It can be a struggle balancing your busy work life with the desire to spend quality time with your family and friends.
The recent pandemic, with a series of lockdowns and travel restrictions, added an extra layer of complexity and stress and forced many people to change their traditional working patterns.
The massive IT advances in recent years, expedited by lockdown, have also made homeworking much easier, blurring the lines between work and home.
While you’ll always have the inevitable temptation to prioritise work, a proper work-life balance and sufficient downtime are crucial to your health and wellbeing.
Always bear in mind that finding the right balance can create a compelling win-win scenario, as you’ll be happier at home and more productive in your workplace.
Read on for six ways to improve your work-life balance.
1. Plan your time – and stick to it
Clearly outlining your plan for the day soon after you wake up gives you a structure to build around and provides a focus for your day.
Everyone is different, and only you will know the time demands of your work. However, strictly setting aside “me time” to spend with your family – and sticking to it – will lift your mood and enhance your wellbeing.
Always ensure that your plan for the day includes regular breaks which enable you to step away from your work environment if possible.
Additionally, decide on the time you want to stop work. Rather than simply saying to yourself “I’m stopping work at 6 pm”, actually set an alarm for that time. It’ll give you an audible reminder and will mean you don’t miss the deadline.
2. Create a real demarcation between work and home
Make sure you have a clear separation between work and home, and try not to let one impinge on the other.
As you’ve already read, the rise of homeworking has blurred the lines, especially with no commute to act as a natural boundary. It’s harder to separate the two if the distance between office and settee is a flight of stairs rather than a half-hour journey.
However busy you are, and regardless of what time you leave the office, once you get home, it’s important to switch off, physically and emotionally.
Turn off your work phone in the evenings and at weekends and resist the temptation to check emails during the evening. Your evenings should be for winding down – whether that’s spending time with family and friends, enjoying a hobby, or simply relaxing. They are not for checking work emails.
Try to get the most from your home time. Avoid channel-surfing and read a book or go out if you can. The important thing is to find something that you enjoy, that relaxes you, and that has nothing to do with work.
3. Prioritise your health above all else
Your health should be your top priority.
So, if you feel physically or mentally tired during the day, take steps to alleviate the tiredness.
Factoring exercise into your daily plan can improve your concentration levels and help you reduce stress.
If you’re seriously ill, resist the temptation to try and struggle through. You’ll recover more quickly and properly if you rest, and you’re less likely to make the type of mistake everyone makes if they’re under par.
As well as being happier because you’re healthier, you’ll be more productive at work if you’re physically and mentally healthy.
Get the balance right and you might begin to enjoy work more while having increased time at home with your friends and family, doing the things you enjoy.
4. Learn to say “no”
If you’re feeling overburdened at work, it could well be because you’re prioritising unnecessary or low-priority tasks over what is really important.
You’ll get much more of a sense of fulfilment if you focus on key objectives and make a success of them.
By pushing back on smaller, less important, or even irrelevant things that add little value, you’ll free up time for “big ticket” items.
By being ruthless with your time, you’ll be far more productive. You’re also likely to find that work will be less likely to impinge on leisure time and you’ll create the better work-life balance you’re seeking.
5. Value your time off, and protect it
Time off is valuable. That applies just as much to the hour away from your workplace in the middle of the day as it does to two weeks lying on a beach.
Taking regular breaks during the working day is important. Even one half-hour lunch break, away from the office and preferably in the fresh air, will boost your concentration and focus.
Some light exercise at lunchtime might not sound like much, but as part of your daily routine, it’ll become a positive habit that will help you recharge during the working day.
In the longer-term, ensure you use all your holiday entitlement. Time away from the office can be invigorating, and it can help you focus on issues that you might not have time for during the working day.
Physically “going away” is less important than actually spending time away from work, so avoid the temptation to check emails or find out what’s going on in the office while you’re not there.
Whether a day off or a two-week break, forget work while you’re away and allow yourself the much-needed opportunity to recharge.
6. Be realistic
The five items you’ve read so far are the ideal. So, this final item is to flag up a note of realism.
Clearly, what you should always be looking for is the perfect balance. However, it’s important to be aware that it might not be possible at the current time and in your individual circumstances.
You’re likely to go through periods at work when “pedal to the metal” is the order of the day, so your home life will have to take a back seat for a while. Maybe you’re working on a big project, or you get a promotion that calls for longer hours while you acclimatise to the demands.
Likewise, a change in your personal circumstances could create pressures that mean you’re having to spend more time focused on home life than you’d like and your ability to work effectively is diminished.
In each case, the important thing is to realise these aren’t the norm and try to look longer-term for a better balance.
Think of the ideal balance between your work and home lives, not as a daily 50/50 split, but as something to achieve over a week, a month, or even a year.
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If you’re struggling with your work-life balance, it’s very possible that your financial planning is taking a back seat. Please get in touch if you feel you would benefit from financial advice.