We all covet work-life balance, but some of us have an easier time achieving it than others. Work-life balance is absolutely essential for mental health and success, but it can be difficult to develop a routine where you have enough time for work, social interaction, hobbies, and rest.
Regardless of what industry you are in, it’s important to take steps to cultivate work-life balance in a way that’s appropriate for your needs. If you focus too much on work, you are likely to get burnt out and neglect other important things in your life. However, if you focus too much on other aspects of your life, it becomes very difficult to meet your career goals and support yourself.
Here are some key tips that you can implement in your day-to-day life to achieve work-life balance.
Have a system for prioritizing tasks.
Unfortunately, you can’t always get everything done that you need to, and if you try to tackle everything at once, you’ll probably find yourself getting overwhelmed, which will affect the quality of your work. To prevent this, it’s important to develop a system for prioritizing everything you have to do, both at work and in your personal life. When possible, you should try to give equal weight to friends, family, and relaxation that you do to work tasks to ensure a more well-rounded life.
There are many different ways you can prioritize your tasks - many people use simple to-do lists, while others use more complex methods, like bullet journaling. There are many apps nowadays that are designed specifically for this kind of productivity. The key is to find a method you like and stick to it. Every day, outline the tasks that need to get done, and determine which ones are most urgent and which ones are most important. This will help you narrow down what things you should be focusing on. Obviously, things that are both urgent and important should come first. There are some things that might not be particularly urgent, but they are very important and worth finding a bit of time for in your day. Alternatively, there might be items that aren’t particularly important, but have a time limit or a deadline that you need to be aware of.
Stick to specific work hours
One of the biggest problems that many people face when trying to achieve work-life balance is that they don’t know when to stop working. They keep thinking, well, I’ll just do one more task, and then all of a sudden it’s time to go to bed, and they haven’t had any time to relax or socialize that day. To prevent this from happening to you, decide on set work hours that make sense for your job and stick to them. Leave time in your day to do things outside of work in this schedule. If you are a freelancer or have a job that is highly dependent on external factors, obviously your schedule may fluctuate at times, and that is okay. The key is to make sure you are being intentional about when you work and when you take breaks, so that work doesn’t take over your life.
Remember that your personal activities are just as important as work or social ones.
Many people are good at balancing their work and social lives, but don’t leave any times for themselves to focus on things that could really benefit their personal well-being. It’s important to find activities that you can do on your own that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Examples of this include exercise, cooking, reading, making art, or spending time with a pet. If you don’t have activities like this in your life, the first step is to find something that makes you feel relaxed that you can put your time and energy into. If you already have hobbies or personal activities you love, but you don’t feel like you spend enough time on them, start putting them into your schedule, and treat them with the importance you would give to a family activity or a work meeting. Once you start to value yourself in this way, you will likely notice that you feel healthier and happier.
Take regular breaks
This one seems simple, but it can be difficult to remember to take breaks when you are in the middle of an intense project. If you don’t make an effort to take breaks regularly, you will be much more likely to burn out and get frustrated. One easy technique you can use for this is called the Pomodoro technique. With this technique, you work for 25 minutes at a time, then take a five minute break. You do this four times in a row, and then take a longer 30 minute break. There are many apps and online timers that can help you do this. You can always adjust the timing of each session to account for your personal work needs as well. Taking regular breaks actually allows you to stay productive for longer periods of time throughout the day, and prevents you from getting too tense or overwhelmed by your tasks.
Turn off your phone
Technology is incredible for our productivity, but it can also be very overwhelming at times. If you find yourself glued to your phone constantly, make an effort to turn it off at certain points during the day so that you can relax and do something else. This will allow you to direct your whole focus to whatever is right in front of you instead of constantly being distracted. If you have a particularly hard time with this, there are actually apps you can use to lock yourself out of your phone for a certain period of time. Let your friends and coworkers know that you are planning on taking some time away from your phone so you can live healthier. Most people will understand, because we’re all facing similar challenges. If they don’t understand or try to put unreasonable demands on you, politely say no. It’s okay to take time to take care of yourself, because ultimately your health and happiness is more important than any one task.
