Five ways to improve work-life balance

Do you feel like work is seeping into your home life and taking over? Here we look at five ways you can redress your work-life balance

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Work is an important part of our lives; it’s where we spend a great deal of our time (3,507 days over our lifetimes). Whether we love our jobs or loathe them, it’s easy for the stresses and strains of work to overflow into our down-time.

The idea behind work-life balance is to find that sweet spot between working hard and relaxing when you’re not working. When we think about the word balance, we often think of splitting our time equally, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Balance can mean leaning into work more when you’ve got a busy week and then making space to recover later.

Life Coach Directory coach Jo Lee explains that work-life balance is not so much about how we spend our time, but rather how we feel about the way we’re spending our time. “If we are happy with that, then our work-life balance is good and, if we aren’t, then it isn’t. There’s no single magic number or equation we can use that will tell us whether ours is right; it really is just a question of whether we feel happy with how we spend our time, on balance, or not.”

For some, the term ‘balance’ doesn’t quite work when talking about work and life. As life coach Caroline Stagg BScPsych, NLPMstr explains in her article, Give up work-life ‘balance’ for work-life ‘fit’, our work and lives are constantly changing, so balance can be an impossible standard to reach. Instead, she recommends striving for a work-life fit. “The way I look at it, what we need is more of a whole-person approach. You take all of you to work and you take your work home, even if it’s just in your head; success in one affects the other. What you need is some wriggle room. It’s a work-life jigsaw – when work and life fit together it presents a pretty picture.” 

So how can we go about making this wriggle room? Below we share some tips to stop work taking over all areas of your life.

Set communication expectations

A struggle many of us deal with is being expected to take calls, or answer emails, outside of our working hours. It’s important to note here that, in some lines of work, this can be unavoidable but, in many cases, we are in control of how and when we conduct work communications.

To take back some of this control it’s important to set expectations with those who may try to contact you. You could inform people of when, and how often, you check emails via an auto-response or let your staff know what hours you are contactable.

There may be times when things slip through, but try to keep your boundaries strong here to relieve pressure when you’re away from work.

Plan tomorrow, today

Something that can often weigh heavily on our minds after we leave work for the day is any jobs we didn’t get finished. By planning your to-do list for tomorrow before you leave you can relax, knowing that you’ll get to anything unfinished tomorrow. At the end of your working week, take time to plan out the following week; this will help you to enjoy your time off without thinking about what needs to be done. If an idea or thought comes to you outside of work, send yourself an email or set a reminder and try to drop it – you’ll be able to pick it up next time you’re at work.

Create a switch-off routine after work

The transition from work to relaxation can be a tricky one, especially for those who work from home. Creating a routine that signifies the end of your working day can help you ease into your down-time. 

This routine will look different for everyone; you may want to head to the gym to work out any physical tension or enjoy a long bath to soak away any stress – it may be as simple as changing your clothes and lighting a candle. Find a routine that works for you and helps you make that mental shift between work and rest.

Gain some perspective

Workplace stress can take a real toll on our mental health, potentially leading to burnout, anxiety and even depression. Something you can do to help ease this stress is to gain a healthy dose of perspective. Often, our jobs don’t require life or death decisions and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this.

It can also be helpful to remind yourself why you do what you do. What drew you to your chosen career? What is it you love about your work? Come back to your why, and try to release some of the pressure you’re putting on yourself.

Establish a ‘no work chat’ rule

Venting about work can be a much-needed release at times but, when we find ourselves talking about nothing but work, this could be a sign you need to step back. Try establishing a ‘no work chat’ rule from time-to-time and connect with your friends and colleagues about things outside of work.

If you’re finding it difficult to find your sweet spot in the work-life balance equation, you may find it helpful to hire a coach. “Almost everyone else involved in your life – your family, friends, manager or work colleagues – will have a vested interest in any changes you decide to make so it will be virtually impossible for them to remain neutral and not to think about how any decision you take is likely to affect them personally,” explains life coach Paul Hemphill in his article, How to create a great work-life balance.

“In contrast, a good coach will listen to you with empathy and understanding and will ask you incisive questions to help you understand yourself and your situation better. S/he will then work with you to draw up an action plan that will, when you implement it, massively improve the balance and quality of your life.”

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