Presented by BetterHelp.
When we’re reaching for success at work, it’s easy to lose track of other areas of our lives that matter to us. But how do you find the right balance between your work responsibilities and your home life? In this article, we’ll share science-backed tips on how to strike the perfect work-life balance, so that you can find success in all areas of your life.
What Exactly Is Work-Life Balance?
While it may seem like working non-stop can get you further in your career, it can actually lead to burnout. It’s important to also prioritize our wants and needs outside of the workplace. With only so much time in a day, this can be difficult to juggle. Work-life balance is a term for that sweet spot where all your goals, not just career goals, are being achieved.
With today’s technology, the physical boundary between your workplace and home gets increasingly blurred. Smartphones give us constant access to our work, and make it difficult to “turn off” at the end of the day. Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you actually relaxed or spent time with loved ones.
The ideal work-life balance looks different for everyone. It’s all about pinpointing what’s important to you in life and making enough time for all of those things to flourish. This comes down to carefully prioritizing your time.
Signs Your Work-Life Balance Could Be Better
Not sure if you have a healthy work-life balance? See if you recognize any of these tell-tale signs that you need to re-examine your priorities.
You Constantly Feel Worn-Out
When we’re stressed, our brains and muscles go into overdrive, which causes our bodies to feel fatigued and achy. Some signs that you might be overly stressed include:
• Tense, sore muscles
• Low mood
• Coming down with a cold
These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that it’s overloaded and needs a break. Without taking enough time to relax, your immune system can get lower, making you susceptible to illness. Ignoring your body’s signs that it needs some downtime can result in burnout, which would prevent you from being able to work at all.
You Always Sign Up for Overtime
Hey, extra hours sound appealing because it’s extra money, right? But working too many hours is a sign that your priorities might be out of balance. If you find yourself spending more time at the office than at home, you may want to think again before taking on overtime.
If your job involves an endless stream of work, you may not ever feel like you’re caught up. In this case, you might want to think twice before putting in overtime to try and get all your tasks accomplished.
If you work from home, it can become even easier for work to take up too much of your time. Perfectionism might keep you working on projects for longer as you try to get them exactly right.
You Have Zero Time for Yourself
If just looking at your week’s schedule makes you shudder, it’s likely that your work-life balance isn’t right. When was the last time you had a night out or sat through a funny movie without checking your phone for work emails? If it was so long ago that it seems a distant memory, you’re working yourself too hard.
When your life revolves around work, it might seem like you’re never able to run all your errands or make those important phone calls. Tasks get put on the back burner, and before you know it, months have gone past without making progress on your personal to-do list.
You’re Out of Touch with Friends and Family
How long has it been since you had a really solid hang-out with your friends, or even a catch-up on the phone? When your work-life balance is off, you no longer have enough time to spend quality time with your loved ones, and your relationships start to grow distant. Too much time at work can cause you to miss important family moments, or opportunities to connect over dinner.
Overworking yourself can also strain the relationships you have at the office. If you’ve noticed yourself snapping at coworkers or getting irritated by small things they do, it could be happening because you’re too stressed.
You’re a Literal Mess
When you’re putting all of your energy and focus into work, you don’t have enough time to keep things organized and tidy. This can manifest itself as a disorganized office space, a cluttered mind, and even a messy appearance.
When your workspace is a mess, it often makes it harder to focus on work and puts you in a mental block, significantly lowering your productivity. That means the time you’re saving by not cleaning up isn’t time saved at all.
You Always Seem To Be Behind Schedule
If you are constantly in a state of trying to catch up with work but you keep missing deadlines, that’s a sign that you’re probably overworking yourself. When one deadline goes over, the next one follows, causing a snowball effect of always being behind schedule.
When your body and mind are highly stressed, the quality of work you are able to put out is significantly lower, which actually slows you down. This equals out to working harder than you need to and getting less done.
How Do You Find the Right Work-Life Balance?
Want to check off more boxes in your life and start living a more well-rounded existence? Here are some pro tips on how to find a work-life balance that’s right for you.
