In a world of smartphones and tablets, texting, unlimited access to email and internet, constant contact, and high expectations for immediate or quick responses and turnaround times, how are we supposed to have balance between our personal and professional lives? In much of my work with clients I often hear a significant amount about work stress and frustration, not enough self-care and personal time, neglected social and romantic lives, and poor sleeping and eating habits. After finding out a bit more about the problem and situation, it usually comes down to difficulties with creating a healthy work-life balance and boundaries. Due to all of the access and availability to technology, many of us feel that we need to be constantly checking-in or responding to work/colleagues/clients/etc., always available, and possibly even fearful or worried about a negative consequence if we are not available/do not respond immediately. Achieving a good work-life balance is possible with a few simple steps.
If possible, when you start a new job, begin working with a new client or company, or discussing responsibilities/role for your position, establish boundaries and parameters of when you will need to be available for work/colleagues and accessible to others. Set parameters that you are comfortable with for your availability or access when you are not at work or in the office and ensure that they are clear, realistic, and understood by all those who need to be aware. Setting the expectation and mutual understanding from the beginning will help to ensure that you are able to maintain the boundaries and not have any confusion or issues down the road.
Schedule Personal/Self-Care Time
Make it a priority to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and have personal time either daily or at least weekly. If you are not maintaining even the basic health necessities of sleeping and eating, you will not be able to be the productive and effective worker you are capable of being. Even just making sure to get away from your desk or to take a break for lunch can do wonders to your motivation and productivity during the work day. Outside of work, make sure that you are taking time to do things you enjoy, whether it be a hobby, spending time with friends or love ones, some type of physical activity, or even just being alone without the distraction or attention to anything work-related. Consider it a “personal meeting” and actually schedule it on your calendar or set a reminder to take time for you.
Set a specific and consistent time each night after work and in the morning before you go into work in which you will not work or check your work email/messages/phone. Be firm in setting and sticking to this time. This will help you unwind after work and sleep better and also be able to prepare for the day without any additional stress or issues before getting to work.
Flip the Switch
This technique is usually the hardest to do, but it is often times the most beneficial for mental health, well-being, and work-life balance. Try to think of yourself as having an on/off switch. When you need to be at or available to work, you are in the on position. Once you are out of that time frame or requirement, you are in the off position. During the off times, you should not be working or checking-in, trying not to think or stress about work, and be present and mindful in what you are doing or engaged in. This will help you to be more focused and present in both your work life and personal life. You will not be able to enjoy life outside of work, sleep, or be present if you are constantly thinking about work all the time. It can be difficult at first, but when you notice yourself thinking or worrying about work, acknowledge it and let the thoughts go, and bring yourself back to the present moment. After a while, you will notice that your thoughts about work will become less frequent and you will be able to enjoy whatever you are doing outside of work.
Finding balance in any sense can be difficult, but even more so when it comes to the work-life balance due to all the technology and access we have at our fingertips, as well as expectations of quick responses and availability. It will require practice, effort, and commitment, but with a few steps and small changes to your routine and thinking, you can achieve a healthier work-life balance.