These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes workers accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss incentivize longer hours. Post title: 6 tips for better work-life balance.
According to a Harvard Business School survey, 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but here health and career experts share tips to help you find the balance that’s right for you.
1. Let go of perfectionism
The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism, says Puder-York. “As life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going,” she says. Adding that, the healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence.
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end.
“There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life.
Make quality time true quality time. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will be developing a stronger habit of resilience. “Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives,” says Brooks, while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress.
3. Exercise and meditate
Even when we’re busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat, we go to the bathroom and we sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs – exercise – is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up.
Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body. It helps lift your mood and can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Puder-York recommends dedicating a few chunks of time each week to self-care, whether it’s exercise, yoga or meditation. “The key is to find something that you can build into your life that can calm you down and activate your body’s rest system.”
4. Limit time-wasting activities and people
First, identify what’s most important in your life. This list will differ for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else’s. Next, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority people and activities. From there, it will be easier to determine what needs to be trimmed from the schedule.
And if you find your time is being gobbled up by less constructive people, find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions. Are you cornered every morning by the office chatterbox? Politely excuse yourself. Do you feel an obligation to have drinks with the work gang the night before a busy, important day? Bow out and get a good night sleep. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.
To some, this may seem selfish. “But it isn’t selfish,” says Robinson. “It’s that whole airplane metaphor. If you have a child, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not on the child.” When it comes to being a good friend, spouse, parent or worker, “the better you are yourself, the better you are going to be in all those areas as well.”
5. Change the structure of your life
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume our habits are set in stone. Take a birds-eye view of your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier?
Instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you specialize in and value most, and delegate or outsource everything else. Delegating can be a win-win situation, says Stewart Freidman, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life.
Freidman recommends talking to the “key stakeholders” in different areas of your life, which could include employees or colleagues at work, a spouse or a partner in a community project. “Find out what you can let go in ways that benefit other people by giving them opportunities to grow,” he says. This will give them a chance to learn something new and free you up, so you may devote attention to your higher priorities.
6. Start small. Build from there.
We’ve all been there: crash diets that fizzle out, New Year’s resolutions we forget by February. It’s the same with work-life balance when we take on too much too quickly, says Brooks.
Many of his workaholic clients commit to drastic changes: cutting their hours from 80 hours a week to 40, or bumping up their daily run from zero miles a day to five miles a day. It’s a recipe for failure, says Brooks.
When one client, who was always absent from his family dinners, vowed to begin attending the meals nightly, Brooks urged him to start smaller. So he began with one evening a week. Eventually, he worked his way up to two to three dinners per week.
“If you’re trying to change a certain script in your life, start small and experience some success. Build from there,” says Brooks.
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