How to Improve Your Work/Life Balance
Many of us are torn between the need to earn a living and having the time to enjoy life, balancing work with all the other things we try to squeeze into our already busy lives. For some, a passion for our work means that this is the main focus of our time and energy, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as you are meeting your other needs as well. It all depends on your priorities, and what’s important to you.
But if you are struggling to find time for the things that really matter, or if work is beginning to take over your personal time, there are steps you can take to improve your work/life balance.
Accept the things you can’t change
Sometimes your circumstances will mean you have less time than usual. For example, when you have young children, you’re caring for an elderly relative or during particularly busy times for your industry. You may not be able to change these external circumstances, but accepting the things you can’t change, and focusing on the things that are still in your control, will help you to manage this phase of your life and keep things in perspective.
If you’re feeling under too much pressure at work, or your workload feels unmanageable, don’t suffer in silence. Consider whether it’s the volume of work or the processes and systems that aren’t working. Then, speak to your manager. If you don’t have regular opportunities to check-in, such as a monthly 1-1, then request a short meeting with them, or address your concerns in an email. It may be worth speaking to your colleagues too, perhaps they are experiencing the same issues, so it’s something you could address as a team. Don’t wait for your annual review. Employers need to be aware of problems in order to address them as quickly as possible A good employer will support you with this.
Give yourself a break
Take breaks during the day, even if it’s only fifteen minutes away from your workstation at busier times. Not only is it essential to your wellbeing, but it will help you to refocus. Taking time out may seem impossible sometimes, but it will actually make your more productive as you recharge and give yourself space to think. Exercise and fresh air help to reduce stress levels so if you have the opportunity to get outside, either by going for a walk at lunchtime or taking your meetings outside, do it.
The technology that gives us more freedom, flexibility and connection can also be one of the reasons that work overspills into our personal lives. We are now available at any time of day, wherever we are in the world, and unless we set clear boundaries around our time away from work, our work/life balance can suffer. Turn off the tech, stop checking work emails, switch off the work phone, or whatever you need to do to leave work at work. If your role means that you do need to be available outside of work hours or on your day off, allocate regular times to check in with emails. Learn to delegate and trust your team to solve problems on their own as much as possible. They will benefit from it as much as you will.
Extend your timetable
Are you trying to fit everything into a short time frame? Even the things we enjoy can cause us stress when we are being unrealistic about what we can fit in or achieve within a week. Rather than trying to do too much in a short space of time, extend your schedule to fit the circumstances you have to work with. If this means that the things you hoped to weekly have to become fortnightly, then you may have to adapt to this, and it might only be short term as pressures on you change. Rather than causing yourself more stress trying to do everything, be realistic and work with what you have.
Outsource, delegate and accept help
Get help where you can. Whether this means calling in a few favours from friends and family, paying for someone to take on time-consuming tasks such as cleaning or gardening, or delegating work to colleagues and sub-contractors. Whatever you can think of to make life easier and get back some of your time. If you feel as though you can’t justify the expense of hiring a gardener or cleaner, or outsourcing some of your business tasks, think about the time it will give you for the things that really matter to you. Outsourcing some of the work usually done by your team will free them up for more meaningful work, or help them to improve their own life balance. It’s a worthwhile investment.
Schedule your leisure time
You probably put appointments, work, and activities that occur at specific times, in your diary, so why not schedule time for you as well. Block out the time you want to spend with your partner, family, or doing something by yourself, and treat this in the same way you would an appointment. Decide what are the priorities for you, the non-negotiables that you aren’t prepared to give up, and schedule them in. If you do have to cancel something, immediately find it another place in your calendar.
So, if you’re feeling as though there is just too much to do and not enough time, take a step back, look at what is in your control and what can be changed, and learn ways to manage your time for a healthier life balance.
Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.