In this digital era of 24 x 7 work emails, social media, and hyper-connectivity, attaining work-life balance seems like searching for the mythical unicorn. Everyone wants a strand of shiny unicorn hair, but no one really knows how to get it.
Recognizing the Issue
For years, I found it difficult to draw the line between work and the rest of my life. Answering work emails at the dinner table, joining conference calls while on vacation, setting my status as “Always Available” were a few things that I proudly wore as badges of honor.
It was only when I started to notice signs of burnout, that I stopped to think. I realized that I could be more productive, improve my relationships, and above all, live a happier and healthier life by focusing on achieving work-life balance. The best part? My performance improved dramatically in all spheres of life, including work.
The Secrets to Achieving the Elusive Work-Life Balance
Here are a few ways to get more out of your work and life, by striking the perfect balance. These tips are based on my personal experience, and I understand that one size does not fit all. That said, I hope these ideas help you get started on the right track.
Tip #1: Recognize Your Current Clock and Figure out Your Ideal Clock
Use a diary or a mobile app to track how you spend your time on a typical workday and during the weekends. Divide your time into different circles like work, family, chores, fun, hobby, commute, etc. Take a look at your time circles. Are they fairly distributed or do you find a particular circle looming over the others?
The next step is to draw your ideal time circles. This is how you believe your time should be split. Work on moving from your current time circles to your ideal ones.
Tip #2: Be Open about Your Priorities
I believe that the first step in achieving work-life balance is to identify your priorities and communicate them with others. If you aren’t able to vocalize your priorities, then how can you expect your boss or friends to respect them?
Let your boss know that you’ll be unavailable for work calls every evening from 6 to 8 pm, when you have dinner with your kids. Need to step away from work by 5pm so you can attend your yoga class? Let your colleagues and boss know about it.
Whatever your priorities are, you need to be transparent about them. Ensure that you have an open discussion with your manager at work, and figure out ways to make it happen. While it’s true that different jobs have varying requirements, having an open and honest conversation can take you closer to achieving the balance.
Tip #3: Respect Your Boundaries and Don’t Overstep
This one’s a continuation of the previous point. Once you lay down your priorities, the next step is to respect the boundaries you have set up.
For instance, if you keep on replying to work emails from the dining table, then there’s no point in letting your boss know that you’re unavailable from 6 to 8. This may be difficult to practice at first, but you need to develop a routine and stick to it.
Remember, there will always be another email, another chat to reply to, but you need to start working on respecting your boundaries if you want others to respect them.
Tip #4: Unplug
There’s no arguing the fact that technology has made our lives so much better. However, one of the biggest drawbacks of technology is that it has created unrealistic expectations. And we now are expected to be constantly available.
The workday never seems to come to a close. According to a recent report, 40% of employees in the US believe that it’s okay to answer work emails at the dinner table. However, a whopping 57% agree that technology has ruined family dinners.
Studies have found that this “always-on” mode not only deteriorates other aspects of your life but also impacts your health significantly.
According to Professor Robert Brooks, co-author of the book, “The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life,” phone alerts and notifications add stress to your routine. There are times when you should switch off and unplug.
Make quality time count. And, don’t spoil it by constantly looking at your phone for work updates. So, the next time you go to your kid’s soccer game or a dinner out with the family, make sure to unplug.
Tip #5: The Power of Me Time – It’s Okay to be Selfish at Times
If you want to become the best possible version of yourself, then you need to start working on yourself. Dedicate a fixed time every day to do something that you truly enjoy – something that rejuvenates and relaxes you.
Hit the gym, meditate, catch up on your favorite TV show, read, go out with your friends, play with your kids, try gardening – whatever you absolutely love.
Schedule 30 minutes of every day for some quality me time. And, remember don’t skip this time when your calendar starts to get busy.
Tip #6: Escape the Clutches of Perfectionism
Okay, you may have been a perfectionist right from grade school. But remember that, as you go up the corporate ladder and build your family, your responsibilities begin to double or even triple. It’s difficult to maintain perfectionism, and it can easily take a toll on your life.
One of the key ways to find fulfillment at work is to let go of perfectionism. As you take on more responsibilities, perfectionism stresses you both emotionally and physically. Instead, strive to achieve excellence in your work. This not only makes you feel less burdened but also keeps you happier.
Tip #7: Above All, Learn to Say “No”
This is extremely important. Sure, you’re going to be bombarded with requests, opportunities, and plenty other things. But remember that – you should do only what you want to do. Don’t feel pressured into saying “yes” when your heart screams “no.”
Sure, there may be a few bruised egos or bruised relationships in the process, but ultimately it will all work out. Develop the confidence to lead your life on your own terms and say “yes” only to things that really matter.
The Choice Is Yours
Finally, remember this – all of us, from top CEOs to working moms and dads, everyone has only 24 hours in a day. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend them.
You can live with the constant stress of trying to juggle myriad things, or take a step back, analyze, and create a life filled with balance. One that gives you meaning, contentment, and happiness.
Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve to attain better work-life balance? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.