It’s hard to shut off after working all day. It’s just one more email, right? Then, before you know it, it’s nearly midnight. You’ve missed out on most of your day, and you haven’t seen your family. What happened?
Maintaining a balance between your work and personal life is key to a healthy lifestyle. You spend at least a third of your life working, and every time you work overtime you’re greatly decreasing your free time. It’s not bad to want to excel in your career, but you can’t do so at the cost of your health or sanity.
Here’s how to best improve your work/life balance.
Consequences of poor work/life balance
Failing to manage your work/life balance can negatively impact your career and personal life:
- Misaligned expectations. When you’re working 50+ hours a week, it doesn’t provide a realistic expectation of the amount of work you can accomplish. This can create a vicious cycle, where more and more is expected of you and leads to longer hours. It may even impact your coworkers who are working normal hours, implying they’re not getting enough done.
- Health problems.If you’re working longer hours, it’s likely you’re staying up later and getting less sleep. Sleep deprivation is incredibly bad for your health and has been linked to issues like cardiovascular disease and stroke. Those who work unrealistic hours experience high levels of stress, leading to higher rates of anxiety, depression and heart disease.
- Burnout. If you don’t take time to decompress, you may become so stressed you start to experience burnout at work. Signs of burnout include cynicism, lack of energy, loss of motivation and little to no satisfaction in your achievements. Adjusting your work/life balance tends to help avoid burnout.
Tips to improve your work/life balance
1. Get rid of distractions
When it’s time to work, you need to focus entirely on work. You might find that, had you worked instead of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, you would have been able to finish everything on your list during the workday. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break—in fact, they’ve been shown to —but breaks should be planned and for a set amount of time. Random wayside distractions can demolish your productivity.
2. Share the load
Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with delegating a task. If you have direct reports, you should be willing to let them rise to the responsibility. Even if you don’t directly supervise anyone, you can still talk with your boss and coworkers about sharing the work. Delegating is one of the most valuable skills you can learn, helping you to be more effective in your work and teaching responsibility to your staff.
It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees and get caught up doing minor tasks just so we can check items off our to-do list. When you start your day, make a list of the tasks that need to be accomplished before you get anything else done. Think to yourself, does this task need to be completed right away? Today? This week? Establishing a clear list can help you to stay on task, even when you may have a hundred different things going on.
4. Set limits
Ultimately, you need to set limits on the amount of work you’ll do. Start by tapering the extra hours and give yourself some time to acclimate. It may not be possible to completely avoid working outside normal hours, but you can set limits for minor tasks and emails that can wait until you’re in the office.
5. Take care of yourself
We’ve all heard the phrase, “When the plane’s going down, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first.” Simply put, it means you have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. When you’re working in a high-stress situation, you need to be able to allocate time to take care of yourself. Mark off some time each week to do something you enjoy: volunteer, read a book, spend time playing games with your family or prepare a healthy meal. Taking time to detox and relax can help you better manage life’s stressors.
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