Work-life balance is critical to your ultimate career success. When our professional and personal lives are at odds with each other, our lives can quickly become unmanageable. Left unchecked, this situation will lead to burnout, relationship problems, and exploding levels of stress that can threaten our physical and mental health.
In most cases, you can improve your work-life balance using the following tools and tips:
Use Available Leave Time
Many professionals who are finding it difficult to manage their work-life balance feel like they are married to their work. While there is nothing wrong with aiming high at work, if you are not able to bring some balance to your work and personal life, burn out is just around the corner.
Take full advantage of your company’s leave options including vacation, paternity/maternity leave, and sick days when applicable. Employers offer employees this time for a reason: They know it improves the long-term productivity of their workforce to have happy, healthy, and rested staff who are able to bring their best to the table.
Schedule E-Silence Time
In today’s world, work is always only an email or phone call away. So much so that many people feel like they always have to be “on” and ready to respond to work concerns. Unfortunately, living like you are always at work will have negative consequences for your relationships outside of work, your ability to focus on other priorities, and ultimately your mental health.
Experts agree that scheduling time to “unplug” from work responsibilities is critical to maintaining a work-life balance. Consider signing out of your work accounts on your cell phone after work hours are over. If that is not possible, at least make time each day to put your phone down and walk away to put your energy and focus on your family, friends, and loved ones.
Evaluate Your Relationships
When relationships are working well, they have a synergistic effect. Everybody in a relationship (friends, romantic partnerships, family, etc) should benefit from the time spent together.
However, sometimes relationships become unhealthy where one person becomes so needy or emotionally draining that it leaves the other person putting in a lot of time and energy that is not translating into a mutual feeling of support.
Although it can be difficult to admit, some of us find ourselves trapped in multiple relationships in our lives where we are constantly providing support, without receiving it in return. Learning how to set healthy boundaries or even cutting ties with such people in our lives can make a huge difference for our overall work-life balance.
Learn to Say No
It is fine to be a “go-getter” at work and in our personal lives. However, don’t get trapped in the “Yes” cycle to the point that you find yourself stretched beyond your limits. If you feel like you just don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish your goals, then it is time to learn to say no.
This applies to both our personal and professional lives. Sure, employers love workers who are willing to take on additional responsibility, but only if they are able to meet the demands of the job.
We all have limitations. Being self-aware about your own limitations will help you to be more effective at home and work.
Make Mind and Body Wellness a Priority
Physical and mental health are important aspects of being able to make the most of your time, both at work and at home. When your mind and body are fit, you will have access to clearer thinking, better focus, and more resilience in the face of stressors.
Many modern wellness programs focus on integrating mindfulness, movement, and healthy eating into a busy lifestyle. Dozens of well-designed phone apps can help you make your physical and mental health a priority, even if you find it hard to make time for a long workout or cooking a complicated meal at the end of your work day.
Talk to Your Employer
If you find yourself struggling to attain a work-life balance that is sustainable, it may be wise to have a frank conversation with your employer.
If you are a valued member of the team, your supervisor may have ideas about how to help you make your work more sustainable. After all, your employer benefits when you are able to be more focused and engaged at work thanks to a better work-life balance.
Keep Perfectionism in Check
Many of us get in our own way when it comes to finding a work-life balance that allows us to thrive at work and at home. While a perfectionist mindset can motivate us to achieve more, left unchecked, it can become destructive to our mental well being and indeed even our ability to meet work goals and enjoy our downtime.
One of the biggest problems with unchecked professionalism is that people who struggle with it often feel like a job is never done. That means they never really get a sense of accomplishment which, over time, leads to emotional burn out.
Another common issue with perfectionists is that they tend to turn downtime into go-time. If you find yourself inventing ways to turn your family time into highly structured projects that keep you so busy at home you never get to relax, you might be struggling with perfectionism.
Ask for Help and Support
Being able to ask for the support of family, loved ones, and friends is critical to finding a work-life balance that will help you thrive. This is especially true for parents, who often need flexible and available child-care to make their busy lives work.
In addition to asking for help at home, consider talking to your supervisor at work. For example, you may find that your employer offers telework options, flex time, or other benefits that can help you achieve a balance you can live with.
Another option is to seek the help of a counselor or therapist. Getting a trained and unbiased perspective on your life and work can make a big difference. Trained mental health professionals can give you all kinds of useful tools for managing stress, organizing your time, and navigating relationships.
Consider a Career or Job Change
If you have exhausted all of your options and still find that your work-life balance is completely unsustainable, then it may be time to seriously consider a change in your role at work, or in some cases, a career change.
Although it can be difficult to admit to ourselves, sometimes our life simply won’t accommodate the demands of our job. Before making a drastic shift such as a complete career change, see if you can find a related position to your current job that has more flexibility, autonomy, or the ability to work part or all of your day from home.
If a career change seems inevitable, consider working with a career counselor to figure out how to make the most of your current education and work experience so that your transition will be a smoother one.