A healthy work-life balance should stand as a top priority for all of us.
Sweden’s 6-hour working day experiment has been one of this year’s hot topics. Although the idea has ultimately been deemed too costly, it has served as a healthy reminder of the benefits of maintaining a work-life balance.
Less time working often means more time for relaxing and indulging in personal hobbies and interests. Stronger relationships with friends and family often benefit too, resulting in better overall wellbeing, which in turn provides greater energy and focus while you are at work.
The trouble is too many of us forget, or simply neglect to acknowledge the importance of a work-life balance. The issues created by overworking abound as a result.
Weeks dominated by hectic work schedules are all too common. And simply recuperating from the stress and fatigue brought on by these gruelling schedules often clog up the scant spare time afforded to those who endure them.
And, aside from the obvious discontent brought on by stress and fatigue, when left unchecked, they can form slippery slopes that descend into more serious health complications. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression, and fatigue to burnout.
Lower productivity always comes as an unwelcome side effect of all these maladies. And, troublingly, longer working hours are all too often the snake oil prescribed to treat lower productivity. And when this affliction is mistaken for a remedy, a vicious cycle emerges where discontent deepens and productivity continues to decline.
So here are some tips to help bring about that much needed balance.
Learn to say no
Lets face it, some bosses can be a little too keen, and in some cases this can be an understatement.
So if you’re overloaded or your workload is already at maximum capacity when more work comes in, say so. Sometimes bosses may not even be aware of the undue pressures they’re pilling on, and always saying yes to more work will only exacerbate this problem.
Establish a clear boundary
Work means work and free time means free time. At least that’s how it should be. The rise of email and social media has helped to worsen a pernicious blurring of this boundary.
It’s best to refrain from checking work emails and social media activity at home unless absolutely necessary. In fact, where possible, try to switch work out of your mind when at home altogether. If you’re doing your job properly, you’ll likely be thinking about work enough while you’re at work.
This rule applies in parallel too. When you’re at work, your work should always be the centre of your attention.
Overworking is more often the destabiliser of a work-life balance. Excessively dwelling on, or chatting about personal issues at work will cloud your focus and decrease your productivity too, leading to longer work hours and potentially the aforementioned ills of overworking.
Optimise your working hours
Stay focused, and stay organised too. ‘Perfectionism is procrastination’ as a clever, productive person once said. And they were right.
Labouring over finer details for too long is a poor investment of time. When you do, the improvements you make will often be of little grand significance. Time is better spent drawing the line and moving on the other things that are waiting on your to do list.
Don’t rush work, but do maintain momentum. Again, it’s about striking the balance.
Organise your time effectively by prioritising tasks and delegating set time limits for each. Observe your intricate new time management plans strictly. It’s likely you’ll be amazed by how much more you can get done.
Enjoy your free time
As the term implies, a healthy work-life balance concerns your personal life every bit as much as your vocation.
Unless you’re one of the very lucky few that whole-heartedly loves doing what they do, there’s probably one, or a number of things that you enjoy doing more than working.
So – and hopefully this is stating the obvious – spend your free time doing the things you enjoy. Fun and laughter are among the best boosters for your wellbeing and should be had whenever possible.
Vegetating in front of junk television and flushing hours down the drain on social media don’t count though. They’ll do nothing for you or your wellbeing.
If digital time-sinks such as these have ensnared your free time, then consider the things you could be doing instead. Joining sports and social groups are a great excuse for getting out. As are date nights and meet ups with friends and family. Enjoying your own company can be great too, creative hobbies such as drawing or playing a musical instrument are excellent ways to get some escape and enjoy a little time to yourself. And, they’re great stress-busters too! So, whatever you do for fun, make sure you do it regularly.
Mark personal events in calendars and set aside regular time each week for your hobbies. This will make it much more likely that your commitments to enjoying yourself are upheld – and be strict.
We’re all different, and we all work in jobs with varying degrees of stressfulness. So it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine a number for how many working hours can be defined as ‘too many’. It’s best to listen to what your body is telling you.
If recurring bouts of debilitating tiredness or on going stress are chronic features of your day-to-day life, then these are the tell tale signs that your work-life balance is out of sync.
Equally, working hard and striving towards your career goals is often rewarding and shouldn’t be discouraged. But your health and wellbeing should always remain your first priority.
Work to live; don’t live to work.
Keep this in mind and you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy work-life balance.