A lot of us are going to face situations in our lives where we feel like work has begun to take over or get to be too much. So, in challenging times like this, when many people are adapting to work differently, it can be even more important to set healthy boundaries around work. Looking at things in terms of work-life balance – how your time and energy are divided across different aspects of your life – can help.
Why work-life balance matters and when you should act
Of course, the idea of making things perfectly equal in all areas of your life at once can be impossible. Leisure, time with family or friends, and other out-of-work activities are all important to us. Sometimes you might really have to pay extra attention to your job, or you might feel that work has kept you from getting all the activities you want in your week. But when too much of your energy is constantly going to work, the effects can add up over time.
The problem is that a lack of work-life balance over a longer period of time can lead to burnout, which can be dangerous, so it is important to recognize the symptoms ahead of time. It may be difficult to recognize when you need to focus on restoring your work-life balance, but there are signs to look out for that you may not be aware of. Working for a long time without leaving your desk, checking emails when you need to be with your family or friends, working weekends, and having lunch and/or dinner at your desk are all signs that you don’t have a good work-life balance. It’s also important to take note of how you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally.
5 Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance
- Set boundaries at work and stick to them.
Technological advances make it possible for employers to offer flexible working environments, a job that employees consider very important, but these technological advances also mean that employees are accessible 24 hours a day. Sit down with your boss and discuss what your expectations are and set limits on things like your out-of-work availability to take calls and emails, and how often, if ever, you can work overtime. If you and your employer are clear about what you expect from each other, you are far less likely to fall into a pattern of working around the clock.
- Relax whenever you need to.
We all need time to be alone to relax and wind down. Taking some time off is nothing to be ashamed of and is actually an important part of being mentally and emotionally healthy. Even something as simple as reading a book or going out for coffee with a friend can do wonders for your emotional well-being. Plus, it’ll help you feel like you’re not spending all of your time at work. Just remember to turn off the iPhone, avoid all distractions, and really enjoy your ‘me’ time.
- Learn how to let go of things.
Trying to be perfect and to be everything to everyone only ensures failure. Learn how to say “no” when something isn’t good for your well-being. Cut the stuff out of your life that’s stressing you out. The weight that will be lifted off your shoulders is likely to be heavier than you realized, and it will set you free for more important things.
- Prioritize your time.
Do a brief assessment of your daily activities at the end of each day. How did you spend most of your time? Which parts of your day were the most productive and the least productive? Are there any activities or people in your day that don’t seem to add anything? If that is the case, cut them out. Your time is too valuable to squander on meaningless activities and is best spent elsewhere.
- Ask for help and support.
We‘re more productive and happier in our lives when we have a strong support system around us. It’s important to have people who you can go to when times are tough. Learn to accept that sometimes your demands are greater than what you shoulder and humbly ask those around you to help. But always make sure you‘re willing to pick up the slack for those in your support system when they need it, too.
We all have competing demands in life, and the busier we get, the easier it is to get into an unbalanced dynamic. Luckily, though, it’s not too hard to hit the reset button and find that happy medium again.