Feeling overworked can lead to stress and decrease your motivation at work. Finding a balance between working effectively and having enough time and energy to enjoy life outside of work is important to your long-term success.
Modern technology has made it possible to work outside the office. Whether you are working towards a promotion, have a heavy workload or have a gig-based income, achieving a healthy work-life balance can be difficult when you can continue working at all times.
In this article, we will discuss what work-life balance is, how you can achieve it and how it can benefit your career.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the act of adjusting your time and mental capacity used on work and on your life outside of work. This adjustment should allow you to both complete all tasks and assignments required from you at work in a timely manner while also having the energy to spend on personal interests, hobbies, family and friends or simply relaxing.
This balance will allow you to maintain motivation at work to achieve long-term career goals and genuinely enjoy your time outside of work by being able to focus on the activity at hand. This doesn’t necessarily mean an equal balance, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution you should be striving for. An ideal work-life balance is one where you feel like you’ve been productive at work while still having the time to enjoy life outside the office.
The benefits of work-life balance
Making work-life balance a priority can lead to higher productivity and longer tenure at a single company. Content employees perform work at a higher level, which often means better results for the company. If you find that work-life balance is not prioritized at your organization, you might consider opening up a dialogue with your supervisor about the ways supporting work-life balance can benefit you and their larger team. Longer hours and bigger workloads without a path to balance will likely have the opposite effect on what they’re hoping to achieve.
How to balance work and home
While achieving work-life balance should be achieved in whatever way is best for you, here are several tips for balancing life and work:
- Turn off your computer or put away your work
- Limit time-wasting activities
- Revisit your schedule
- Communicate with your employer
- Practice stress management techniques
Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires constant attention. At times you will likely feel pulled one way or another, but working towards prioritizing both work and life outside of work is the goal. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips and how you can apply them in your own work.
1. Turn off your computer or put away your work
We have more access to work than ever before, which makes it hard to leave it behind after a full workday. While this level of accessibility has its benefits, it can also become a problem if you can never mentally put work away. If it is available to you and your position, try turning off your notifications and avoid checking your emails outside standard work hours.
To support these efforts, set boundaries with your co-workers or clients. The more you answer their calls, emails or texts after hours, the more they’ll come to rely on all-day access to you. Emphasize the fact that you’ll only communicate during business hours but have a plan in place for how you can be contacted should an emergency arise. With time, you can develop more control by not reacting to work updates on your own time.
Sometimes, bringing work home can’t be avoided. When you need to work outside the office, give yourself a time limit and don’t work beyond it. If you have a position that requires you to be alert to notifications at all times, focus on the following ways you can increase work-life balance.
2. Limit time-wasting activities
While taking breaks and engaging occasional mindless activities can sometimes be helpful, focus on prioritizing important tasks so you are able to get your work done at work. If you’re having trouble prioritizing your activities, identify tasks that are urgent and/or will result in high impact with low input. If tasks are not urgent, have low impact or will take a long time to produce value, make these lower on your list. The goal is to get the most value out of your workday so you can enjoy your time outside of work.
If procrastination is an issue for you, break longterm projects out into milestones to complete throughout the week or month. If you set your own hours, make it a point to only focus on work during a certain block of time. Determine which hours you want to work on a task and get to it. Set an alarm, if necessary, so you’re only focusing on the task until the alarm sounds. Avoiding distractions during the workday can help you achieve balance over time.
3. Revisit your schedule
In some cases, achieving a healthy work-life balance requires schedule changes. For example, if you had to work extra hours to complete a certain project, you might consider canceling or rescheduling other obligations that evening to ensure you have the time and mental space to recharge and achieve balance.
Learning delegation, both at work and at home, can help you focus your time on tasks that will help you work towards balance. At work, identify any areas where restructuring makes sense. For example, maybe there are tasks you can hand off to someone else who has more availability. Maybe it makes sense to complete your project in a group rather than individually.
4. Communicate with your employer
Maintaining an open line of communication with your manager about your workload is crucial to achieving work-life balance. Your supervisor is responsible for ensuring you are achieving goals both for the company and in your personal career. If you feel burned out or overworked, they will likely be unaware unless you tell them directly. Be honest and professional during these conversations, and offer possible solutions. This might mean hiring more people, redistributing workloads or offering resources for professional development skills like setting boundaries or time management.
5. Practice work-life balance stress management techniques
Even when you are applying the above tips for achieving work-life balance, you may still experience stress or anxiety from work. While you should choose a healthy stress-relief method that works for you, there are a few common activities that can reduce stress and anxiety so you can enjoy your time outside of work:
Regular exercise is a common stress-reliever that can help take your mind off work and improve your sleep. Find movement you enjoy and make it a priority in your weekly schedule.
Meditation is another option to try incorporating into your daily routine. Try a 10 or 15-minute deep-breathing routine during your morning commute or guided meditation before bed.
Consider any of your own personal interests or hobbies that have helped you relieve stress. Whether you like to paint, read, crochet, bake or hike, incorporating these activities into your life regularly can help you focus on your life outside of work.
How you keep a work-life balance depends on your own priorities and responsibilities. Setting boundaries and leaving work at the office is most effective and can help you maintain motivation at work. In the long term, paying attention to your work-life balance can help you be more successful in your career.