The world of work is very different today. The lines between home and work are becoming increasingly blurred, as smartphones mean we are available 24/7, and economic pressures mean that many of us work longer hours than ever.
This makes the answer to the age-old question of how we can achieve a work-life balance even harder to find.
The answer lies partly in us taking ownership and creating boundaries so that other people will respect them, and in companies, who need to take on board the notion that we will be happier, healthier, and more productive if we have more balance in our lives.
Here are some ways that you can create a good work-life balance;
Don’t be constantly available
You might think it’s easier said than done in these days when our smartphones are linked to our email accounts, but when you’re spending time with your family, or you’re enjoying some much-needed time off, should you be expected to answer work emails? The answer is no.
Set up an autoreply on emails to manage expectations that you will reply within a certain time frame if you’re out of the office, no matter how tempting it is to hit reply when your phone pings. Your time out of work should be your own. Constantly checking emails doesn’t make you more productive, in fact it disrupts your workflow and increases stress.
If you work smarter, you don’t have to work harder
Prioritise the most important tasks you have to do and don’t get stuck doing less productive things; this is a far better way to use your time. Checking social media might be tempting, but it might also be the reason you never leave work on time. Workers in the UK now work more hours than ever, and research from the Mental Health Foundation on the effects of working long hours makes for grim reading. When employees work long hours, 27% report feeling depressed, 34% feel anxious, and 58% feel irritable.
Draw a line between life and work
Even if you don’t finish all your work for the day, make a note of any tasks you haven’t completed, so you feel a little more organised for the next day. If you really must take work home, keep it away from your living area, so work time doesn’t encroach on your time.
Sometimes ‘good enough’ is okay
If you’re already feeling overworked, trying to aim for perfection in everything you do is not realistic. Sometimes, accepting that you’ve done a good enough job is all that is expected. Don’t put pressure on yourself when you don’t need to.
You don’t need to work hard and play hard
You don’t need to be constantly crashing around at 100mph. This is not good for the body or the mind. Learn to pace yourself, and take more time to relax.
Have interests outside of work
It’s healthy to have interests outside of work. People who feel stressed at work can use exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness to reduce stress in their lives overall.
Learn the art of time management
If you feel overwhelmed, make sure you’re spending your time on the things that really matter. You can be busy without being productive. This takes a little bit of work, but take a good look at your day and see where your time really goes. Focus on the things that are going to move your business forward, not just on the noise.
Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute, and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.