact the quality of your sleep as well, so try to unplug an hour before bedtime.
As an added bonus: The last thoughts you have as you drift into slumber won't be fixating on an upcoming meeting. Maybe instead, they will be about a recipe you want to try for dinner next week or a long-awaited night out. That sounds much better.
5. Find time for yourself
What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself with no demands or pressure? Would you binge-watch every episode of your favorite show? Curl up with a novel? While most people don't have the luxury of a whole day dedicated to relaxation, constantly putting off that downtime and putting everyone's needs before your own will wear you down and make it even more difficult to meet all those other demands.
Whether it's 30 minutes to curl up with your favorite magazine after the kids are in bed or an hour-long run before work, pick a time to do something just for you. Even just a few minutes of "me time" a day will help to recharge your batteries and be better for your mental health.
6. Communicate your needs
Don't assume your family and manager are aware of your concerns. If you need to adjust your schedule to find a better work-life balance, then voice those needs. If that means asking your boss for permission to leave a few minutes early once a week so you can hit that yoga class on the way home, do it.
7. Pace yourself
All new habits require time to build, so if you find yourself sneaking your iPhone into bed and, three hours later, you're finally escaping the clutches of Instagram, that's OK. Leave your phone downstairs tomorrow night. Little steps are the key to finding that work-life balance, so start small and go from there.
Most of all, know your boundaries and what works best for you. Then you can decide what really matters and prioritize the actions you take.
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