Work-life balance: 5 tips to restore harmony
It’s hard to believe we’re half way through the fall season and the holidays are just around the corner. This time of year is a busy one – from work and school schedules to limited vacation days and prep for the holidays. To prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed, it’s important to understand how to juggle the demands of the job and all of the additional activities we have on our calendars. Work-life balance is about creating and maintaining supportive and healthy work and home environments. However every job has unique demands that may take a toll on your personal life and health. Studies have shown that lack of work-life balance is associated with serious health and safety risks such as increased smoking and alcohol consumption, weight gain and depression.
Now more than ever it can be difficult to maintain a work-life balance. There once was a time when the boundaries between work life and personal life were extremely clear. But with technology as an enabler for constant connection, “clocking out” is a thing of the past and the once fine lines have become blurred. While you may not be able to change your work hours, or the conditions of the job, there are a host of life changes you can make to alleviate stress and ensure better overall health.
Here are five tips to reclaim control and restore harmony in day-to-day life:
1. Carefully establish goals. Take some time to evaluate your work-life balance situation and what you would like to see change in the next six months. Over the course of a week, monitor your daily tasks including work-related and personal activities and take notes. This will help you decide what’s necessary, what satisfies you the most and what you don’t enjoy or can’t handle. Then, make a list of what you’d like to change. Define small goals that are achievable and actionable. For example, make it a goal to prepare lunch meals in advance, not “bring lunch to work every single day.”
2. Plan out your schedule. Using calendars and “to-do” lists can help relieve the stress to remember everything. Organize household to-do tasks and family and friend events on a weekly calendar. Keeping a daily to-do list at home and at work will help minimize the time you spend running in circles trying to accomplish a task. Technology can actually be a help here: Use your smart phone to keep track of your to-do list. Here are a few suggestions to factor into your schedule:
- Prepare shopping lists before going to the store and avoid buying items that aren’t on it.
- Prep for a week’s worth of lunches on the weekends by marinating and cooking meat and chopping fruits and vegetables. We’re entering the time of year when soups and chili are especially inviting.
- Avoid activities that affect your energy and efficiency at work such as gossiping with a colleague or checking social media profiles. That time could instead be used to get work done and allow you to leave the office earlier.
- Try to outsource errands and time-consuming activities. Do your kids play sports with the neighborhood children? Carpool and alternate who is in charge of pick-up each day. If you’re someone who is constantly running from place to place doing errands, see if you can have items delivered such as dry-cleaning, groceries, stamps etc.
3. Prioritize time for rest and recharging. When you plan your week, make it a point to incorporate time with family and friends as well as activities that help you recharge. Sleep is crucial to function at your highest level. So make a point, a couple nights a week (at least) to go to bed early. Getting a good night’s sleep will lead to a more effective use of time in the long run.
4. Unplug. Deciding when, where and how to be accessible for work can be a constant challenge. It can also mean that you’re always bringing work home with you. Make it a point to manage your technology and consciously decide to separate work time from personal time. Have dinner with your family away from electronics. Research suggests that children who have dinner with their family each night are more successful in school. Late night use of technology can inhibit sleep quality as the blue light emitted by the devices decreases your level of melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep. Turn off your phones and tablets at least an hour before going to bed.
5. Move your body. Exercise is one of the first things to go when our calendars fill up and life gets busy, and yet exercise is one of the most effective stress reducers. Exercise is also shown to boost your energy levels and enhance your ability to concentrate. Short on time? Keep it simple – opt for the stairs, stand at your desk or take a walk around the block on your lunch or coffee break.
At the end of the day, just know that you aren’t alone if you’re finding it challenging to juggle your job demands and your personal life. Many people are struggling to keep the balance, but a few small, simple tricks can help you restructure a few areas in your life and ultimately help you restore harmony.