Look forward to the positive things
When you are very busy and working hard all the time, it can feel like your entire life is devoted to the grind. This is a recipe for stress, which can lead to unhappiness and frustration. A good way to keep your mindset positive is to always have at least one positive thing in your life you are looking forward to. These things can be small, daily joys, like grabbing a drink at your favorite bar, or bigger excitements in your life, like seeing your favorite band, taking a hike somewhere new, or going on a trip. Put visual reminders of these things in places you will see them, like on your phone or on a sticky note in your office. If you don’t feel like you have anything positive to look forward to, schedule something! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time, and you will immediately feel just a little bit better knowing that something good is coming your way.
Give yourself a break
When you have a tendency to take on too much, it’s easy to be hard on yourself when things don’t turn out the way you want them to. When you find yourself being too hard or demanding on yourself, try to change your internal monologue to be more forgiving and understanding. For example, if you are very busy at work, it’s okay to stay home instead of having a wild night out with friends. If you’ve been traveling frequently, don’t beat yourself up for not having a clean house or going to the gym every day. Being productive requires some sacrifices every once in a while, and it’s okay if you can’t do it all. It can be hard to think more positively, but with practice, it can become a habit. By monitoring your internal monologue and being aware when you are negative or placing difficult demands on yourself, it becomes easier to make changes. Reframing your thoughts from, I feel bad about missing that event to I’m glad I’m taking time for myself can help you feel better.
Change your environment
Something else that can help you be more productive while also achieving a healthier mindset is changing your surroundings every once in a while. Ideally, you’d want to take a vacation somewhere that makes you happy a few times a year. This obviously isn’t always feasible, but there are a few different strategies you can use to get the feeling of being on vacation without spending so much money. Maybe you have a friend in another city you can go stay with for a weekend. You could also just take a quick day trip somewhere close by - you might even be able to take a train or a bus if you are looking to save money. If you can’t afford to take time off work, ask your boss if you can work remotely for a short period of time. This way, you won’t feel like you are shirking your duties, but you will get to experience the breath of fresh air that comes with being in a new place.
Keep your life organized before it gets hectic
When we get busy with work, it can be difficult to find time to do things like manage finances, go to the doctor, or even just run errands. Many people opt to put these things off in favor of focusing on work or social events, but it’s important to schedule them in before they become urgent and stressful. Block out a little bit of time each week to get these things done, and treat them with the importance you would give to a work obligation. You will be surprised at how much less stressed out you feel when you don’t have nagging worries about balancing your budget or getting a dental cleaning in the back of your mind.
Ask for help when you need it
If you’ve been feeling particularly stressed trying to juggle everything that’s happening in your life, you aren’t alone. The pace of working life is particularly hectic right now in our technology-fueled world, and many people are experiencing the same struggles that you are.
There are so many ways you can get support from the people around you. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed at work, don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you want to focus on work-life balance. Most work cultures are becoming more understanding of the importance of work-life balance, and they will most likely be willing to help you restructure your day so you feel less overwhelmed. You can also ask for help from your family and friends, whether you just need someone to vent to, or you need understanding from them about your busy schedule. The people who love you will be happy to help you succeed and be happy.
If you have been trying to find support in your life and you still are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to consider seeing a therapist. Even if you don’t struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, visiting a therapist can still help you relieve stress and find strategies to cope with challenging situations.
Without work-life balance, it’s hard to fully enjoy your life and give time to the things that are really important. A lot of good can come from being a hard worker, but if you don’t have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, is it really worth it? Remember, your life is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to take steps to avoid getting burned out and even developing health problems. Consistently evaluating the state of your work-life balance and taking steps to improve it is one of the best investments you can make in your personal well-being.