10 Ways to Reclaim Your Work-Life Balance
Perhaps like many of you, I had no real-life role model for work-life balance growing up; my dad worked nights, my mom days, and we saw each other as a family, albeit fleetingly, at dinnertime and weekends. Had it not been for the vintage sitcoms of the era, I would have drawn a total blank when presented with the concept of daily work-life balance.
As technology subtly wove its way into our lives, it became increasingly difficult to separate on-the-clock from off-the-clock, as we came to employ the same digital tools for both. Few professionals experience this frustrating dichotomy as much as meeting planners, who often feel “on call” 24/7 to everyone except their inner child, who’s typically throwing a tantrum for some me time.
Life balance psychological studies and articles alike typically include the disclaimers that work-life balance is different for everyone and a rare achievement for most. Fears of job loss certainly play their part; coming out of the Great Recession, 94 percent of working professionals admitted to working more than 50 hours per week, and nearly half worked a whopping 65 hours per week, according to a survey by the Harvard Business School.
If the time you devote to work feels out of whack, here are 10 ways to reign it in and retrieve some precious down time.
Redefine your work hours: Remember “work hours?” How quickly they expand, right? Reset them by clearly establishing and communicating your routine work schedule to your team. By sticking to them, you’ll quickly retrain your co-workers, which will further distinguish your “open” and “closed” hours. Sure, you can still be reached in case of emergency; just don’t make it an everyday thing.
Be a sprinter, not a marathoner: Scientific studies have shown that it’s both healthier and more productive to work in 25-minute sessions with shorter, more frequent breaks, than in those mind-numbing hour-plus brainstorming marathons.
Organize your “down time:” Give your home time the same priority as work by using electronic calendar tools to coordinate your upcoming free time with your family and significant others.
Unplug already! Want to make the most of your home time? Devote it solely to human-to-human interaction. Shut off your phone and devices whenever possible. No texting at kids’ dance recitals or soccer games. Minimize all screen time and simply enjoy the moment. No peeking!
(Re)learn to say no: As a kid, we were good at prioritizing our time for maximum enjoyment. Reconnect with that childlike reflex to maximize your me time.
Free your imprisoned perfectionist: If attention to detail got you where you are today, ask yourself this: Might I have gotten here anyway, without adopting that habit of micromanaging everything at work and at home? In all likelihood, easing off on the perfectionism on both ends will help rebalance both your work and home time.
Wannas, not gottas: One way our lives become imbalanced is, the time we spend working reduces our free time to such a degree that it winds up being consumed by such gottas as grocery shopping, cooking meals and doing laundry. To counter this effect, list things you want to do in your upcoming free time, and give them priority. It’s the wannas that will help you minimize the time-suck of work.
Get some exercise: According to the Mayo Clinic, physical exercise relieves stress, pumps happy endorphins throughout our bodies, lifts our spirits and even puts us in a meditative state. Playing sports with friends can multiply the benefits of the workout.
Let your habits change: Workaholics often encounter a void when they reclaim their home life, in part because many of their habits were acquired to accommodate their imbalanced lives. Don’t worry about undoing them; simply put yourself center stage and those unnecessary habits will soon disappear.
Embrace your vacation: After all, it’s the largest concession that employers have made over the centuries to enable their workers to relax, refresh and recharge. Honor this comradery by scheduling – and taking – at least one vacation per year.
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