1. Choose a Job You (Really) Love
Imagine waking up each morning excited to get started on your workday. That’s the reality for people who do what they love for a living. Your job doesn’t have to be something that you force yourself to go through with each day – if you choose a career doing something you genuinely enjoy, it doesn’t feel like effort at all.
If it pains you to work your current job, it’s not the right place for you. Consider beginning to look for a new career path. Ask yourself questions to figure out what your perfect job might be:
• What activity do you love doing more than anything?
• How can you earn a living doing that thing you love?
• What are you really good at?
• What do you have to offer that’s valuable to others?
• What’s your dream career?
• How can you gain the skills to get that dream job?
Keep in mind, even when you have the best job in the world there will be days when you feel unmotivated or sick. But even on days like those, your passion for what you do will continue to get you out of bed in the morning.
2. Put Your Health First
Your physical and mental health should always be your top priority, because without those you won’t be able to work at all. Even if your employer makes you feel guilty, call in for a sick day when you know you really need one. Taking the time for your body to heal will mean your illness doesn’t become a more serious issue that makes you miss a lot more work.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that are causing you to fall behind with work, reaching out to a therapist can really help. Don’t have time to get across town to a therapy appointment every week? Being able to connect with a therapist from wherever you are is one of many online therapy benefits.
3. Work Set Hours
It’s very difficult to have a good work-life balance when your work keeps going past the normal clock-out time. To ensure that you have enough time for other important parts of your life, it’s a good idea to have a beginning and an end time to your workday that is set in stone. If possible, try to plan this schedule around the times when you are normally most productive.
Consciously stopping work at the end of your scheduled hours means no more checking emails or planning tomorrow’s workload in your mind. It may help to have a routine that you go through each day when you’ve finished work. Change into more comfortable clothes, make a cup of herbal tea, or put on some soothing music to signal that it’s time for relaxation, not work.
4. Schedule Time with Your Loved Ones
If you try to fit in quality time with your friends or family when you get enough of a break from work, you may find that you keep pushing back plans. Instead, make concrete plans with your loved ones and stick to them. Set aside these blocks of time in your calendar just as you do with meetings at work. Whether it’s a date night with your significant other or having your best friend over for dinner, people will appreciate you making time for them.
Keeping in touch with your support network of loved ones is very important for living a balanced life. They are the people who you can fall back on, so be there as their support in return.
5. Stay Fit
Regular exercise is an effective way to keep your body energized and healthy, which can in turn help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Recent studies have shown that staying active also impacts the way we think. Exercise can enhance our cognitive processing, allowing us to show up to our jobs and have a highly productive day.
You don’t have to pump weights at the gym after work every day to get the exercise you need for these results – just fitting in a 20-minute walk during your lunch break can significantly improve your productivity.
6. Find Ways To Save Time
You only have 24 hours in the day, so make the most of it by finding smart ways to save time. It starts with deciding on the most important areas of your life, then it’s all about spending your precious time focusing on those areas (rather than scrolling through Facebook or watching TV).
This may mean getting up an hour or two earlier each day to fit in important activities before you head off to work each day. Using a calendar or scheduling software to plan out your day is a good way to make sure you’re staying on track with your priorities.
7. Spend Time in Play Mode
Children love to play, but as we grow up, we stop spending time playing. Research has shown that engaging in fun activities is just as important for adults as it is for children – it stimulates creative thinking, relaxes us, and lets us keep a lighthearted attitude.
We’re not talking about playing with Legos (although you could if you wanted to). Play can be anything that brings you joy, preferably if it’s seemingly pointless fun. You could take a leisurely bike ride along the waterfront, dance to your favorite song, or play tug-of-war with your dog.
8. Get Some Sleep
When we don’t sleep well, it results in lower alertness, decision-making, and problem-solving. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our productivity and performance during the workday.
Some effective ways to ensure you get a quality night’s sleep are:
• Avoiding carbohydrates and alcohol before bed
• Avoiding screens before bed (including phones, tablets, and TVs)
• Winding down for the night by taking a bath or reading a book
A good work-life balance looks different for everyone. It comes down to prioritizing what’s most important to you and finding ways to still have time and energy for those things after work. This way you can enjoy a more balanced, fulfilling, and productive life.